The 'Boostcrop' consortium with researchers from the University of Amsterdam's Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences and Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences has been awarded nearly 5 million euros from the European 'Future and Emerging Technologies' program. Boostcrop aims to increase yields in agri- and horticulture with a new approach based on the development and application of molecular temperature controllers.
One of the major challenges of the 21st century is feeding the constantly growing world population. This requires an increase in agricultural and horticultural production, while the quality and quantity of arable land is rapidly declining. That is why it is crucial to increase the yield of many important crops and at the same time increase the number of geographical locations suitable for agriculture.
An important aspect requiring innovative solutions is the cold stress of plants. Low temperatures and frost damage reduce crop yield, prevent crops from growing at higher altitudes, and limit the growing season and thus the yield of arable land.
The Boostcrop consortium will develop so-called molecular temperature controllers that can improve the germination and growth processes of plants. These molecules prevent cold stress, and the idea is to eventually process them in a spray to improve crop growth at low temperatures. To prevent toxicity and environmental problems, the researchers apply plant-own molecules.
Boostcrop combines the activities of six top European academic research groups that have a molecular physical, chemical and biological background. The Dutch contribution comes from UvA researchers Prof. Wybren Jan Buma (HIMS), Prof. Jos Oomens (professor by special appointment at HIMS), and Dr. Teun Munnik (SILS). They receive a total of 1.2 million euros for their research. The research takes place in collaboration with the Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung, the scientific agency for toxicological research in Germany, and with PlantResponse Biotech, a Spanish spin-off of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, aimed at the development of sustainable agricultural methods.
The European Community's Future and Emerging Technologies open programme aims to 'go beyond what is known'. It is an extremely competitive programme (awarding percentage 2-3%) for the development of radically new technologies in areas where Europe can take the lead. With FET, the EU wants to lay the basis for increasing European competitiveness and economic growth.