Plant Biology and Biotechnology

Crop Improvement

Three Research Groups in Delhi perform plant research to devise ways to improve food production and nutritional yield. The Crop Improvement Group (Reddy) modifies rice plants using CRISPR/Cas9 technology, improving rice agronomic traits such as the number of tillers and spikes. The Nutritional Improvement of Crops Group (Kaul) also uses state of the art CRISPR/Cas9 technology to: (i) improve the nutritional value of cereals, legumes and tomatoes; (ii) design non-selective herbicide-resistant rice plants for weed control, and (iii) identify genetic solutions to avoid premature ripening of fruits post-harvest. The Plant Transformation Group (Leelavathi) focuses on using chloroplast engineering tools for genetic improvement of rice and cotton. The Bacteriology Group in Trieste (Venturi) focuses on interkingdom and interspecies signaling between plants and plant-associated bacteria, as well as the composition and role of the microbiome in plant health.

Highlights

The Crop and Nutritional Improvement Groups in New Delhi are making very good progress in CRISPR/Cas9 technology of target loci for the generation of herbicide tolerant and nutritionally improved crops (Front Plant Sci 25:10,37, 2019; Front Plant Sci 10:1-17, 2019). Single-use herbicides often lead to the development of resistance within weed populations, and developing crops that are resistant to multiple herbicides offers huge advantages to farmers in weed management. The Bacteriology Group in Trieste has performed several rice microbiome studies in relation to bacterial diseases, has characterised beneficial plant-endophytic relationships (Mol Plant Microbe Interact 33 :349-363, 2020) and is collaborating with several private companies for the development of microbial inoculants.