The European Union has awarded €1.9 million to Royal Holloway’s School of Biological Sciences for carrying out a beyond state-of-the-art plant science project. The collaborative research project, called SeedAdapt, was one of 14 successful projects to receive funding, seeing off competition from over 100 applications. The EU competition ERA-CAPS ( was part of a €21 million investment in European plant science research over the coming three years.

SeedAdapt will look at the molecular mechanisms of seeds, seedlings and fruits underlying their adaptation to environmental stresses such as heat and drought. Seeds are the time capsules of life and the beginning or end of most food supply chains. Despite their importance, little is known about the molecular mechanisms that seeds use to adapt to environmental change. The SeedAdapt project will investigate seed development, germination and sprouting into a seedling in response to stressful environmental cues, such as hot temperatures. The project will explore the genetic, hormonal, epigenetic, transcriptional and biomechanical control mechanisms involved.

Results from the project have the potential to be utilised in seed industry, crop breeding, and weed management; something of a high importance to food security and sustainable agriculture. Food security refers to the availability and quality of food and is a global challenge. This project therefore addresses this issue of providing the world's growing population with healthy food in the context of climate change.

SeedAdapt Kick-off meeting May 2014, Royal Holloway University of London

Professor Gerhard Leubner is co-ordinating the SeedAdapt consortium project. This is a transnational project with research divided between several European partners, including the University of Osnabrück, Germany; Gregor Mendel Institute, Austria; University of Marburg, Germany; Wageningen University, the Netherlands; and the University of Jena, Germany.

141119 2nd Consortium Meeting WUR

Professor Gerhard Leubner said: "The scientific knowledge which we will obtain in SeedAdapt goes far beyond known mechanisms. The collaborative research depends on integrating novel and interdisciplinary technologies together with partners of complementary expertise. Reproduction, germination and seedling growth are vulnerable phases of the plant life cycle. Diverse seed dormancy mechanisms evolved as adaption to abiotic stresses and changing environments. They are decisive for fitness and survival of a species, and they are highly relevant for crop resilience, weed management, and the production of high-quality seeds in the seed industry."

170719 7th Consortium Meeting RHUL