HR Excellence in Science
Date: 22.10.2020

PLANTMETALS - A new COST Action bringing together 110 labs from 30 countries launched

Metals in plants - this is the issue that will be jointly tackled by experts from one hundred and ten laboratories from 30 European countries. A new project "TRACE METAL METABOLISM IN PLANTS (PLANTMETALS)" was launched in October, bringing together biologists, (bio)physicists, (bio-geo)chemists, molecular geneticists, ecologists, agronomists and soil scientists to produce not only new insights into plant functioning, but also to propose innovations for agriculture, crop production and breeding, as well as environmental protection. The project is funded by the European COST Association (European Cooperation in Science and Technology), it will be implemented for a period of four years and will be led by Hendrik Küpper from the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences (BC CAS).

"Many trace metals, such as iron, cobalt, copper or zinc, are essential for plants, animals, even people. A lack of trace metals means a problem in nutrition, on the other hand already slightly higher concentrations of metals may become toxic," says Hendrik Küpper, Head of the Department of Plant Biophysics and Biochemistry, BC CAS, Czech Republic. Trace metal homeostasis in plants is an up-to date research topic and is at the core of many challenges currently facing agriculture and human societies. Low trace metals bioavailability in many soil types of large world areas causes a reduction in crop production and diminishes nutritional value of food. Other trace metals (e.g. Cadmium, Mercury) are usually only toxic, and in many areas of the world metal toxicity is a severe agricultural and environmental problem. "We need to better understand how plants uptake metals, how they transport them, store them in their cells and use them, as well as how plants deal with the deficiency and toxicity of metals," explains Hendrik Küpper.

Hendrik Küpper. Photo: Pavlína Jáchimová, Czech Academy of Sciences.

The new PLANTMETALS COST Action will provide international and interdisciplinary exchange of experience. Thus the Action will organise scientific conferences and workshops are planned as well as establishing new opportunities for cooperation during internships and scientific exchanges. It is also important that beside basic research scientists, applied research experts and industry partners are involved in the project. Disseminating research results and translating them to the needs of farmers and consumers to practical application in agriculture and other sectors is the common goal of the Action. Practical innovations may include, for example, better targeted fertilization, crop cultivar breeding, critical evaluation of the benefits and risks of genetically modified plants, more effective estimation of ecological risks and, last but not least, phytoremediation tools, ie the use of plants to remove toxic metals from polluted soils and water resources.

During October, the kick-of meeting of the Action took place - just virtually due to the epidemiological situation in Europe. Objectives and planned activities of the project were presented and the team leaders were elected. The first common conference is planned for the summer of 2021, where representatives of all currently 110 member laboratories and companies from 30 countries should come to physically meet in Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic.





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