Area(s) of Expertise
Currently 40% of food crops are grown under irrigation, but on 30% of these acres crop yield is impaired by saline soil. Worldwide losses due to drought and salt stress are estimated higher than those brought about by pathogens and other pests, respectively. In crops, photosynthetic capacity is impaired by salt stress, resulting in retarded development and reduced crop yield. But under sub-lethal stress no increased salt concentrations have been found inside chloroplasts. Therefore, complex multi-factorial interactions of metabolic pathways and regulation steps have been predicted. This assumption agrees with the finding that stress sensitivity of plants is under the control of a high number of genes, and gene action is non-additive.
In our experiments we are using physiological and biochemical techniques to identify, individually for each plant species under investigation, indicators to measure and quantify stress perception. As a rule, these indicators resemble bottlenecks of metabolism and plant performance, specific for each species. Our investigations have to be closely linked to other groups working on signaling, molecular genetics, food quality, and analytics of organic compounds as well as soil science and plant nutrition.
Our experimental approach has resulted in permanent co-operations and recently has initiated a project on biomass production by micro-algae. In this new project we check at what extent results on higher plants apply for algae as well. Special tasks are (i) prediction of nutritive quality of algae, and (ii) prediction of contents of bioactive compounds.