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ABSTRESS is a five-year project set to revolutionise the way in which new plant varieties are produced. It is being led by The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) and involves 12 national and international partners. The aim of the project is to use state-of-the-art plant breeding and genetic tools to produce crops with greater drought and/or disease tolerance. The focus of the project will be legumes, but the principles developed will also be demonstrated in other crops such as tomato.
Legume crops are essential for the future of European agriculture. EU grown legumes have a key role as a sustainable source of protein in both human and animal diets. Importantly, European crops such as peas (Pisum sativum) can replace imported soybeans, which currently represent over 75% of feedstock protein in the EU.
Legumes don’t require, and reduce the need in other crops, for nitrogen fertilisers which are a major source of greenhouse gases and farm energy consumption.
Currently the yield of legume crops is severely undermined by both drought and fungal infection (Fusarium oxysporum). Fusarium is a soil borne pathogen that causes a disease which wilts infected plants. The damage it causes is compounded during drought conditions. The prevalence of this economically devastating fungal disease is predicted to increase due to climate change.
Aims of Abstress
To develop crops that have increased resistance to drought (abiotic) and Fusarium (biotic) stress and still produce a good yield. This is important in ensuring future food security, whilst mitigating the effects of climate change.
Significantly reduce the time taken to breed new crop varieties that are more able to withstand the challenges commonly associated with climate change, such as extreme weather and changing incidence of pests and diseases.
Improve the accessibility of modern breeding techniques within the European Union and in association with partners across the world.