"Environmental stress is responsible for the majority of crop yield losses worldwide. Most of the global damage caused by abiotic stresses can be attributed to drought, salinity, high temperatures, and an insufficient supply with mineral nutrients. Farmers and breeders have been aware for a long time that a combination of stress factors is the normal situation plants have to cope with in natural environments, but surprisingly little is known about the mechanisms underlying the physiological, molecular and biochemical reactions of plants to a combination of two or more stressors. Recent studies suggest that the responses to stress combinations are unique, and cannot be predicted from separate analyses of the reactions to individual treatments under laboratory conditions. It also became obvious that systemic information transfer plays important roles in plant adaptation to different abiotic stress conditions. Drought or nutrient starvation responses, for example, involve the long-distance translocation of specific molecules, and systemic components also seem to participate in the reactions to salt and temperature stress. Recent observations suggest a complex crosstalk between systemic stress signalling routes, but no studies have as yet addressed long-distance communication following the simultaneous exposure to a combination of two or more abiotic stresses. Therefore, the proposed project aims at analysing the effects of different combinations between drought, salt and heat stress in the agronomic important crop species oilseed rape and maize, with special emphasis on the systemic components of the response pathways. In addition, the effects on the nutritional status of the plants, biomass production, and crop yield will be evaluated. It is expected that the project outcome will allow to developing breeding strategies to enhance the performance of crops under multiple adverse environmental conditions."
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