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Plant sciences: New EU-funded research project involving HHU
Barley: Enhanced photosynthesis and tailored straw

The BEST-CROP project (Boosting photosynthESis To deliver novel CROPs for the circular bioeconomy) will capitalise on ground-breaking technologies to improve the photosynthetic properties and ozone assimilation of barley and deliver novel crops with tailored straws for industrial uses. Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU) is one of 18 partners in an international project funded by the European research and innovation programme “Horizon Europe”.


Dr Götz Hensel in a barley field. In the European BEST-CROP project, novel plants of this cereal are to be developed to enable the optimum utilisation of both grains and straw. (Photo: Pouneh Pouramini)

To achieve these ambitious targets, the University of Milan will lead a multidisciplinary alliance of 18 European plant breeding companies, straw processing companies and academic plant scientists aiming to use the major advances in photosynthesis to improve barley yield and to exploit the variability of barley straw quality and composition.

BEST-CROP targets barley – a major crop worldwide, with the European Union producing the largest share (almost 55 Mt grain/yr.) and an almost equivalent amount of straw covering about 10% of EU arable land – aiming to:

  • Mitigate ozone air pollution extremes during drought: by providing a strategy of air phytoremediation through the modulation of stomatal conductivity for ozone without a negative effect on drought tolerance and yield;
  • Address the global food security crisis: by delivering highly productive barley breeding lines thanks to optimised photosynthesis features. Furthermore, barley represents an optimal model species for other cereals with a view to medium-term project replicability;
  • Boost the growth of the circular bioeconomy: tailoring of barley straw for efficient transformation into high-value, bio-based compounds and materials that replace products currently obtained from high-polluting industrial sectors with high dependency on non-renewable energy sources, with a focus on the feed and building sectors.

BEST-CROP will drive forward based on highly innovative biotechnology and science that exploits natural and induced genetic variation. BEST-CROP also exploits gene-editing techniques providing barley genetic materials that could be exploited directly in breeding programmes soon or serve as proof-of-concept of gene function.

Professor Dr Andreas Weber from the Institute of Plant Biochemistry and Dr Götz Hensel from the Centre for Plant Genome Engineering are the project partners at HHU. They are contributing their expertise in the fields of photosynthesis, the generation of transgenic barley plants and targeted mutagenesis using CRISPR/Cas9 technology.

With a total of almost €6 million in European funding, the BEST-CROP project is expected to start in July 2023 and end in June 2028.

Kategorie/n: Schlagzeilen, Pressemeldungen, Auch in Englisch, Math.-Nat.-Fak.-Aktuell, Forschungsnews Englisch
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