Research Projects

Plants have to adapt their growth and metabolism to survive in an often rapidly changing environment. We use natural/induced diversity of plant growth and metabolism to answer the question, how plants regulate growth under varying environmental conditions.

The major focus is on experimental work, employing a broad range of molecular biologic, biochemical, and high-throughput non-invasive phenotyping techniques to study the interactions between growth and metabolism controlling factors, their genetic variation and their impact in response to specific/dynamic environmental conditions. These topics are addressed using thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), maize (Zea mays), rapeseed (Brassica napus) and barley (Hordeum vulgare). The major aim is the identification and characterisation of (epi)genetic factors controlling vegetative plant growth performance, and the elucidation of the affected molecular and physiological mechanisms. Of particular interest are loci and mechanisms contributing to heterosis and the identification of factors for hybrid prediction. IPK-wide, the HET group co-ordinates the plant phenotyping efforts and it has the lead in building/advancing the corresponding research infrastructure.

  • Identification and validation of hybrid predictors derived from genomic, phenotypic and biochemical data of rapeseed inbreds and hybrids (PREDICT, DFG funded, in cooperation with the University of Gießen, NPZ and DSV)
  • Identification and characterisation of candidate genes associated with growth dynamics in maize, Arabidopsis and rapeseed, with particular emphasis on genes influencing expression and metabolite patterns and the corresponding networks (Growth Dynamics in cooperation with RGs NAM, BA, ADP; RGR, GED; QG)
  • Characterisation of genes and gene-networks causing differences in growth (including heterosis) and resource efficiency in the model system Arabidopsis, and translation to crop plants rapeseed, maize and barley (cooperation with RGs ADP, GGR, GED, DG, QG, MPE, MT)
  • Characterisation of epigenetic factors that are involved in growth and resource efficiency in Arabidopsis (cooperation with RGs MPE, MT) and barley (cooperation within ScienceCampus Halle, Barley Epigenome Platform K. Humbeck (MLU Halle), and with RGs GGR, DG)
  • Detection of epiQTL causing biomass heterosis in Arabidopsis using epiRILs, and identification of the relevant DNA methylation and gene expression patterns (cooperation with F. Johannes, TU München)
  • Analysis of sequence variations in nuclear and plastidic Arabidopsis loci determining photosystem II efficiency (cooperation with RG ADP)
  • Improving drought resistance in barley by transcriptional silencing of genes with suppressor function (IDRIB, ScienceCampus Halle, cooperation with E. Peiter (MLU Halle) and Saatzucht BREUN, Herzogenaurach)
  • Evaluation of the performance of rapeseed lines with respect to growth, seed formation and seed quality under highly controlled field-like dynamic conditions for the integration with spatially and temporally resolved ‘omics’ analyses, and their visualisation using augmented reality (AR) and advanced virtuality (AV) techniques (AVATARS, BMBF funded, cooperation with RGs SE, AAN, NAM, BA, MD, BIT and external partners)
  • Investigation and comparison of growth and phenotypic characteristics of maize reference lines grown under simulated field-like conditions (cooperation with RG ADP)
  • Phenotypic and molecular network analyses of root frost resistance in winter wheat (cooperation with RGs NAM, BA, ADP, GGR)
  • Development, implementation and improvement of novel procedures for rapid discovery of crop genes from natural or induced mutants using next generation sequencing (NGS) technology (NuGGET, BMBF funded)