Research activities

The three sites IPK, HMGU and FZJ already had corresponding expertise and facilities before DPPN, which are available for external use in addition to the developments within DPPN. These include, for example, the methods and equipment for investigating root structures as well as seed architecture and contents in magnetic resonance tomographs, shoot and root growth as well as photosynthesis through automation technology and robotics, analyses of the water balance or stress parameters such as pathogen infections from individual plants in the laboratory to canopies in the field.

The Institute of Bio- and Geosciences Plant Sciences (IBG-2) at Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ) is one of the world's leading institutes in plant phenotyping for many years. The Jülich Plant Phenotyping Center (JPPC) at FZJ was the first department internationally to explicitly address the development of phenotyping as a branch of science. This expertise has been consolidated and further expanded nationally through the coordination of the DPPN project and at the European level through the coordination of EPPN/ EPPN2020 and currently the ESFRI project EMPHASIS, as well as through the coordination of IPPN at the global level.

IBG-2 focuses its research on plant phenotyping by using and developing a suite of non-invasive technologies, automation, robotics and image analysis. Phenotyping also means the simulation and recording of environmental conditions in order to achieve relevant results for the practice of breeding and plant cultivation. For this purpose, technological competences and physiological know-how are combined . This offers ideal conditions to further pursue plant phenotyping at the highest scientific level and at the same time to apply it in a way that is relevant for practice.
For this purpose, the spectrum of modern plant phenotyping is covered: Mechanistic analyses with complex tomographic methods show how dynamically plants react to their environment and stress situations and how they develop adaptation mechanisms. Automated systems in which plant collections can be analyzed for their properties under defined soil and climatic conditions are another characteristic of IBG-2. The behavior of the plants in the field always serves as a reference. Phenotyping in the field also benefits from recent developments of flying devices of different characteristics, sensors and cameras.

Main focus areas:

(Eco-)Physiology/ screening
Phenotyping technologies
Platform integrationn

The Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) Gatersleben is one of the most important international research institutes for agricultural crops. The IPK houses one of the world's oldest and largest ex situ gene banks  for agricultural and horticultural crops with about 145,000 different biological samples (mainly held as seeds) representing an immense biological diversity on determining the characteristics of plants and elucidating the genetic causes of their diversity. The aim is to provide plant breeders with particularly beneficial seeds and the necessary information to improve plant varieties - whether in terms of yield, resistance or adaptation to changing environmental conditions.

The use of the  rapidly developing DNA sequencing and typing technologies has led to enormous progress in the field of genome analysis, i.e. detection of genetic variability. In order to exploit these data, which are collected and maintained at the IPK especially for the highly complex genomes of important crops and the extensive diversity collections, the relationships between genetic and phenotypic traits must be uncovered and studied in detail.

The combination of a unique plant cultivation infrastructure for the controlled simulation of field-like environmental conditions and novel plant phenotyping facilities, which allow the analysis of the performance (yield potential) and robustness of crops (yield stability under favorable and unfavorable conditions) as individual plants or canopies, represents an internationally outstanding unique expertise of the IPK.

Main focus areas:

Genetics and bioinformatics
Gene bank
High throughput phenotyping (Lemnatec)

The research work of the Institute of Biochemical Plant Pathology (BIOP) at Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU) focuses on the investigation of molecular mechanisms that plants use to adapt to their environment. The aim is to develop sustainable strategies for the cultivation of plants and to maintain the protection of natural resources. Through interdisciplinary collaboration of agricultural scientists and microbiologists, new concepts and technologies are promoted for a better understanding of the interaction between plants and their environment.

By describing the genetic and biochemical processes that determine plant growth, physiological state, and defense mechanisms, HMGU makes a significant contribution to plant phenotyping. The response to biotic and abiotic factors to which plants are exposed occurs through a signaling chain of perception and response that is crucially controlled by genetic background. Deciphering these signaling chains and their involved components is the central challenge here.

For this purpose, HMGU has technically excellently equipped simulation facilities that can realistically and reproducibly create various environmental conditions. In this way, it is possible to investigate under experimental conditions how environmental parameters such as UV radiation, water supply, composition of soil minerals and even the gas composition of the atmosphere affect plants. These findings can support sustainability in agriculture and biotechnological plant use and contribute to securing the role of plants in nutrition and human health.

Main focus areas:

Plant pathology
(A)biotic stress
Environment simulation

More information about the available infrastructures, access rules and the application forms here