Dr. Guillaume Lobet from Jülich’s Institute of Bio- and Geosciences – Agrosphere has received a Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). Over the next five years, the ERC will provide around € 2 million in funding for Dr. Lobet’s research on the soil–root–plant system against the backdrop of increasing drought.
Droughts are becoming more frequent and more severe. Strategies are needed to increase the resilience of plants to adapt to changing environmental conditions and thus ensure food security. One way to achieve this is to select plants the root system of which optimizes water uptake from the soil. However, this is complicated by the fact that the structural factors in the soil that control water uptake from root to plant are not yet fully understood.
This is the starting point for Guillaume Lobet’s research project: The aim of DROOGHT (“Improving cereal yield predictions under drought: root diameter as a predictor of plant water uptake across scales”) is to identify the most important structural root characteristics that control the dynamics of plant water uptake under drought conditions. The project is based on the primary hypothesis that the distribution of root diameter within a crop root system is an indicator of its structure and functions at the organ and field scale. In other words, there is a correlation between root diameter and the plant’s ability to absorb water. What makes this indicator so important and ground-breaking is its simplicity: Diameter is one of the easiest root characteristics to measure in any field setup and on a large scale.
ERC Consolidator Grants
With the Consolidator Grants, the European Research Council funds outstanding project proposals from scientists between seven and twelve years after completing their doctoral degree. Among ERC’s funding lines, the Consolidator Grants are between the Starting Grants, which are awarded to early-career scientists, and the Advanced Grants for established researchers. The grants, which are awarded to individuals, are considered to be the most prestigious awards in the European research scene.