Improving abiotic resistance of cotton via selection of natural wild germ plasm and transformation of gene constructs

To deliver cotton varieties with improved tolerance to abiotic stress (mainly drought and salinity resistance), together with improved efficiency in cotton transformation, screening of a broad collection of wild cotton germplasms and transformation into novel gene constructs.

The project includes several components which are designed to serve one purpose: to develop cotton varieties with improved abiotic stress tolerances. Abiotic stress is a complex set of phenomena which represents the various environmental stresses on the plant. The various abiotic stresses include drought (lack of water), poor irrigation water quality (saline water from rivers, underground wells or partially treated waste water), and extreme temperatures (low, high and high variations between day and night). In order to deliver new varieties of cotton with enhanced tolerance to abiotic stresses, EVOGENE and CIRAD will combine several approaches: I) One approach is to make better use of the existing natural diversity. In the naturally existing non-commercial varieties of cotton, some varieties have developed a better genetic basis to tolerate abiotic stresses through evolution. This is especially true for local natural varieties that have evolved in naturally challenging weather environments. CIRAD has selected natural varieties from its seed bank of natural varieties from various regions of the world and EVOGENE will screen this natural germplasm in a field trial station using highly salty water which exists in the deserts located in the ISRAEL. The deserts in ISRAEL offer a very suitable environment for such testing. With a desert plateau situated at 800 metres above sea level, the Negev desert offers challenging conditions with high daytime temperatures in the summer and relatively cool nights. This kind of environment is relevant for some of the important cotton growing regions in the world such as central Asia. These field trial stations are also equipped to screen for salinity resistance by mixing fresh water provided by the national water carrier network with local saline water pumped from the large water table situated below the desert. II) Another approach is to improve cotton via genetic engineering by using novel gene constructs created by using specific genes expressed using carefully chosen promoters, these gene/promoter combinations are novel and have been discovered by EVOGENE and are being validated for their contribution to improved abiotic stress resistance in model plants. A set of such novel promoter/gene combinations has been pre-validated in two model plants (Arabidopsis and Tomato) and screened for their capacity to increase stress tolerance of plants. III) One bottleneck in this process is the fact that currently the state-of-the-art in cotton transformation is slow and relatively inefficient (time and labour intensive). For this reason, very few (2 to 3) of the novel gene constructs can be transformed and evaluated in cotton. In order to address the inefficiency of this process, CIRAD will engage in research efforts to improve the efficiency of the cotton transformation technology. IV) Because of labour intensity and time frames involved in cotton transformation, EVOGENE and CIRAD will share the transformation efforts in order to create these transformed cotton lines based on the most favourable candidates identified by EVOGENE in its tests on model plants. Keywords: cotton, drought, salinity.
Project ID: 
3 395
Start date: 
Project Duration: 
Project costs: 
1 560 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Plant selection/production technology
Market Area: 
Cultivation of cereals / crops / vegetables

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.