Personnel Exchange Programme-Indo-German Joint Research collaboration - Root hydraulics and its possible use in crop improvement programs
This project involves utilization of interdisciplinary expertise in soil physics, plant physiology and biological systems modeling to progress understanding of water movement through soil-plant-atmosphere continuum with emphasis on characterization of rhizosphere/root hydraulic processes and their impact on drought adaptation.
The proposed collaborative work has been conceived to bridge the world-sound expertise of German collaborators in a very specific area of fundamental research on water movement through soil-plant-atmosphere continuum with possible application in the target regions of developing countries (primarily rain-fed agriculture of semi-arid tropical agro-eco-systems which are the active sites of Indian partners, ICRISAT; www.icrisat.org). Such an initiative shall strengthen the research network within this research area and, based on the pilot joined experimentation, enable development of broader research concepts for larger funding bodies in the future.
It is now globally recognized the soil-plant-atmosphere water movement, especially causal mechanisms underlying inter-and intraspecific variability in water transport, are not well known. Only the recent decade opened these fundamental questions related to variability in water movement in agro-ecosystems
and demonstrated its potential importance for improving production under rain-red agricultural practices. This fact supported the development of research tools and methodology to address such questions experimentally. The existing techniques are, however, still limited and part of the joined effort of collaboration is focused on testing and comparison of existing most advanced methods as well as attempt development of new methodologies and approaches.
In the past, both research teams – i.e. Soil Hydrology, Gottingen, Germany and Plant Physiology, ICRISAT, India, had approached the persisting questions on water movement in soil-plant-atmosphere continuum through i) analysis of soil and rhizosphere hydraulic properties including the effect of mucilage, root hairs and root-soil contact on root water uptakes(German collaborators) and ii) analysis of plant tissues-specific hydraulic features caused by variation in radial water movement through symplast/apoplast through plant tissues, its relation to plant water consumption and its putative impact on crop across target semi-arid tropical agro-eco-systems (Indian collaborators).
Despite many advancements, important questions on what features of the soil-plant-atmosphere influence majorly crop water acquisition and their variability in germplasm haven’t been satisfactorily answered. These are the fundamental questions to be answered in order to improve rain-fed agro-systems. We strongly believe the planned collaboration will lead to the development of new methodology and approaches which shall elucidate processes driving water movement in cropping systems and its putative use in crop improvement programs. Therefore, here we plan to push the academic as well as applied research further.
For us gems means GEMS, or G*E*M*S (genotype by environment by management by society) interactions, i.e. the fact that crop yields results from complex biophysical interactions while acceptance depends on farmer/consumer preferences. This complexity becomes an opportunity when it is cracked into components that can be analysed, understood, predicted, and then used to prioritise research investments to maximise return. This is what we do, and this is when GEMS become gems!
For us gems means GEMS, or G*E*M*S (genotype by environment by management by society) interactions, i.e. the fact that crop yields results from complex biophysical interactions while acceptance depends on farmer/consumer preferences. This complexity becomes an opportunity when it is cracked into components that can be analyzed, understood, predicted, and then used to prioritize research investments to maximise return. This is what we do, and this is when GEMS become gems!
A crop performs in different ways in different sites, years and agronomic managements. These are called genotype-by-environment-by management(G*E*M) interactions, and they are a main challenge for breeders and agronomists. There is one more layer of interaction, even more complex: the society (S). Farmers and consumers have different desires, needs, expectations, and a cultivar that fits one may not fit the other (G*E*M*S interactions). The puzzle is complex and challenging but if its components are understood, specific interventions can be undertaken.For instance, breeding for a particular genotype (G, with particular physiological characteristics), for a particular environment (E, with a particular kind of drought pattern that requires a specific adaptive trait), in a particular management practice (M, for instance a sowing density, or a N fertilizer treatment), and targeted to particular farmer/consumer (S, for instance a genotype that produces a lot of rich stover for cattle ranchers) is the need of the hour.