The measuring of crop plants and their response to a changing environment is at the heart of EMPHASIS, a new large-scale European project coordinated by researchers in Jülich. EMPHASIS is part of the new ESFRI roadmap, in which the member states of the ESFRI Forum (European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures) coordinate research strategies in Europe.
The current roadmap has been made public in Amsterdam today, within the framework of the Dutch EU presidency. What happens inside plants as they respond to environmental stimuli? How does the outward appearance, the phenotype, change in response to temperature and water availability? How does the local environment affect the growth of plants and which characteristics must breeders take into account in future varieties to increase yield and decrease water and nutrient requirements? The project EMPHASIS -- European Multi-Environment Plant Phenomics and Simulation Infrastructure -- aims to create an integrated, European network of unique infrastructures for plant phenotyping and breeding. Crops that are important for food security and the bio-economy are the focus of EMPHASIS. One goal is to speed up and improve the breeding of new varieties.
In EMPHASIS, researchers investigate crops under controlled conditions in the greenhouse, in special field conditions, simulating future environmental conditions. In these installations, researchers are able, for example, to vary the concentration of carbon dioxide as well as the soil or the air temperature. With advanced, non-invasive techniques, they can measure and analyse the structure and physiology of plants. EMPHASIS contributes innovative sensors and automated systems to decipher new breeding-relevant features and provides the IT competence to link the phenotypic data with the genotypic data.
National plant phenotyping platforms, such as the German Plant Phenotyping Network (DPPN) and the French Plant Phenomic Network PENOME (FPPN) will be linked through EMPHASIS with institutions in Belgium, Great Britain, and other European countries. EMPHASIS cooperates with users from industry and other research organisations, for example, in the field of sensor technology and robotics, agriculture, and provides them with modern plant phenotyping infrastructure and modelling platforms, and high-end technology in climate chambers, greenhouses and in the field.
After a preparatory phase funded by the European Union, EMPHASIS will be implemented in 2018 and will be fully operational in 2020. Forschungszentrum Jülich will coordinate EMPHASIS in close cooperation with partners in France. As a key technology, plant phenotyping is essential for food security and a sustainable bio-economy, topics in which Forschungszentrum Jülich holds a leading role nationally. Forschungszentrum Jülich also coordinates the German and the European Plant Phenotyping Networks (DPPN, EPPN), as well as the global initiative, the International Plant Phenotyping Network (IPPN).
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