Organized by Prof. Jill Farrant of the University of Cape Town, one of the BOOSTER partners, in collaboration with Prof. Ute Vothknecht of the University of Bonn, this workshop was a part of the conditions set by the Humboldt Foundation, requiring recipients like Prof. Farrant to network with fellow European scientists.
The workshop served as a platform for scientists with interests in desiccation and drought tolerance to exchange knowledge, explore innovative approaches and connect with leaders of EU projects focused on investigating aspects of drought tolerance with practical applications. Among the EU projects discussed were “BOOSTER” in which Prof. Farrant is a participant, “ADAPT” in which Prof. Vothknecht is involved, and “RESIST” represented by Prof. Zoran Nicolai from the University of Potsdam, Germany.
The event featured presentations by group leaders of these projects, including Dr. Vincenzo Rossi from CREA (Italy) who discussed the BOOSTER project’s dual approach, focusing on harnessing natural genetic variations for drought tolerance and developing microbial and seaweed bio-stimulants to enhance drought tolerance in maize and teff cereals without compromising yield. Prof. Zoran Nicolai from the University of Potsdam (Germany) explained the systems biology approach used in the RESIST project, emphasizing the use of seedling models to screen omics techniques in two Xerophyta species with different strategies for coping with dehydration-induced photosynthetic stress. The RESIST project, now in its fourth year, aims to uncover mechanisms of desiccation tolerance and complex signaling during drying and rehydration in resurrection species. Finally, Prof. Marcus Teige from the University of Vienna (Austria) outlined the ADAPT project’s objectives, particularly focusing on the impact of drought on the Tuber Activation Complex, as part of the broader effort to define novel breeding targets. The workshop also delved into various aspects of vegetative desiccation tolerance and explored potential drought signaling in plants like Arabidopsis, barley, and potato.
Other speakers of the workshop involved Dr Luiz Bondi and Dr Danilo Centeno from University of Rostock (Germany), Dr Suzana Alcantara, Departamento de Botânica-CCB-UFSC (Brazil), Dr Francesca Rappini, Institute for BioEconomy in Italian National Research Council (Italy) and Dr Andras Bittner from the University of Bonn (Germany).
During the concluding session, there was consensus that although some aspects of drought signaling had been unraveled, a comprehensive understanding of this complex phenomenon still has a long way to go. It was widely acknowledged that sharing data among researchers could significantly advance our knowledge in this area. However, it was also recognized that challenges, such as confidentiality clauses in EU projects, might hinder the implementation of this beneficial practice.