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Bridging genomics and agrosystem management: resources for adaptation and sustainable production of forage lotus species in environmentally-constrained south-american soils

Final Report Summary - LOTASSA (Bridging Genomics and Agrosystem Management: Resources for Adaptation and Sustainable Production of forage Lotus species in Environmentally-Constrained ... Soils)

The genus Lotus has been historically used in the Southern Cone of South America for pasture improvement. LOTASSA had the objective to contribute to the sustainability of pastures in the region through the generation of biotechnological tools and biological products that allow the development of better adapted genotypes of the forage species Lotus corniculatus L., L. tenuis Waldst. et Kit. (Syn. L. glaber Mill.), L. uliginosus Schkuhr (Syn. L. pedunculatus Cav.) and L. subbiflorus Lag., in soils that suffer drought, acidity or salinity. LOTASSA project took advantage of the model species Lotus japonicus (Regel) to develop tools to accelerate breeding of cultivated species. In parallel, the project worked in the identification, characterisation and selection of rhizobia strains that could guarantee the optimum N fixation in those soils, thereby improving the productivity, quality and sustainability of Lotus pastures in marginal soils.

A fundamental element for the strategy to be successful was to achieve results that were comparable and exchangeable between research groups, as an approach to develop useful tools and increase knowledge in different research disciplines. As each research group had its own experimental methods, the consortium agreed to share biological materials and results obtained to prevent discrepancies in the development and validation of evaluation methodology. In this way, all the partners used the same plant and bacteria materials as well as research methods.

The LOTASSA project was an initiative for technical and scientific cooperation between European and Latin American research institutions. The contents and the managing represented an excellent opportunity to undertake collaborative research on forage legumes for marginal soils, an issue of great importance for livestock feeding in the Southern Cone.

This project took advantage of the close relationship among forage Lotus species and the model legume Lotus japonicus, aiming to develop new genetic and biotechnological resources to assist and speed up breeding and improvement of plant genotypes well adapted to environmentally constrained environments (drought, salinity, acidity and Al toxicity). The issue of nitrogen fixation was simultaneously approached, through the identification and selection of superior rhizobial strains as inoculants in Lotus pastures adapted to abiotic stresses.

Some of the relevant results achieved by LOTASSA were:
- a collection of Lotus species, genotypes and interspecific hybrids characterised at the genetic, biochemical and physiological levels for their responses to abiotic stresses, with all information gathered in an accessible database;
- a collection of hundreds of rhizobial strains from Europe and the Southern Cone, identified at the taxonomic level and characterised for their interactions with forage Lotus and the environment;
- a large set of genes and other genetic markers in Lotus associated with the adaptive response to abiotic stresses;
- a wide variety of physiological and metabolic responses of Lotus spp. under abiotic stresses.

Many of the tools and biological resources developed during LOTASSA will help future obtaining of plant genotypes and cultivars highly productive in marginal soils and environments. Others shall be useful to produce highly efficient inoculants for Lotus in degraded environments.