Biotechnological Assets Applied to Drought and Pests in Relevant Crops for Agribusiness
About the Project
Biological systems research focusing on elucidating plant stress mechanisms and signaling pathways is important for developing resistant cultivars in a climate change scenario. Pathogen attacks and abiotic stresses such as water deficit are essential during plant development, and the identification of genes and molecules, which regulate resistance responses, are critical to develop crop cultivars capable of doing in the face of these stresses. In association with abiotic stresses, plants must also defend themselves against pest’s attacks, including fungi, bacteria, insect pests, and nematodes. Insect-pests comprise the most serious factor affecting productivity losses in the Brazilian agribusiness. Losses in soybean, cotton, and corn caused by the caterpillars Helicoverpa armigera, Spodoptera frugiperda, and phytonematodes constitute the most critical phytosanitary problem in terms of competitiveness for the commodities production and exportation. Faced with scenario cases involving plant resistance breakdown, environmental association of biotic and abiotic stresses, fewer characterized and introgressed genes, and higher complexity of plant responses have been reported. All these reports demonstrate the importance of the research towards the identification of genes/molecules involved in pest resistance and water deficit responses.
In this context, the National Institute of Science and Technology, PlantStress Biotech INCT, integrates various Brazilian research groups and international partners, experts in plant physiology, transcriptomic, epigenetic, proteomic, bioinformatic and functional genomics analyses. The integrative research group represents a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional network with national and international excellence to generate innovative biotechnologies applied to corn, soybean and cotton focused on the tolerance to deficit hydric and pest control (Meloidogyne spp, H. armigera and S. frugiperda). The project includes bioprospection, isolation, characterization, and functional validation of genes/molecules involved in plant pest resistance and drought tolerance. The PlantStress Biotech INCT action comprises:
Prospection for genes and molecules involved in resistance/tolerance to specific and combined stresses in native plants and resistant/tolerant contrasting genotypes, through the elucidation of the stress mechanisms and signaling pathways;
Prospection for genes and molecules involved in the defense and parasitism of target pests;
Search for promoters responsive to pests and water deficit, and small RNAs involved in the regulation of target genes;
Use different strategies (gene/molecules overexpression or gene silencing) for biological functional validation in model systems;
Developing of new nanoencapsulated insecticides/nematicides from validated molecules;
Developing of biotechnological products (concept proof) in GM crop plants (cotton, soybean, and maize);
Evaluation of developed GM crop plants in simulated field experiments.
The biotech assets generated will be applied to the development of biotechnology products, including nanobioinsecticides and genetically modified crops (soybean, maize, and cotton) against biotic and abiotic stresses. In addition to the biotech assets obtained and characterized in this project, an understanding of molecular and physiological factors related to drought tolerance and their interaction with pests and other environmental stresses will contribute to prevent, unravel and adapt to climatic changes. Alongside its scientific agenda, the PlantStress Biotech INCT group, formed by researchers from five Embrapa units and five Federal Universities (UnB, UFRJ, UFRGS, UFC, and UFPel), and collaborators from the public and private sectors, concentrate their efforts on training students and professionals in different and update approaches involving biotechnology, genomics, and bioinformatics. Actions will also strengthen joint action and the internationalization of undergraduate and graduate training engaged in PlantStress Biotech INCT research, and to increase the visibility and international insertion of its teams. The PlantStress Biotech INCT network focuses not only on the generation of biotech assets applied to drought and pests in soybean, cotton, and maize but also on other important agronomic traits (seed and fruit quality, an increase of biomass and nutritional value, among other) and in other crops important for Brazilian agribusiness.