Building on functional plant genomics for crop improvement: Sant’Anna School Institute of Life Sciences is the Italian partner institution in the EU-funded H2020 CAPITALISE project

Genomic technologies can boost the efficiency of photosynthesis, tailor crops to specific conditions, respond to climate change and increase food safety for billions of people as the world’s population is predicted to reach 9 billion in 2050.

Capitalise is a Horizon 2020 EC-funded four-year project coordinated by the Wageningen University. It aims to secure food production for the increasing worldwide population and identify the genetic resources needed to improve the photosynthetic properties of developing sustainable production in three major European crops: barley, tomato, and maize. Sant’Anna School is the only Italian partner  institution to capitalize on multidisciplinary approaches, such as functional genomics, systems biology, metabolic modelling, enzyme engineering, computational biology, and gene editing techniques together with European universities and research centres BasfLimagrain and Kws, in addition to Israeli and Ethiopian universities.
By translating major advances in photosynthetic improvement from model plant species to crop plants, scientists will capitalize on the three most promising strategies: tuning of the Calvin cycle,  the kinetics of photosynthetic responses to changes in irradiance, and tuning leaf chlorophyll content to increase the rate of CO2 fixation.

Matteo Dell’Acqua, a researcher of the Institute of Life Sciences, as the scientist responsible for managing plant genetic resource in this newly launched project, said: “The genetic basis for natural variation in traits associated with gene editing and transgenic engineering is critical to improved photosynthesis We will work on potential agricultural applications with barley, tomato and maize biological components underlying the diversity of photosynthesis.  Given our attempts to improve the photosynthetic efficiency for greater crop yield in Europe, Africa and Middle East, the genetic basis of these processes is essential to develop sustainable production and tackle climate change.”