The continuous increase in the world population means that one of the main challenges of the 21st century is to increase the crop production that sustain world human calorie intake. This increase can be achieved in two ways: increasing the cultivated area or increasing the yield. However, the area of arable land is limited and the increase in yield could potentially lead to adverse environmental effects since it implies a greater use of fertilizers. The agriculture of the future requires plant production systems that maintain high levels of production, without reducing quality and with high efficiency in the use of inputs to minimize environmental impact. Agricultural research must be directed as a priority to provide the appropriate technology to achieve these ends: breeding genetically better varieties.

One of the strategies to improve the sustainability of agricultural systems is to promote the cultivation of more efficient varieties in the use of nitrogen (N). Given the low efficiency in the use of N by crops (<70%), a significant fraction of the N mineralized or provided by fertilizers is lost to bodies of water (NO3) or to the air (NH3, N2O, NO), contributing to environmental pollution. Nitrogen affects the expression of a wide range of genes, including numerous primary and secondary metabolic pathways, and genes that regulate plant growth and development.

Current varieties, in the process of improvement over time, could have lost genes involved in achieving good yields with minimal N inputs. Today, the production of quality flour and semolina in low fertilization conditions is an objective priority for the genetic improvement of wheat, also demanded by consumers of organic farming.

The MGP Group is part of the AGRISOST Project financed by the Community of Madrid, which aims to make a significant advance in understanding the mechanisms that control the response to N in wheat, and in the development of new strategies to create varieties with high yield and quality under reduced N inputs. The results of this project are expected to have a direct impact on wheat improvement, being able to apply new strategies to obtain improved varieties under environmentally sustainable conditions.

AGRISOST projects:

  • Technology aimed at the sustainability of agricultural systems. General Directorate of Universities and Research. Community of Madrid. R&D Program in Technologies 2018 (P2018/BAA-4330). 2019-2021. Participating entities: UPM, INIA, UAM, CIEMAT
  • Sustainable agrarian systems. Management of carbon, nitrogen and water to optimize production and quality. General Directorate of Universities and Research. Madrid’s community. R&D Program in Technologies 2013 (P2013/ABI2717). 2014-2018. Participating entities: UPM, INIA, CIEMAT
  • Sustainable agrarian systems. Biomass production and management of C, N and water. General Directorate of Universities and Research. Madrid’s community. R&D Program in Technologies 2009 (P2009/AGR-1630). 2010-2013. Participating entities: UPM, INIA, CIEMAT

More information on the consortium website: https://www.agrisost.org/en/

Additionally, the MGP Group participates in OZOCAM (Ozone and plant pathogenicity in the Community of Madrid), an Operational Group set up within the framework of the Rural Development Program of the Community of Madrid 2014-2020, of which the Ecotoxicology Group of the Atmospheric Pollution (GECA) and the Atmospheric Pollution Modeling Group (GMCA) of the CIEMAT Environment Department, the IMIDRA Plant Health Laboratory, the UPM Plant Genetic Improvement Group (MGP), the Irrigation Community HORTIFUENLA and the HELICONIA Agricultural Consultant. Its objective is research on the effect of ozone on the development of plant pathogens, and the transfer and dissemination of results and the problem of ozone in the agri-food sector.

Within the framework of this project, an experimental study of the effect of the increase in tropospheric ozone on the development of pathogens in two representative crops of the CM is being carried out: wheat and Swiss chard. Our group has participated in the selection of wheat varieties for field trials in peri-urban agricultural environments subjected to chronic ozone pollution, and will carry out functional quality analyzes of the flours that complement the information on tolerance/susceptibility to ozone of the varieties tested. Likewise, we are carrying out gene expression analyzes that could modulate the response of the plant to ozone stress in order to identify the genetic bases of ozone tolerance.

OZOCAM Project: Atmospheric pollution by ozone and the development of plant pathogens in the framework of global change. Rural Development Program of the Community of Madrid 2014-2020. 2018-2021. Participating entities: CIEMAT, UPM, Irrigation Community HORTIFUENLA, Heliconia S. Coop. Madrid and IMIDRA.