Released as press release volume 2/2019

International Conference on improving Drought Stress Tolerance

Climate-change adapted crops to ensure global food security

More than 100 plant scientists and breeders from 23 countries are meeting in Berlin on 19 and 20 November to engage in an exchange on the improvement of drought stress tolerance in field crops through breeding.

The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) is hosting the conference on "Genetic diversity – The key for improving drought stress tolerance in crops". The Julius Kühn Institute - Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants (JKI) and the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) are organising the conference.

In his opening address, Dr Hermann Onko Aeikens, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture said: "In view of the increase in extreme weather events and of water becoming a scarce production resource, the key breeding goals for the future lie in improving the drought stress tolerance and water use efficiency of our crops. We must now make rapid and innovative advances in this area.

Climate change and population growth pose great challenges for the agricultural sector around the globe: the sector must produce more food, feed and renewable resources with less water. We need new and innovative solutions to tackle this challenge. This includes in particular the breeding and growing of water-efficient and drought-resistant plants.

Breeding and research are of major importance in this respect. However, research must be better coordinated and networked to share and further develop existing knowledge. This requires a suitable information platform.

To this end, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has, in recent years, developed and intensified its research activities on adapting crops to changing climatic conditions." Aeikens went on to say that the Wheat Initiative, which was initiated by the G20 states in 2011 with a view to increasing wheat yields sustainably and efficiently, with wheat being one of the world's most important crops, was a successful example of international networking.

Prof. Dr Frank Ordon, President of the JKI and Chairman of the Wheat Initiative's research committee, stated: "The improvement of the drought and heat stress tolerance of crops through breeding is a global challenge that can only be mastered through cooperation and coordination. Genetic resources play a central role in this endeavour, with their conservation and knowledge-based utilisation also being key issues that are addressed by the IPK and JKI. I am therefore delighted that we have succeeded in bringing world-renowned researchers from the fields of genetic resources, phenotyping, genotyping, plant physiology and breeding to Berlin to discuss the entire spectrum of these issues."

Background

The conference builds on the work done by the G20 Workshop on harnessing genetic resources for improving drought stress tolerance in crops that was held in Berlin in the autumn of 2017. 115 experts from Algeria, Egypt, Australia, Bulgaria, Germany, Ghana, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Saudi-Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Spain, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom are attending this conference.In consultation with the G20 Agriculture Ministers, the BMEL has recently significantly widened its research objectives of tolerance to drought and heat stress, nutrient and water use efficiency in breeding. The aim is to pursue the common G20 goal of adapting crops to the challenges posed by climate change, with a special focus on wheat. To this end, the BMEL is promoting the G20-initiated Wheat Initiative and the associated programme HeDWIC (Heat and Drought Wheat Improvement Consortium) which is aimed at enhancing the heat and drought stress tolerance of wheat.

Released as press release

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