This proposal arises as a consequence of previous collaboration and common interests among several research groups and public institutions. On the one hand, the Applied Plant Biology Group of the University of La Laguna (ULL) and the Chemical Activators of Plant Defences Group of the Institute of Natural Products and Agrobiology of the CSIC (IPNA-CSIC) share a long history of joint collaboration in a common line of search for bioactive molecules with the capacity to increase resistance/tolerance to stress. On the other, the ISOPlexis/Germobank Group of the University of Madeira (UMa) has been searching for plant varieties more resistant to water stress. In addition, the Cabildo (island council) of Tenerife is interested in promoting new technologies for use in the primary sector. Finally, there are collaborating companies that form part of the consortium, which have already licensed similar biotechnology and are interested in developing new products.
The final objective is new sustainable agricultural technology that permits saving irrigation water without reducing crop productivity and quality. The project is framed within Axis 1 of the Interreg-MAC programme, whose objectives are "To promote research, technological development and innovation and investment priority", within the RIS3 priority area (agricultural activities). It is directed towards the development of a competitive and environmentally friendly primary sector.
The first two aspects, eco-innovation and environmental protection, are expressly mentioned as key areas in the connection between sustainable growth and intelligent growth, through smart specialisation in the regions. Together with research into sustainable energy, they are understood as basic elements to be promoted for the intelligent and sustainable development of the regions; especially for developing products and services that do not negatively affect the islands' ecosystems.
Ongoing climate change will impose an average temperature increase of 2 to 3°C by 2050 and an accompanying decrease in water resources, which may reach 30% in Macaronesia. These changes will have an enormous impact on agriculture, causing a loss of productive capacity in agricultural crops and huge economic losses. These scenarios present the Macaronesian Regions with the enormous challenge of developing actions to promote the adaptation of their agriculture and main regional crops to the new climate conditions and scenarios, in order to ensure economic activity, and maintain production potential and food security. The aim is to respond to these challenges by developing natural products and solutions that protect crops in situations of water deficit, and it is aligned with the strategic agronomic and bio-sustainability areas of the RIS3 specialization.
Added value of cooperation:
The collaboration between the different research groups and public institutions of the partnership, including the exchange of knowledge and scientific-technical experience, is necessary to carry out the project and to extend the results of the research to these two important regions of Macaronesia. The benefits will have a multiplying effect on the primary sector, the socioeconomic fabric, the population of both regions and at the level of the whole region, which would not be possible without cooperation between all the partners involved in the project. Furthermore, the participating interest as partners in the consortium of two companies from the agricultural sector with international experience in exporting biostimulant products ensures the implementation of results, not only in Macaronesia but also in foreign markets.
The main beneficiaries of the action will be agricultural companies and farmers in Macaronesia. However, this local project addresses a global problem of water shortage in an environment of lower rainfall and higher temperatures, due to climate change. This will certainly make this technology attractive to wide foreign markets. Thus the expected impact reaches beyond Macaronesia, since the availability of water for agriculture (70% of its consumption worldwide) is a global problem to which we aim to provide an exemplary local response.
Geographical area for intervention of the project:
The actions foreseen will take place on Tenerife and Madeira in the relevant laboratories, on land belonging to the Cabildo de Tenerife located in the municipalities of Garachico, Vilaflor and Candelaria (Araya), and on Madeira in the municipalities of Funchal and Camâra de Lobos.
The consortium's proposal is an innovative action that aims to respond to a strategic challenge in the agronomic field by developing sustainable bio-active natural products that protect crops in situations of water deficit.
1. To develop a formulation from modified natural products and algal extracts with osmoprotective activity against water stress in crops. Activities:
- Bio-guided development of a formulation from modified natural products with osmoprotective activity against water stress in crops.
- Bio-guided search for metabolites with osmoprotective properties from macro- and microalgae from Tenerife and Madeira.
2. To evaluate the protective capacity of the selected compounds against water stress, by means of fast-track tests in hydroponic conditions. Activities:
- Fast-Track evaluation in hydroponic conditions of the potential of the osmoprotective compounds to protect plants against water stress.
3. To evaluate the selected compounds under semi-controlled greenhouse conditions, and later under field conditions in crops that are strategic for Macaronesia. Activities:
- Evaluation of selected compounds under semi-controlled greenhouse conditions and later under field conditions in strategic crops for Macaronesia.