Empowering root-targeted strategies to minimize abiotic stress impacts on horticultural crops is a collaborative project supported by the European Commission under the FP7 Cooperation Theme "Food, Fisheries and Biotechnologies".

As sessile organisms, plants have developed great metabolic plasticity in order to cope with adverse biotic and abiotic stresses by modifying their primary and secondary metabolism.

The adaptation to stress can be interpreted in terms of changes in the assimilate allocation between energy producing (source organs) and energy consuming(sink) tissues, affecting biomass partitioning between different organs, and thereby crop yield.

The relationships between source and sink organs determine not only the plant growth and crop yield but also the adaptive capacity to environmental stresses. As a consequence, any mechanism affecting these relations could potentially have an influence on both economic yield and stress tolerance. Since the roots are the first tissues to encounter salt or other osmotic stress, it seems reasonable that they influence shoot physiology by means of root-to-shoot chemical signals (nutrients, hormones) allowing a differential assimilate partitioning and changes in source-sink relationships and affecting other physiological functions (leaf growth and senescence).

Our fundamental and applied research focuses on:

1. Further understanding of root-to-shoot signalling and source-sink relationships in relation to the adaptation to different stresses (e.g. salinity, drought, pathogens, …);

2. Exploitation of natural genetic variability ad biotechnology to minimize negative impacts of abiotic stresses on crops.

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