The majority of crops in the Solanaceae and Cucurbitaceae (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, watermelons, cucumbers) for the fresh market are grown on rootstocks. The project aims to understand and exploit the processes and genes that control rootstock effects on the scion (shoot).

At a glance

  • Dates2012-2016
  • SponsorEuropean Commission's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)
  • Funded€3 million. (Income to Cranfield €289,000)
  • PartnersAgricola Perichan SCP, Spain; Unigenia Bioscience Slu, Spain; Agrocare Nieuwe Dwarsweg 1 Bv, Netherlands; Inoq Gmbh, Germany; The University of Warwick Uk; Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Agrarias, Spain, Stichting Dienst Landbouwkundig Onderzoek, Netherlands; Universite Catholique de Louvain, Belgium; University of Cukurova, Turkey; Universidad Miguel Hernandez de Elche, Spain; Lancaster University, UK; Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Spain

ROOTOPOWER aims to develop a multidisciplinary suite of new tools targeted to the root system to enhance agronomic stability and sustainability of dicotyledonous crops under multiple and combined abiotic stresses: salinity, water stress, soil compaction and low fertilizer (N, P, K) input.

Central to our approach is the use of tomato as a model species since it can be very easily grafted, and the majority of tomato crops for the fresh market are grown from grafted transplants. This surgical technique allows precise assessment of the effect of altering root traits on crop performance independently of any shoot traits, because the scion (shoot) is constant. This project will analyse and exploit the natural genetic variability existing in a recombinant inbred line (RIL) population from a cross between Solanum lycopersicum and S. pimpinellifolium and other selected mutants and functional lines (used as rootstocks) for their performance under multiple abiotic stresses, and for their biotic interaction with natural soil microorganisms (mycorrhiza and rhizobacteria).

Progress update

In this project, the partners have resequenced the genomes of the parental lines for the RIL population to allow rootstock related quality trait loci (QTL) to be more easily mapped, and described many QTL for traits such as rootstock impact on leaf biomass and root vigour. Transcriptional changes associated with QTL and multistress treatments have been characterised. These efforts will underpin future work to breed improved rootstocks for more sustainable production of grafted fruit crops.