Phenotyping for drought

Water shortage is an important limiting abiotic factor in agriculture, and the problem is expected to increase with climate change causing more frequent and more severe droughts in many areas. Banana needs vast amounts of water for optimal production. In commercial Cavendish export production systems, irrigation is routinely used, which has reduced the sense of urgency to exploit genetic resources with drought tolerance traits. However, most banana production systems are small-scale rain-fed systems. In addition, banana production tends to move into drier climates to escape black leaf streak, economically the most threatening disease for banana production. There is a need to reduce the dependency on irrigation water to make banana production more sustainable.

Through the efforts of Bioversity International and the support of the Belgian government and the Catholic University of Leuven (KULeuven), the world’s largest banana collection is stored in Belgium at the Bioversity International Musa Germplasm Transit Centre (ITC). Reliable identification of drought-tolerant cultivars and an understanding of the mechanisms is urgently needed. Phenotyping, an emerging science that characterises plant behaviour and quantifies features such as growth and stress tolerance, offers a solution to gain such insights. Ultimately, the plant phenotype is driven by the operation of genes to regulate growth in coordination with environmental limitations. The KULeuven/Bioversity team investigates genes and their products at cell level, in the context of the whole plant.

Corporate Author:
Bioversity International, Rome (Italy); Catholic University of Leuven (KULeuven)
Bioversity International Musa Germplasm Transit Centre (ITC) Factsheet, 3
2 p.
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