Food security is a growing challenge in the face of climate change and increasing food needs. The parasitic witchweeds pose an enormous threat for production of cereal crops, such as maize, especially in the African continent. Witchweed seeds can lay dormant in the soil until their germination is triggered by specific plant hormones that are exuded by the roots of maize. In previous research, a cultivar was found that is resistant, but does not grow in Africa. It carries a gene altering the amount of the plant hormones leading to less germination, and thus less witchweeds growing. The researchers want to test whether altering the same gene in African maize strains will lead to the same result. If so, this will create a new opportunity to control witchweed infection in maize fields in Africa.
For this project Harro Bouwmeester will work together with researchers from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Field work will take place in Kenya. Kenyan farmers will be involved to test the maize strains in a relevant agricultural setting.
The ERC Proof of Concept competition is open only to ERC grantees. Worth €150.000 each, the grants will be used to explore the commercial or societal potential of the results of grantees research projects. This funding is part of the EU's research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe. Find an overview of the 55 recipients of this ERC Proof of Concept call here on the ERC website.