ERC Proof of Concept grant to control witchweed infection in maize

Plant Biologist Harro Bouwmeester from the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS-UvA) received a Proof of Concept Grant funded by the European Research Council (ERC) for the project LGSMAIZE. With this grant he will test whether it is possible to genetically modify African maize strains to become resistant to parasitic witchweed. This can be an enormous asset in the fight against witchweed.

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.

Project partners

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.

 

This publication has been reproduced with permission from the University of Amsterdam. Source: UvA website

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