Worldwide, including in Europe, increasing incidence of drought due to climate change will lead to relevant maize yield losses, with high negative economic impacts, and even more severe scenarios are expected if appropriate mitigation strategies are not adopted soon.

BOOSTER aims to develop maize drought tolerant genotypes by improving current breeding strategies, specifically focusing on revealing the potential of natural variation located within cis regulatory elements (CREs), which represents a large fraction of the quantitative trait locis associated with drought.

CREs are bound by transcriptomic factors (TFs) that regulate a plethora of down-stream target genes, thus concomitantly affecting many genes whose function is involved in drought responsive mechanisms. The information produced by BOOSTER will be used in breeding programs that simultaneously target different CREs, selected based on their higher relevance for drought response. Thus, the features of BOOSTER strategy will significantly increase the chances to achieve drought-tolerant genotypes (DTGs), via classical breeding or new breeding technologies, with relevant increase of drought resilience compared to those currently available.

Furthermore, the development of novel and more efficient biostimulants represents an additional eco-friendly weapon for reducing negative effects of drought on maize.

The combination of novel DTGs and biostimulants treatment is expected to act synergistically for reducing drought-induced yield losses.

The results that BOOSTER aims to achieve by the project’s conclusion:

  1. The transfer of new knowledge and technologies for DTGs and novel biostimulants to different crops, the same crops in other countries, and even breeding programs targeting the enhancement of quantitative traits of agronomic significance other than drought tolerance. For instance, maize cultivation in Africa.
  2. The environmental advantages of BOOSTER outcomes and selected end-products compared to current options, assessed using a comprehensive multi-indicator life cycle assessment (LCA) approach. This will involve potential reductions in carbon emissions (carbon footprint, accounting for biogenic carbon), water usage (water footprint), and land use.
  3. Dissemination, exploitation and communication strategies including:
    • the active engagement of BOOSTER’s industrial partners in disseminating results and outcomes, including via their participation in European stakeholder associations;
    • An approach centered on networking to identify synergies with other European and African projects affiliated with BOOSTER;
    • Involvement of diverse stakeholders across the entire value chain to form a Stakeholder Network interacting throughout the project.

These strategies will facilitate the distribution of project-derived knowledge and results to relevant stakeholder audiences, both during the project timeline and post its conclusion.

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