Hot summers, floods, etc. - Future challenges for plant breeding


Floods in Venice, continuous rain with mudslides in Austria and another summer with record temperatures in Germany - concerns about the climate are growing and with it the question of solutions for sufficient food production. On November 20 three professors from the Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf answered questions from an interested audience.

Within the framework of the popular public event series "An der Wurzel gepackt", which took place for the first time at the Goethe-Museum Düsseldorf, the experts first introduced the topic with short keynote speeches. During an open round of questions, a lively exchange developed between the audience and the experts, which was professionally moderated by Tim Neumann from Hochschulradio Düsseldorf.

In a short greeting from Damian Mallepree of the Goethe Museum, the audience learned that already Goethe has been a plant researcher and plant lover, fact that was picked up by speaker Andreas Weber who commented on this with the remark: "Goethe had already developed good concepts for synthetic biology back then".

In the first keynote lecture, Professor Michael Schmitt introduced the topic of climate change and listed the natural and anthropogenic influences that change the climate. The fact that over the last 60 years, global warming increased in a way comparable to what happened in past times in many centuries made listeners sit up and take notice. 

Under these conditions, our crops face challenges, as was reported by Professor Benjamin Stich, Quantitative Genetics and Plant Genomics. For a rise in temperature and increasing summer drought, plant breeding has to find adaptation mechanisms. To do so, also approaches of artificial intelligence are used.

Professor Andreas Weber, Biochemistry of Plants and spokesperson of CEPLAS, provided solutions and perspectives on this topic. He described various drought survival mechanisms that for example CAM plants with their water-efficient photosynthesis, have already developed.

The lectures provided many starting points for questions from the audience, which developed into a lively discussion and was, after two hours, concluded by moderator Tim Neumann. With snacks and drinks afterwards, all visitors had the opportunity to ask further questions to the speakers and to chat in small discussion groups.

All participants were very satisfied with the third event of this CEPLAS series and agreed that there will be further discussion rounds next year.