Science - April 26, 2018

22 million for plant phenotyping

Albert Sikkema

WUR plans to set up a new research facility together with Utrecht University to study the development of plants under different environmental conditions. The facility will get a budget of 22 million euros. The Dutch Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) is donating 11.3 million and the two universities will fund the rest.

Artist impression, ©NPEC

The Netherlands Plant Eco-phenotyping Centre (NPEC), as it is known officially, will have six physical units, three in Utrecht and
three in Wageningen. Utrecht University will make small ecotrons (rooms for studying ecosystems) and will build a series of small climate chambers to investigate the interactions between plants, the environment and microbes under different conditions.

WUR will set up large climate chambers and greenhouses for genetic research on plants and crops under various conditions. WUR will also develop a mobile field module and drones for studying the effect of the environment on the development of plants outdoors in fields.

‘We know the DNA sequence for a lot of plant species and we know how we can get get them to grow well but we don’t yet know how the environment affects the development and
yield of different varieties,’ says Mark Aarts, professor holding a personal chair in Genetics. Aarts is involved in setting up the facility along with Rick van de Zedde, a specialist in biology and robotics.

In the middle (with bloemen) Mark Aarts, on the left Rick van de Zedde
In the middle (with bloemen) Mark Aarts, on the left Rick van de Zedde