European commission earmarks 12 million for plant growth research

Ghent, Belgium − Plants are invaluable sources of food, medicine, renewable materials and energy. But we still know relatively little about the biological processes that make them grow. The European Commission is devoting 12 million to AGRON-OMICS, a plant research consortium spearheaded by Pierre Hilson and Dirk Inz of the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) and Ghent University. The goal of this 5-year initiative led in collaboration with other top European research institutes is to understand the network of biological processes involved in leaf growth.

Plants: crucial but still poorly understood
It would be hard to overestimate the importance of plants in our daily life. They provide us with food, medicine, and renewable sources of materials and energy. It's therefore sobering to realize that, in comparison to cancer for example, we still know very little about the mechanisms involved in plant growth. Although key factors have been identified, researchers do not yet understand how their action is orchestrated, nor how the growth process is coordinated across the successive levels of organization: from molecules, to cells, organs and finally entire organisms. In particular, leaves are exquisite solar-driven molecular machines for carbon assimilation and essential determinants of ecosystem productivity. Given their crucial role for mankind, we must improve our knowledge about the biology of plants.

But, times are changing and novel technologies are now being developed to systematically study complex biological processes. Pierre Hilson, Dirk Inz and their colleagues in the Department of Plant Systems Biology, in collaboration with nine other top European research institutes, have set out to perform an in-depth study of leaf growth in the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana. To support their efforts, these scientists launched an initiative called AGRON-OMICS (Arabidopsis GROwth Ne

Contact: Sooike Stoops
VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology

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