Researchers in Cyprus (Cyprus Agricultural Research Institute) want to understand how Europe can produce a bigger biodiversity of crops while improving its yield, quality, resilience and taste. In an experimental field that covers some 11 hectares, more than 20 varieties are grown, including corn.
Cypriot Scientists from a European research project are testing an experimental breeding technology aimed at identifying plants better adapted to Cyprus´ scorching heat and lack of water.
Each corn plant is genetically different. All are given close attention, especially their roots.
The researchers examine both quantitative and quality parameters. Quantitative parameters help establish plant yield and the stability of that yield. They are more difficult to assess, as they are heavily influenced by the environment around. When it comes to quality parameters, the study mainly focus on nutrient content but also on the leaf biomass. The research also includes barley, ancient wheat, chickpeas and cowpeas.
Once identified, the more promising candidates will be naturally crossed among them to produce drought-resistant varieties. No genetically modified organisms are used.
The objective of the Cypriot Researchers objective is to increase the biodiversity on the agricultural ecosystems. Therefore, they are looking at past, traditional species that are no longer grown anymore. These old traditional species (genotypes) had characteristics that make them suitable not only to diversify the crops but also to improve the quality and the taste of products that can be enjoyed by the consumers.
Soil and root samples are taken to labs. Researchers want to understand how plants can increase their yield and improve their drought resistance by better interacting with underground microbes. The relationship between plants and fungi can be useful for both of them, good just for one of them or it could be parasitic. There is the need to understand closely this interaction. Basically, the plant gives carbon to the fungi, and the fungi finds in the soil nutrients and transfers them to the plant.
The Cypriot Researchers hope their work will help local farmers increase their offer and that within five years their research could become a market reality in Europe.
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