The continuous increase in world population, global climate change and environmental concerns associated with intensive agriculture strengthen the need to boost agricultural plant productivity.
Major current challenges include the enhancement of crop yields in more resource-efficient cropping systems and stabilization of plant development and yield formation under less predictable growth conditions. Even though the genetic improvement of crops bears the largest potential for future yield increases, actual improvements in crop productivity fall far behind the drastically increasing demands arising from the additional use of crops as renewable energy sources. In particular for wheat, the most important crop species in Europe, yield improvements have been stagnant over the past two decades.
Therefore, the establishment of the Leibniz Graduate School (GS) in Gatersleben aims at improving yield potentials suitable for multiple environments. The proposed approach will exploit favorable alleles and regulatory networks underlying spikelet fertility, tiller enhancement, photosynthetic efficiency and an optimized control of senescence for higher grain number and seed filling efficiency.
The establishment of the GS serves the following aims:
- to investigate the genetic and physiological basis of yield-limiting factors and to establish research strategies for increasing yield potential in barley and wheat, in a close cooperation between research groups at the IPK Gatersleben and the Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU);
- to develop a structured graduate student education program whose theme is the knowledge-based design of complementary and state-of-the-art approaches to improve yield formation in cereals, with the concomitant goal of establishing a graduate program for approx. 80 PhD candidates already present at the IPK;
- to provide a central building block for the establishment of the “WissenschaftsCampus Halle” in which 3 Leibniz institutes, 3 faculties of the MLU and the Interdisciplinary Research Centre for Crop Plant Research (IZN) create a broad research and education forum to advance the concept of a plant-based bioeconomy.
These goals will be achieved through the establishment of a PhD program consisting of education and research activities centered around a consortium of 8 research groups.