The agriculture of the future has to be sustainable. The economic use of the precious resource water is central in this context. In a project funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and the Egypt Science and Technology Fund we work for improved drought tolerance in rice and wheat.
Starting point is our collection of rice mutants, where jasmonic acid, a central stress Hormone, cannot be produced. To our surprise, These mutants were better adapted to salt and drought stress. Together with colleagues at the Agricultural Genetic Engineering Research Institute in Egypt we want to make use of these mutants to identify the genes underlying this improved adaptation. When these genes are known, it will become possible to introduced these gene variants by so called smart breeding into current varieties of rice and wheat. This procedure does not rely on transgenic engineering, but employs the natural sexuality of plants, i.e. classical crossing, after old varieties, landraces or wild relatives have been screened for the presence of the favourable gene variant. The molecular knowledge generated during this project will therefore make it possible to breed drought-tolerant varieties much faster than previously, when the breeder did not know, which gene was responsible for the desired trait.