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VIB and Bayer join forces for plant research

Ghent, Belgium The changes in our climate, producing extreme temperatures or persistent drought, have an enormous impact on our crops − to put it briefly, the crops are experiencing stress. VIB has now concluded a research agreement with Bayer BioScience NV, the Flemish agro-biotech innovation center of Bayer CropScience, to look into this problem. Through this collaboration, the researchers aim to elucidate the mechanisms that indicate how plants handle stress. The results that will come from this research − in particular, the identification of factors that make a plant 'stress-resistant' − are crucially important for the development of agricultural crops with higher yield. This research is being made possible by an approved IWT project submitted by Bayer BioScience. The project gives both research centers the chance to apply the special knowledge that they have developed in the area of 'stressed plants'.

Plants and stress

All over the world, today's agriculture is contending with huge losses due to extreme weather conditions. Our crops are being exposed to high temperatures, too little or too much precipitation, late ground frost, and other stress factors. Depending on the intensity of this plant stress, as much as 80% of the harvest can be destroyed. Furthermore, according to experts, weather conditions will become only more extreme in the coming years. In contrast to animals, plants are unable to escape an unfavorable living environment and must live their lives on the spot where they have germinated. So, it's very fortunate that plants have developed mechanisms for detecting and dealing with stress.

Bayer CropScience − a leading agro-biotech company

Bayer CropScience's BioScience division plays a prominent international role in the development and commercialization of seeds for agricultural crops. The company uses plant biotechnology and refinement techniques to develop varieties specially adapted to the requirements of tomorrow's agriculture. Recently, Bayer BioScience submitted a research project to the IWT concerning elucidating the molecular mechanisms that plants use in stress conditions, and this project has now been approved.

Dr. Michiel van Lookeren Campagne, Head of BioScience Research for Bayer CropScience:

"Breeding crop varieties with improved resistance against abiotic stresses − such as drought, heat or cold − is an urgent need in the upcoming decades of climate change, diminished availability of arable land, and an ever-growing demand for food, feed and biomass. To identify the key genes underlying stress tolerance, genome-wide gene function studies and highly efficient plant testing procedures have to be carried out. With the VIB Department of Plant Systems Biology, UGent, and its world-renowned expertise in the plant sciences, we have found an ideal partner for complementing our in-house research. The department's close proximity to us (in Ghent's Technology Park) is also an advantage."

VIB − among the top in plant research worldwide

The project will be carried out in close collaboration with the VIB Department of Plant Systems Biology, UGent. The department is one of the world's top research centers in plant research and has built a strong reputation with industrial partners. VIB scientist Frank Van Breusegem and his research group have years of expertise in the area of plant stress. This new project builds further on a research agreement made in 2004 regarding 'stress in plants'.

This is a 'win-win' collaboration for the two partners: Bayer CropScience can make use of VIB's world-class expertise, while VIB has the opportunity to convert its strategic basic research into products useful to society.

Prof. Dr. Dirk Inz, Scientific Director of the VIB Department of Plant Systems Biology, UGent:

"It is abundantly clear that, in the coming years, the pressure on food production will increase dramatically all over the world. So it's absolutely vital to apply the latest insights to developing crops that produce a higher yield and are more resistant to adverse growing conditions like drought. With Bayer CropScience, we have an ideal partner that will translate the innovative fundamental research of the VIB Department of Plant Systems Biology at Ghent University into applications used worldwide."


Contact: Evy Vierstraete
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)

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