NWO grant for research into salinity tolerance in crops

31 August 2015

Plant physiologist Dr Christa Testerink of the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences is to receive a grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for research into the effects of salinity on root growth in crops. The grant was awarded on the basis of the research proposal submitted by Master's student Iko Koevoets who, as PhD candidate, will be appointed to conduct research into salinity tolerance in crops.

In all, four new projects have been selected under the NWO Graduate School of Horticulture and Starting Materials' programme. This programme enables excellent Master's students to submit their own proposals for a PhD research project, in collaboration with knowledge institutes and businesses.

Salt stress: tackling the lateral root of the problem

The proposal for Koevoet's doctoral research concerns salt stress in plants. Soil salinisation is rapidly increasing worldwide. Many crops have low salt tolerance, which renders the affected soils unusable for agriculture. However, the world's population continues to rise. Consequently there is a growing demand for crops that grow in salinised soil. The roots play an extremely important part in preventing salt absorption. The lateral roots are a problem as they have been specifically developed to allow optimal absorption of nutrients and water. The research examines how plants modify their lateral roots to reduce salt absorption, thus improving salt stress tolerance.

18 applications

The selection committee evaluated 18 applications for the Graduate school of Horticulture and Starting Materials' programme. The NWO budget for this round of the programme is EUR 925,000. Sector organisation Plantum will contribute an additional EUR 75,000. The budget is available for four-year PhD research projects conducted by knowledge institutions in collaboration with one or more private partners. The Master's students wrote their own applications, which were then submitted through their principal supervisors and co-supervisors.

Salinity tolerance in crops

Salinity tolerance in crops. High salt concentrate (red) causes less development of rootstructure in comparison with low salt concentrate (blue).

Published by  Faculty of Science