Leiden biologists get awarded 730k NWO grant
Salma Balazadeh, Víctor Carrión, and Jos Raaijmakers, biologists at the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL), have successfully applied for an NWO grant and got awarded 730.000 euros. The board of NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences awarded funding for their project within the Open Technology Programme (OTP).
The grant will be used for the project Microbial Induction of Plant Resilience to Drought Stress (MicroRes). The aim of the MicroRes project is to help plants to cope with drought stress using root-associated bacteria.
Enhance drought resilience
Drought (water deficit) is one of the most detrimental environmental factors that adversely affect crop production, thus jeopardizing food supplies for a growing world population. In this project, the Balazadeh, Carrión and Raaijmakers groups will collaborate to tackle the problem of drought and agricultural losses by seeking strategies that enhance the intrinsic ability of plants to interact with beneficial microbes (bacteria) and, therefore, augment their drought resilience. To this end, the researchers will identify bacterial strains capable of enhancing the growth, and mitigating drought stress, of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress) and major vegetable, cereal and oil crop plants.
Using a combination of state-of-the-art omics, computational, and genetic engineering methods they will identify novel genes, metabolites and evolutionarily conserved regulatory pathways involved in bacteria-mediated plant drought tolerance. The results obtained will provide robust foundations for generating future varieties of crops with superior drought tolerance and broadening the application of bacteria to reduce the impact of drought on agriculture and global food supplies.
The three researchers and four pioneering companies (three from the Netherlands and one from France) have joined forces to find biological solutions for the water scarcity in agricultural systems.
Balazadeh and Carrión say they are both extremely happy and very proud of getting awarded the grant. ‘Especially because we are bringing together multidisciplinary expertise from academia and pioneering companies in the agricultural field.’
NWO OTP grant
The grant provides funding for excellent research and looks at the possible application of the results. By linking scientific research, its goal is to lead to applicable knowledge.