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The strategic objective of DROPS is to develop methods aimed at increasing the efficiency of the breeding of genotypes offering high yield under water deficit, enhanced water-use efficiency, or better adaptation to water deficit and osmotic stresses than current varieties.

 DROPS relies on a close interaction between field studies, accurate phenotyping in high-throughput platforms, novel genetic methods, "omics" measurements, statistical meta-analyses and modelling.

 Four key traits for drought tolerance and water-use efficiency are studied across species :

  • seed abortion,
  • shoot growth and architecture,
  • root system architecture / efficiency, and
  • transpiration efficiency.
DROPS focuses on :
  1. Developing new screens for identifying drought tolerant genotypes in the field from phenotyping platforms and field experiments.
     We will develop "identity cards" of genotypes with indicator which are :
     - Stable characteristics of genotypes because they can be measured in a reproducible way with a high heritability in phenotyping platforms,
     - Based on novel knowledge (e.g. combinations of metabolite concentrations, sensitivity parameters of models or hormonal balances,
     - Genetically related to target traits, and able to predict genotype performance in variety of field situations with water deficit, via simulation and/or statistical models.
  2. Exploring the natural variation of the four key traits by identifying genomic regions which control them in diverse field drought scenarios and study their allelic diversity. These are regions of the genome, characterized via genetic markers which are associated to physiological pathways and traits.
  3. Supporting crop improvement strategies by developing models for estimating the comparative advantages of relevant alleles and traits in fields with contrasting drought scenarios in European regions.
DROPS outputs are :
  • Results of a network of field experiments across dry regions of Europe able to test alleles and traits in a wide range of drought scenarios,
    • develop a new generation of crop models able to estimate the effects of alleles on crop growth, yield and water-use efficiency,
    • disseminate results and methods for assessing and developing genotypes which respond to forecasted climatic challenges to European agriculture via workshops, trainings and a e-learning courses in phenotyping and statistics.
    • simulate the consequences of relevant alleles on yield and water-use efficiency in a large number of drought scenarios (e.g. 100 years in 20 regions), making it possible to predict response to selection and guide breeding programmes in each region.
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This project is supported by the European Commission under the
7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development