FA Bio awarded funding to assess effects of drought stress on the global food crop maize

BBSRC awards grant funding to FA Bio for its project to develop a protocol to grow maize plants under drought stress, in collaboration with CHAP.

FA Bio, the revolutionary agriculture microbial discovery and development company, is awarded grant funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to develop a proof-of-concept imaging-phenotyping assay to assess for the morpho-physiological effects of drought stress on maize plants.

Climate change is threatening food security. A rise in the Earth’s surface temperature has increased drought stress in arable crops which hinders plant development, decreases global crop production and impacts grain quality. Drought stress negatively affects a range of plant processes from seed germination, growth and final productivity through the reduction of nutrient uptake, and by impairing photosynthetic processes and plant water content.    

Maize is one of the three most important food crops in the world, directly contributing to more than half of all calories consumed by human beings. In the UK alone, maize has a production area of 228,000 hectares and a production value of £6.3 million. It is well known that water availability poses a major risk in maize production therefore, precise and accurate assessment of phenotypic variables is critical for identifying and quantifying the effects of mitigation measurements such as the use of bioproducts.

In collaboration with the Phenotyping Laboratory from CHAP, an Innovate UK-funded Agri-Tech Centre driving research and innovation that transforms crop systems, FA Bio has grow maize plants under optimal and drought stress conditions and is using CHAP’s Imaging LemnaTec PhenoCenter platform, a multi-camera system to evaluate the physiological impact on the maize plants grown under different watering regimes. The results will describe how growing under drought stress impacts different physiological aspects of crop biology.  

FA Bio has developed a Microbial Discovery Platform to screen soil microbes and discover innovative microbial biofertilisers and biocontrol agents. FA Bio is interested in discovering new bioproducts that can protect maize from drought stress and improve the efficiency of nutrients. Growers urgently need innovative solutions to improve the resilience of cereals to drought and future-proof key UK crops against climate change. This project will provide the foundation to enable the discovery of products that will enhance crop yield under drought stress and support increased food security.

Andrea González González, Research Scientist, R&D at FA Bio, said: “At FA Bio, we have developed a Microbial Discovery Platform that has successfully been used to screen and identify the microbial diversity of agricultural soil samples. Currently, we are interested in discovering biofertilisers for maize. This funding is enabling the expansion of our innovation capabilities to discover new microbial bioproducts that can protect crops’ health under abiotic stresses. Providing a pivotal opportunity to contribute towards safeguarding food security by discovering products that can mitigate the effects of climate change in our food chain.”

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