Team

  • Uwe Sonnewald

    Prof. Dr.

    Uwe Sonnewald is head of the division of biochemistry at the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU). He leads a research group trying to improve plant yield under optimal and stressful environmental …

  • Wolfgang Zierer

    Dr.

    Wolfgang Zierer is a group leader at the division of biochemistry under Prof. Uwe Sonnewald at the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg. His group investigates source/sink relations by developing …

  • Wilhelm Gruissem

    Prof. Dr.

    Wilhelm Gruissem is Professor at ETH Zurich (Switzerland) and Chair Professor and Yu-shan Fellow at National Chung Hsing University (Taiwan). He is leading research groups at both universities to improve the nutritional qualities and …

  • Ismail Rabbi

    Dr.

    Ismail Rabbi is a molecular geneticist and breeder at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan, Nigeria. He works in the areas of genetics, genomics and crop improvement. Using high-density genotyping and …

  • Ihuoma Okwuonu

    Dr.

    Ihuoma coordinates in-vitro technology research for the genetic improvement of root and tuber crops in National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike Nigeria. Her research focuses on exploring the potentials of genetic …

  • Uwe Rascher

    Prof. Dr.

    Uwe Rascher is head of the research area ‘Shoot Dynamics’ at the Institute of Bio- and Geosciences at Forschungszentrum Jülich. Additionally, he is Professor for ‘Quantitative Crop Physiology’ at Bonn University.

  • Alisdair Fernie

    Alisdair Fernie leads the Central Metabolism Group at the Max-Planck-Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology. His research group focuses on understanding the coordination of energy metabolism and assimilate partitioning as well …

  • Mark Stitt

    Prof. Dr.

    Mark Stitt is Director at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam-Golm, Germany and heads the Department ‘Metabolic Networks’ .
    He uses systems, biochemical and physiological …

  • Ekkehard Neuhaus

    Prof. Dr.

    Ekkehard Neuhaus is head of the division of plant physiology at the Technische Universität Kaiserslautern (TUK). His group is interested in transport proteins in plants and bacteria. Special aspects are currently ATP transporters …

  • Samuel Zeeman

    Prof. Dr.

    Samuel C Zeeman is a full professor of Plant Biochemistry at ETH Zurich and head of the Institute of Molecular Plant Biology. His research group studies the pathways and products of plant primary metabolism using a …

  • Yrjö Helariutta

    Prof. Dr.

    Ykä Helariutta is Professor of Plant Developmental Biology at the University of Cambridge and University of Helsinki. His research group is interested in molecular mechanisms governing the morphogenesis and functionality of …

  • Lukas Mueller

    Prof. Dr.

    Lukas Mueller is a Professor at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research on the Cornell campus in Ithaca, NY, USA. He is a bioinformatician and genomics and breeding database developer for such databases as SGN …

Uwe Sonnewald

Prof. Dr.

Uwe Sonnewald is head of the division of biochemistry at the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU). He leads a research group trying to improve plant yield under optimal and stressful environmental conditions. Molecular genetics, genomics and biochemical methods are used to identify and characterize yield components, primarily for potato and cassava plants. Distribution of photoassimilates, mainly fixed during photosynthesis in source leaves, to harvestable plant organs, such as seeds, tubers or roots, is the most important determinant of crop yield. Allocation of photoassimilates is influenced by environmental and endogenous factors. In several crop plants temperature and day length significantly determine the switch between vegetative and generative growth. In this context the group identified a smallRNA (SES) negatively regulating tuberization of potato plants in response to temperature. Overcoming the negative regulation of SES resulted in potato plants tuberizing under elevated temperatures achieving higher yields as compared to control plants. Beside this, many factors influencing source-to-sink relations have been deciphered and this knowledge has been used to design transgenic plants with improved biomass production and yield.

Source-to-sink interaction | Potato | Cassava

Team

Wolfgang Zierer

Dr.

Wolfgang Zierer is a group leader at the division of biochemistry under Prof. Uwe Sonnewald at the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg. His group investigates source/sink relations by developing and analyzing cassava plants with altered photosynthesis-, transport- and/or sink metabolism. In addition, developmental processes are studied in this important tropical crop plant.
Wolfgang Zierer is the scientific coordinator of the “Cassava Source-Sink” project aimed at optimizing assimilation, allocation and utilization of carbohydrates. He is particularly excited about the opportunity of improving cassava and the potential positive impact for nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Team

Wilhelm Gruissem

Prof. Dr.

Wilhelm Gruissem is Professor at ETH Zurich (Switzerland) and Chair Professor and Yu-shan Fellow at National Chung Hsing University (Taiwan). He is leading research groups at both universities to improve the nutritional qualities and agronomic traits in cassava and rice. Major crops such as maize, wheat, rice, potato and cassava are rich in starch and together they provide more than 85% of the carbohydrate calories consumed worldwide. People for whom these crops are the primary staple food receive enough calories but they are often malnourished because the seeds, tubers and roots of these plants do not contain enough of the necessary vitamins and minerals such as iron for a healthy diet. For example, 1.6 billion people worldwide suffer reduced productive capacity due to iron-deficiency anemia. Utilizing the genetic potential of the diversity available in seed banks around the world for crop improvement is often not possible because high micronutrient target traits are not available in breeding germplasm. His groups use genetic engineering and new breeding technologies to increase the micronutrient and vitamin content of rice and cassava, which would not be possible by conventional breeding. They achieved more than 10-fold increases in iron and zinc content over levels typically present in polished rice grains, approaching the estimated average requirement (EAR) for human nutrition. Engineering key steps of vitamin B6 biosynthesis increases bioavailable vitamin B6 content in cassava storage roots and leaves to EAR levels. Combining genes for micronutrient improvement and other agronomic traits into novel single-locus traits will facilitate breeding in these two major staple crops.

