Science - July 3, 2015

ERC-grant for Harro Bouwmeester

Text:
Albert Sikkema

Harro Bouwmeester, professor of Plant Physiology, has been awarded an Advanced Grant by the European Research Council (ERC).

Bouwmeester will be extending his research on signal molecules to key food crops. The European research funding organization ERC has rewarded his research proposal with a grant of three million euros.

Bouwmeester studies strigolactones. These are signal molecules in crops that attract the parasitic weed Striga, as well as useful soil fungi. He also recently discovered that these signal molecules inhibit plant shoot branching. Important food crops such as wheat, rice, maize and soya contain these strigolactones. Bouwmeester wants to analyse them and get a better understanding of their functions in order to improve crop production. He hopes that his research will help increase the availability to the plants of nutrients in the soil, for instance.

A further 17 Dutch researchers got an ERC grant in addition to Bouwmeester. The EU handed out 190 of these grants in total. The advanced grants usually amount to 2.5 million euros but can on occasion be as much as 3.5 million euros.

Wageningen scientists are reasonably successful in obtaining these ERC grants. Meteorologist Wouter Peters and microbiologist Stan Brouns also got one in the past year