Pubblicato il: 31/05/2023
Pic from Pixabay

Pic from Pixabay

Developing new varieties of barley with enhanced photosynthetic properties and tailored straw to be in line with the principles of circular economy: this is the ultimate goal of BEST-CROP (Boosting photosynthESis To deliver novel CROPs for the circular bioeconomy). The project is guided by Paolo Pesaresi (professor of the Department of Biosciences at the University of Milan) and his team, in collaboration with 18 European partners. The Horizon Europe programme supported the project with a funding of 6 million euros. The project aims to enhance crop production through the use of biotechnology innovations for the improvement of photosynthetic properties and straw quality, involving plant breeding companies, straw processing companies and researchers from seven European universities.

Starting from the major advances on photosynthetic mechanisms observed in model systems, BEST-CROP aims to improve the photosynthetic efficiency of barley, which ranks fourth among the most cultivated crops worldwide. Barley also represents an optimal model species for transferring the results of the project to wheat. 

Photosynthesis is at the basis of agriculture. Improving the efficiency of this physiological process means using solar light at its best to obtain bigger and more productive crops (more biomass) without increasing manuring and water consumption. The project relies on genetic innovation, and particularly on the use of mutations and New Genomic Techniques (NGT) to alter the genetic material involved in the photosynthesis and growth of crops. The goal is to select barley varieties that are more productive and efficient in terms of water consumption, with a view to future climate scenarios. In line with a circular economy approach, these new varieties will also have tailored straw to be used as raw material for products with high-added value, for example as feed for insects capable of turning straw into proteins and fats, or for eco-friendly construction materials which could replace products currently obtained from high-polluting industrial sectors.