Abiotic stress tolerance in cereals

Heat and drought tolerance, freezing tolerance and winter hardiness are key traits for climate resilience in Northern Europe. While winter hardiness and freezing tolerance are important in winter crops, heat and drought tolerance is becoming increasingly important in both winter and spring crops. 

We develop protocols for evaluating abiotic stresses, study underlying molecular mechanisms and develop genetic markers for breeding for abiotic stress tolerance.

Some examples of ongoing and previous research is described below.

Spring wheat drought trial

Project Robust Wheat: Drought, heat and waterlogging tolerance in spring wheat

Robust Wheat project strives to develop robust wheat varieties capable of thriving in diverse environmental conditions. Field trials are being conducted in specialized locations experiencing drought, flooding, and heat. Controlled growth experiments will be carried out later on for detailed molecular and grain quality assessments. The project will lead to new tools and methods to support breeders in developing robust varieties adapted to the changing climate.

The project started in 2024.

Drought tolerance in barley

We are using state-of-the-art plant phenotyping facility NaPPI to study drought tolerance in barley. The findings from this study will be compared to that of field trials to identify overlapping patterns and to know how well indoor facilities can be used for germplasm selection. A close collaboration is established with Dr. Kristiina Himanen, Helsinki University and coordinator of NaPPI. The project ends in 2026.

Drought tolerance in winter wheat

Germplasm evaluation for drought tolerance in winter wheat was the first project to our knowledge in the Nordic region. We evaluated over 200 genebank germplasm consisting of old cultivars and landraces for drought tolerance under field conditions. Several genotypes tolerance to drought were identified. Using high-throughput imaging we also found that genotypes that perform better under drought have a contrasting growth pattern compared to those that are drought susceptible. In the figure, it is genotypes in group 4 that were found to have robust growth even under drought (Kumar et al. 2020). The project has concluded.

winter wheat growth pattern in drought
freezing tolerance in oats

Freezing tolerance in oats

Freezing tolerance in oats was studied at the molecular and physiological level. Several key genes responsible for the trait were identified. Oat germplasm collected from throughout the world was evaluated extensively in the field and under controlled conditions. We do not currently have ongoing research on this topic.

More details in Dr. Chawade’s Phd thesis.

Cold stress in rice

Indica and Japonica are two subspecies of rice differing significantly in their tolerance to cold stress. We studied how these species respond to cold and which genes are regulating the key molecular pathways for cold stress tolerance in rice. We do not currently have ongoing research on this topic.

More details in Dr. Chawade’s  Phd thesis.

cold stress in rice