New collaboration with Plant Impact Plc focuses on improving drought tolerance in crops

(03-05-2017) Ghent University has entered into a new R&D collaboration with Plant Impact plc, a leader in research and development in crop enhancement products.

Estimated cereal production losses due to drought and extreme heat across the globe 1964 - 2007 reduced production by 10%. Plant Impact estimates that in 2007, this was equivalent to nearly $16 billion of lost yield for wheat growers alone. The impact of drought on cereal crops like corn, rice and wheat, is expected to continue to increase in the coming decades.

To tackle the impact of drought on plants, Ghent University and Plant Impact have entered into a new R&D collaboration.

Pyrabactin analogues

Within this new collaboration Ghent University and Plant Impact work on a novel group of phosphonamide pyrabactin analogues. These chemistries were derived from the investigation of biological responses in plants by Prof. Danny Geelen (Department of Plant Production and board member of CropFit, a consortium of researchers at Ghent University with expertise in biostimulants and biocontrol).

The patent-pending molecules were designed and synthesized in the laboratory of Prof. Christian Stevens (Synthesis, Bioresources and Bioorganic Chemistry Research Group (SynBioC) at Ghent University's Department of Sustainable Organic Chemistry and Technology).

Prof. Christian Stevens:

"The new pyrabactin analogues can be produced in a few synthetic steps using sustainable synthetic methodology. This will guarantee a reasonable cost for an important step forward dealing with rising temperatures in agriculture."

Pyrabactin analogues have been found to control the aperture of leaf stomata to reduce water loss from leaves. This can improve the plant's water use efficiency and increase yield in conditions of drought. The ground-breaking compounds elicit many of the same responses as natural plant hormone abscisic acid but are more suited to be used by growers as a foliar spray.

Goals of the cooperation

Ghent University and Plant Impact's R&D team are working to advance understanding of plant responses to increasing environmental stresses and develop and commercialise unique chemistries which can assist growers in mitigating yield losses due to drought.

Dr. Steve Adams, R&D Director, Plant Impact:

"The creation of these novel pyrabactin analogues showcases exciting work underway at Ghent University. I am delighted that our new agreement opens the door for Plant Impact to further the advances made by Professors Stevens and Geelen. This will drive us forward in our objective to help improve understanding and mitigation of the effects of increasingly common drought conditions on key world crops."

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