The global demand for plant-derived products, such as feed and food, is increasing dramatically. It is hard to fathom, but in the coming decades two billion additional people will have to be fed while less arable land is available.
Crop productivity will be hampered by climate change. Drought in particular is expected to have major consequences for crop yield. Plants also have an important role in supplying a sustainable, CO2-neutral source for the ever-increasing energy needs.
There is an obvious and urgent need to further increase crop productivity. As yield is the most important trait for breeding, a considerable amount of (eco)physiological research has been conducted on yield performance of crops. In contrast, knowledge on the molecular networks underpinning crop yield and plant organ size remains fragmented; partly because of its multifactorial nature in which many physiological processes, such as photosynthesis, water and mineral uptake and stress tolerance, determine the resources available to produce new cells, tissues and organs.
Albeit plant growth and stress tolerance are obviously high-complex processes, novel approaches collectively called "systems biology" allows for a better understanding of this complexity. It is our ambition to decipher the molecular networks underpinning yield and organ growth, both under standard as well as mild drought stress conditions, in Arabidopsis and the C4 crop maize. Systems biology will ultimately provide a holistic view enabling the optimization of plant productivity, either by advanced plant breeding or genetic engineering.
Our research involves a detailed analysis of genes and networks underlying organ growth of Arabidopsis and maize as well as a functional analysis of perturbation of these genes. Genes that are providing maize plants with enhanced growth characteristics are tested in field trials, both in Belgium and in the US. The yield lab has numerous academic collaborations across the world.
Organ Size Regulation
Molecular systems governing leaf growth: from genes to networks
Size control of multicellular organisms poses a longstanding biological question that has always fascinated scientists. Currently, the question is far from being resolved because of the complexity of and interconnection between cell division and cell expansion, two different events necessary to form a mature organ.
Given the importance of plants for food and renewable energy sources, dissecting the genetic networks underlying plant growth and organ size is becoming a high priority in plant science worldwide. Our long term goal is therefore to unravel the molecular pathways that govern leaf size by using Arabidopsis and maize as a model plants.
To showcase the world-class scientific research of the Yield Lab, you can discover their scientific papers in more detail.
We are always on the lookout for highly motivated colleagues to join our team. If you are interested, please contact us.
The Yield Lab can only thrive thanks to the dedication and commitment of its people, no matter what their function or seniority is.
To stay up to date in rapidly developing fields, scientists regularly interact with (international) colleagues. Conferences and other (scientific) events are an excellent way to facilitate such a continent-spanning knowledge exchange.