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WATBIO project puts drought-tolerant crops in the spotlight
Water is the most important component of a plant’s growth, but researchers have discovered that some plants can survive with less. Researchers in Europe are now working on developing crops that can tolerate droughts, specifically for bioenergy and bioproducts. The WATBIO (‘Development of improved perennial non-food biomass and bioproduct crops for water stressed environments’) project is funded under the ‘Food, agriculture and fisheries, and biotechnology’ Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) to the tune of EUR 9 million.
Led by the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, the WATBIO consortium is investigating the productivity of crops in a future climate. Particular focus is being given to increasingly more episodes of drought and water shortage.
The researchers say both the availability and quality of water are the main concerns people have with respect to climate change, especially in terms of what the future holds for societies. Water is instrumental in helping farmers determine crop yields. Crop productivity, for instance, during the 2003 drought across Europe dropped by 30 %. Arable land in Europe is the victim of insufficient irrigation water, so developing drought-tolerant crops is high on the European agenda.