Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - GENCROP (Genomic approaches for crop improvement)

GENCROP was a result of several years of co-operation with partners from ten member States. Its aim was to increase the research potential of the department of genetics in the growing field of plant genomics. We invited 12 experts and transferred technologies that enabled us to advance simultaneously both applied and fundamental research including such important areas as molecular basis of yield, genetic improvement of alternative crops, ecological risk of GMO and molecular evolution of plants. In total, we organised 68 workshops and seminars, published 20 papers and a book, and our staff visited four outstanding European research centres.

Within the project 39 students prepared their MSc theses and 9 PhD theses. Moreover, applications for a postdoctoral degree and professorship were prepared. With support from the Marie Curie scheme we were able to strengthen international contacts and we made an enormous progress not only in current molecular technologies but also we set up new trends in research and development.

At this point, a visit of Dr Dawid Glissant should be mentioned that helped a lot in successful setting up a microarray laboratory in our department while Dr Lars Gernot Otto established a molecular cytogenetic laboratory. Participation in the COST action, FA0603 entitled 'plant proteomics for Europe' together with some programmes under preparation are other outcomes of the project.

Rapidly developing field of genomics requires close cooperation between different biology disciplines and the Marie Curie programme has provided a very effective tool for the intensification of exchanges between different specialists. The cooperation with Prof. Hans-Jorg Jacobsen from Hannover University evolved from a very small programme focused on lodging resistance in pea to experiments aimed at improving pea as a source of proteins for Europe. The Prof. Jacobsen's team is responsible for the analysis of gene expression, while our duty is to apply the high-throughput molecular marker technologies (AFLP, SSAP and STS) for assessing the diversity of mutant and transgenic pea lines.

The successful implementation of genomics to crop production and biodiversity protection is able to create jobs for high quality specialists, farmers and producers and thus can contribute to solving the burning problems of less developed areas. How to organise research, how to know whether a plant with excellent features can be potentially introduced into cultivation, what are the constraints to higher productivity - this knowledge was provided by the high quality specialist from the university of Southampton, Prof. Nazmul Haq, Director of the international centre for underutilised crops, known from coordination of many projects aimed at introducing new crops especially in less developed countries of Asia and Africa. During a series of visits Prof. Nazmul Haq has been teaching about commodity chains and problems related with introducing new crops. His help is extremely important in the relation of our research with socials needs. The knowledge and expertise also improved significantly the level of laboratory classes and lectures from molecular genetics, molecular evolution, genomics and genome annotation.

The training period strengthened our position at home institution and what is even more important, increased our recognition by scientific community - we are becoming a training site at national and international level and we are more and more often invited as experts and reviewers. New knowledge created within GENCROP and implementation of innovative technologies from the field of structural and functional genomics, high-throughput screening and molecular evolution enabled us, at least to some extent, to answer to the fundamental questions within already existed thematic areas.

Among the most beneficial experiences, elaborating the new category of molecular markers based on bacterial sequences, discovering the role of QTLs in early evolution of grasses from the genus Lolium, providing unequivocal data about role of transposons in evolution of grasses belong to the most important. However, equally important are practical outcomes including enclosing high diversity of transgenic pea comparable with induced mutants, applications of molecular tools to conservation biology and many others. The genomic perspectives learnt during GENCROP offer new insights into studies on evolution of crops and wild plants and gives new opportunities for applications in agriculture, conservation policy and human health.

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