The Graduate School Experimental Plant Sciences (EPS)

NWO Open Competition Domain Science – KLEIN

Hidden crop diversity in Suriname: tracing the origins of Maroon rice by integrating ethnobotany and genomics
Prof. Tinde van Andel & Prof. Eric Schranz (Naturalis/WUR)
The Maroons of Surinam, descendants of escaped slaves, cultivate hundreds of varieties of rice. These differ radically from modern rice cultivars, but almost no scientific research has been devoted to them. Where does Maroon rice come from? This project integrates ethnobotanic and genetic research, linking the traditional knowledge of the Maroons to written sources and the DNA of their rice. The rice fields probably reflect 370 years of migration and adaptation: ancient African breeds, historic cultivars from the US, rice traded with Asian contract workers, and home-bred varieties. This study will contribute to the re-evaluation of a crop that is central to current and future food security, as well as to Afro-American cultural heritage.


Release and Catch! Using a light-controlled probe to uncover the signaling interactome of phosphatidic acid in the plant cold response
Dr Steven Arisz & Dr Teun Munnik (UvA)
In response to an environmental change, such as the advent of a cold spell, plant cells produce ‘signal substances’ in their cell membranes, eliciting a cascade of internal changes that protect the plant. One such important signal substance is a lipid, phosphatidic acid, which very specifically binds proteins to the cell membrane where they become active. In order to better understand these short-lived interactions, which are crucial to the plant’s stress responses, we will produce a light-sensitive phosphatidic acid analogue that will enable us to cross-link interacting proteins and to purify and identify them. The results will help in the breeding and cultivation of cold-resistant crops. The innovative cross-linking technique will likely find broader applications.


Rooting in Salt: Gene Regulatory Networks that Guide Root Developmental Plasticity
Prof. Christa Testerink & Dr. Yanxia Zhang (WUR)
Plants can adapt their root growth to a complex soil environment. These adaptations are not generally determined by a single gene, but by networks of genes. We want to reveal the genetic networks that guide root growth and enable plants to survive salt stress.