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Durham University

Research & business

£4.5m to help us futureproof crops

(2 October 2020)

Our research into how crops could be ‘future-proofed’ against climate change to avoid food shortages has been boosted by a major funding award.

Durham is leading further research into how plants adapt to their environment along with Nottingham, Cambridge and Liverpool universities.

Survive and flourish

Plant survival relies on their ability to adapt to the environment, which is partly dependent on a quick and reversible process that modifies proteins using a regulator called SUMO (small ubiquitin-like modifier).

Durham researchers and their partners have already shown how modifying key proteins in plants can help them survive and flourish in harsh environments.

This funding will help our biosciences researchers to further understand what triggers SUMO and how it helps plants to adapt their behaviour based on their environment.

Understanding SUMO function could have huge benefits for agriculture as it’s crucial for generating stress-resistant crops.

Food insecurity

Recent figures show that over one quarter of the world is affected by moderate or severe food insecurity, with the social implications of Covid-19 thought to be a further threat to food systems – the processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population.

By understanding the SUMO ‘code’, we hope to help other researchers and breeders to edit and rewrite the code to develop crops that are futureproofed against climate change and crop production shortages.

The research brings together expertise from across the four universities, who have been working together for a number of years following original discoveries in Durham about SUMO based protein modification systems.

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