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ERC Grant for RESIST: Drought Stress Resistance in Oat for a Changing Climate

Awards & Grants, Environmental Health, PGSB,

Ensuring the sustainability of oat cultivation as a significant future food source holds great promises for both human health and the climate. Dr. Nadia Kamal, a researcher at the Plant Genome and Systems Biology Group at Helmholtz Munich, has been awarded an ERC Starting Grant to unravel the molecular foundations of drought stress resistance in oats. This endeavor will contribute to the advancement of high-yield oat crops that are resilient to drought conditions.

Oats are not just delicious as a breakfast food or in the form of granola bars, but they are a nutrient-rich food source that can provide us with essential vitamins, plant-based protein, and dietary fibers. Oats are particularly rich in soluble dietary fibers, specifically ß-glucans, which are effective at stabilizing post-meal blood sugar levels thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, the exceptional qualities of oats don't end there. Oats are also environmentally friendly, boasting a low carbon footprint. This positions them as a high-potential crop to ensure food security amidst the challenges of climate change.

With funding from the European Research Council (ERC), the new project RESIST will study drought resistance in oats. Drought is one of the most impactful environmental factors constraining crop yields, causing substantial economic loss, and increasing food insecurity, especially as the global population continues to grow. To preserve agricultural productivity, the development of crops with both high yields and drought resistance is indispensable. Oats hold promise as a potential staple food crop, offering a much-needed diversification in our food sources. However, oats are vulnerable to drought, and advancements in breeding drought-resistant varieties, although urgently required, have been constrained so far by limited genomic resources.

RESIST will undertake the challenging and high-priority endeavor of deciphering the molecular mechanisms underlying drought stress resistance in oats, offering significant solutions to ensure robust yields of this emerging, healthy, and versatile crop. By establishing the essential groundwork, RESIST lays the cornerstone for creating improved oat varieties that thrive in drought conditions, securing oat yields as a sustainable source of a profoundly nourishing, healthy, and protein-rich plant-based diet for the rising global population.

Helmholtz Munich Pioneers Oat Research

Oats have an extensive and intricate genome, and the full sequencing was accomplished last year in an international effort under the key involvement of Dr. Manuel Spannagl and Dr. Nadia Kamal and the team at the Plant Genome and Systems Biology Group at Helmholtz Munich (Kamal et. al 2022, Nature).


More Information

The Plant Genome and Systems Biology Group at Helmholtz Munich is led by Prof. Dr. Klaus F.X. Mayer, Dr. Manuel Spannagl is the Deputy Group Leader and Dr. Nadia Kamal is a postdoctoral researcher.

Check out their pioneering work on the genome of oats.

The new ERC project will run under the title: ”Resilient Oats: Improving Drought Stress Resistance in a Changing Climate”

Dr. Nadia Kamal, Postdoc at the PGSB plant genomics group.