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Boosting Crop Growth using Natural Product and Synthesis Enabled Solar Harvesting

Project description

Special molecules could help make plants more resilient to cold stress

Cold stress can seriously hamper crop yield. Low temperatures restrict plant growth and development, while frost causes tissue damage. Yield losses are even more severe when cold stress occurs during the reproductive stage. The EU-funded BoostCrop project aims to increase plant resilience to cold stress and stimulate growth under different conditions using a breakthrough concept called molecular heaters. These are nature-inspired molecules that absorb parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that are either harmful to the plant or not used during photosynthesis and then convert these wavelengths into longer wavelengths (heat). The proposed method could greatly reduce yield losses and extend growth seasons.


Cold and freezing stress are important constraints for crops and for horticulture. BoostCrop seeks to reduce such stress by an invention called 'molecular heaters'. These are nature-inspired molecules that absorb solar radiation and convert it to heat energy. The invention would reduce yield losses due to cold stress, extend growth seasons and the geographical locations suitable for agriculture, increase crop yield at high crop density and, concomitantly, reduce greenhouse energy costs. BoostCrop strives to increase food production to feed a continuously growing population, thus tackling a major European and Global Challenge in Food Security. The multidisciplinary research programme outlined in BoostCrop will demonstrate how intrinsic molecular processes that underlie energy transfer, and which occur on timescales of tens of trillionths of a second, can be manipulated such that macroscopic properties are impacted. The targets of the research programme include: (1) applying state-of-the-art experiments and theory to track and understand, in unprecedented detail, energy flow in targeted, nature-inspired molecules; (2) manipulating this energy flow through chemical modification; and (3) developing a suite of molecules to suit the needs of crop growth in the field and under protected (greenhouse) conditions. These molecules will then be applied to crops through an aqueous foliar spray. The proposed research programme offers a transdisciplinary and synergistic approach to developing, and understanding the properties of novel photon-to-molecule heaters. The combined expertise of 6 universities (and staff spanning Chemistry, Physics and Biology), one government institute and an SME with an outstanding track record for developing sustainable agro-technologies will ensure that the longterm vision of BoostCrop, to develop molecular heaters for use in a foliar spray, are met, thereby contributing significantly to Europe’s future technological and Food Security.

Call for proposal


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Net EU contribution
€ 20 521,69
B15 2TT Birmingham
United Kingdom

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West Midlands (England) West Midlands Birmingham
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 20 521,69

Participants (11)