NCCR "Plant Survival in Natural and Agricultural Ecosystems" (2001-2013)
NCCR Director: Prof. Martine Rahier (2001-2008), Prof. Ted Turlings (2008-2013)
Home institution: University of Neuchâtel
Research in the NCCR and major results
Between 2001 and 2013 the NCCR Plant Survival was active in research areas such as access to nutrients, adaptation to changes in light and environmental variations, strengthening of the natural defences of plants, pollination mechanisms, and the control of invasive plants.
The NCCR made significant progress in the analysis of odorous signals emitted by maize when attacked by insects. These odours attract natural enemies that parasitise and eventually kill the insects. Certain maize varieties have lost this signalling ability over the course of selective breeding. In collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (MPI-CE) in Jena, researchers managed to genetically engineer a maize line to restore the odorous signal that attracts nematodes.
In the pollination genetics field, NCCR researchers discovered that changing the expression of a single gene of a flowering plant (e.g. in Petunia integrifolia) is enough to change the preference of a specific pollinator (e.g. Bombus terrestris) for that particular species of flower.
Fundamental aspects linked to plant nutrition such as the use of light for growth and reproduction, the capture of photons and the adaptation of plants to variations in light waves, storage of vitamins in plants, starch metabolism and the ageing of leaves were elucidated.
Finally, the NCCR studied the possibilities of controlling the spread of Ambrosia, an invasive plant with highly allergenic potential.