The multidisciplinary approach of GAIN4CROPS

The GAIN4CROPS Consortium was built around the idea that the integration of knowledge from diverse scientific disciplines has the highest potential to develop new and disruptive solutions. For this reason, the project partners come from different backgrounds, some of them even beyond plant biology. “Besides the more common backgrounds in plant science, like plant biochemistry, plant physiology, geneticists, etc. GAIN4CROPS also brings together people with a more technical background: engineers, computational and theoretical physicists that contribute to solving biological problems from a logical and modelling perspective, ” says Andreas Weber, GAIN4CROPS coordinator from the Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf.

The project has indeed a strong technological component with respect to measuring the photosynthetic performance, using techniques that allow characterizing different plant variants without destroying the samples. Thus, the Consortium is enriched with experts in plant spectroscopy, gas-exchange measurements and other quantitative methods for precise plant phenotyping. Furthermore, GAIN4CROPS is not only focusing on plants, but also on other photosynthetic organisms, such as algae and cyanobacteria. The generated knowledge may hence be transferred to other applications featuring these photosynthetic organisms, e.g., to create more efficient bioreactors.

Plant breeding is another fundamental aspect in GAIN4crops because breeding approaches allow to improve photosynthetic efficiency without solely relying on genetic engineering. Employing breeding expertise can guide the project discoveries towards successful breeding strategies, whilst on the other hand it helps design ad hoc experiments to unravel the genetic variation of plants, thus contributing to find the key to the transition from C3 to C4 metabolism.

Finally, the lifecycle study, the technology readiness level (TRL) assessment and the public perception analysis also enforce the translational aspect of the project, making sure that cultural, economic and industrial aspects are taken into account from the beginning.

The Project Consortium in a nutshell:

Heinrich Heine University
Comparative genomics, assessment in the model plant Arabidopsis and metabolic computational modeling
Max Plank InstituteIn vitro assessment and enzymes optimization
University of RostockAssessment in cyanobacteria; physiological and biochemical analysis of photosynthetic organisms
University of CambridgeLaser capture microdissection of leaves
NRgeneSequencing of multiple plant species
Corteva AgriscienceSunflower breeding
CEAPhenotyping of algae and plants (Arabidopsis and Sunflower)
University of PaduaGeneration of algae and moss modified lines
Estonian University of Life SciencePhotosynthesis quantification by maximum quantum yield, non-photochemical quenching, electron transport rate, CO2 assimilation capacity.
University of GroningenThermodynamics-based analysis of metabolic networks
AgroscopeField trial with up to four sunflower lines
Genomix4LifeSequencing of multiple plant species
IN srlSocial, environmental and economic assessment, communication & exploitation management