Boosting Crop Growth using Natural Product and Synthesis Enabled Solar Harvesting (Boost Crop)
Project code: BfR-LMS-08-1342-538
Contract period: 01.01.2019 - 31.12.2022
Budget: 4,940,404 Euro
Purpose of research: Applied research
Cold and freezing stress are important constraints for crops and for horticulture. BoostCrop seeks to reduce such stress by an invention called 'molecular heaters'. These are nature-inspired molecules that absorb solar radiation and convert it to heat energy. The invention would reduce yield losses due to cold stress, extend growth seasons and the geographical locations suitable for agriculture, increase crop yield at high crop density and, concomitantly, reduce greenhouse energy costs. BoostCrop strives to increase food production to feed a continuously growing population, thus tackling a major European and Global Challenge in Food Security. The multidisciplinary research programme outlined in BoostCrop will demonstrate how intrinsic molecular processes that underlie energy transfer, and which occur on timescales of tens of trillionths of a second, can be manipulated such that macroscopic properties are impacted. The targets of the research programme include: (1) applying state-of-the-art experiments and theory to track and understand, in unprecedented detail, energy flow in targeted, nature-inspired molecules; (2) manipulating this energy flow through chemical modification; and (3) developing a suite of molecules to suit the needs of crop growth in the field and under protected (greenhouse) conditions. These molecules will then be applied to crops through an aqueous foliar spray. The proposed research programme offers a transdisciplinary and synergistic approach to developing, and understanding the properties of novel photon-to-molecule heaters. The combined expertise of 6 universities (and staff spanning chemistry, physics and biology), one government institute and a SME with an outstanding track record for developing sustainable agro-technologies will ensure that the longterm vision of BoostCrop, to develop molecular heaters for use in a foliar spray, are met, thereby contributing significantly to Europe’s future technological and Food Security. BfR part of the project: BfR will contribute to BoostCrop with by-product and toxicity analysis of the ‘molecular heaters’. These compounds, their photochemical by-products, as well as possible metabolites to be identified by in silico computational methods will be screened for possible human toxicity using appropriate QSAR models, read-across software, and experimental approaches. Endpoints addressed will comprise ADME, cytotoxicity, genotoxicity, carcinogenicity, as well as allergenic and phototoxic potential. Suspected toxins will then be selected for OECD guideline-compliant in vitro analysis for genotoxicity (Ames test, micronucleus assay) and phototoxicity (3T3 phototoxicity assay).