Agronomic and micronutrient trait improvement | Cassava | Rice

Team

Ismail Rabbi

Dr.

Ismail Rabbi is a molecular geneticist and breeder at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan, Nigeria. He works in the areas of genetics, genomics and crop improvement. Using high-density genotyping and intensive field phenotyping of large germplasm collections and breeding populations, he has contributed to the characterization of the genetic architecture of important traits, including pests and disease resistance, enhanced micronutrient density, starch and yield traits in cassava. He has developed a suite of DNA markers linked to these traits that are now used to make indirect selection in the field. Besides discovery-research, he works alongside breeders in the Next Generation Cassava Breeding Project (www.nextgencassava.org) to implement Genomic-Selection in the breeding workflow. Genomic selection helps shorten breeding cycle, increase selection accuracy and accelerate genetic gain. Within the CASS project, Ismail will implement confined field trials and enhance collaboration between CASS and NextGen Cassava through multi-omics phenotyping of cassava populations.

Team

Ihuoma Okwuonu

Dr.

Ihuoma coordinates in-vitro technology research for the genetic improvement of root and tuber crops in National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike Nigeria. Her research focuses on exploring the potentials of genetic engineering, genome editing and genomics in developing root and tuber crops with improved nutritional content and resistance to biotic and abiotic factors. Crops of interest include cassava, Sweetpotato, cocoyam, yam and ginger. Efficient transformation protocols have been established for cassava and are being developed for other root and tuber crops. Her team contributes towards the development of sustainable seed systems in Nigeria by producing and rapidly multiplying clean planting materials of elite genetic resources using tissue culture and advanced hydroponic systems. She is also involved in capacity-building geared towards training of young scientists in acquiring innovative biotechnological tools in genetic engineering, transformation, and molecular analysis.

Team

Uwe Rascher

Prof. Dr.

Uwe Rascher is head of the research area ‘Shoot Dynamics’ at the Institute of Bio- and Geosciences at Forschungszentrum Jülich. Additionally, he is Professor for ‘Quantitative Crop Physiology’ at Bonn University. In his research he combines concepts and knowledge of plant physiology, remote sensing, ecology, global climate change and plant phenotyping. His main expertise is in characterizing photosynthesis using chlorophyll fluorescence, hyperspectral reflectance, gas-exchange, remote sensing and image analysis techniques. In the frame of several interdisciplinary and international collaborations he is using novel remote sensing approaches to better measure photosynthesis and stress, develops novel plant phenotyping concepts, and uses these data to model plant mediated exchange processes from the leaf to the region. This knowledge is applied for a wide range of crops and management systems, including cassava.
Within the cassava source-sink project the group of Uwe Rascher developed a novel UAV based approach to map the 3-dimensional growth dynamics of large cassava fields and they will now move forward to quantify the seasonal dynamics of photosynthetic carbon gain in different cassava lines under the prevailing changing environmental conditions.

Ecophysiology of Photosynthesis / Optical remote sensing / Fluorescence / Crop eco-physiology

Team

Alisdair Fernie

Alisdair Fernie leads the Central Metabolism Group at the Max-Planck-Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology. His research group focuses on understanding the co-ordination of energy metabolism and assimilate partitioning as well as understanding the genetics underpinning metabolic regulation. Forward and reverse genetics coupled with metabolomics and yield physiology are the research tools used in these studies – which additionally aim at determining which reactions are canalized and which display environmental plasticity. With respect to source-sink interactions, most research in the laboratory is carried out on cassava, tomato and common bean.

Source-to-sink interaction | Metabolic Regulation |Tomato |Cassava |Common bean

Team

Mark Stitt

Prof. Dr.

Mark Stitt is Director at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam-Golm, Germany and heads the Department ‘Metabolic Networks’.

He uses systems, biochemical and physiological approaches to study the relation between the circadian clock, metabolism and growth in Arabidopsis and crop plants, as well as the function of signaling pathways especially that of the sugar-signaling metabolite trehalose-6-phosphate. This research provides information that can be used to model the dynamic links between gene expression, protein synthesis and turnover, metabolism, energy costs and growth. A growing interest is to apply these approaches to plants growing in natural or simulated natural environments. He is also interested in the regulation of photosynthesis in different environmental conditions and different crop and wild species.

Within CASS he applies ‘omics methods, especially robotized measurements of enzyme activities, to characterize the metabolic capacity of Cassava and search for cultivar differences in performance. He is also interested to understand the adaptations that allow the high rates of photosynthesis in this C3 species.

Team

Ekkehard Neuhaus

Prof. Dr.

Ekkehard Neuhaus is head of the division of plant physiology at the Technische Universität Kaiserslautern (TUK). His group is interested in transport proteins in plants and bacteria. Special aspects are currently ATP transporters in plant plasma- and endomembranes, as well as sugar transporters in membranes of the plastid and vacuole. His aim is to understand transporter functions on the biochemical level (e.g. mode of transport, substrate specificity) and on the physiological level (implications of transporters for plant primary metabolism, development and adaptations).

Energy and sugar transport | Stress physiology | Cassava

Team

Samuel Zeeman

Prof. Dr.

Samuel C Zeeman is a full professor of Plant Biochemistry at ETH Zurich and head of the Institute of Molecular Plant Biology. His research group studies the pathways and products of plant primary metabolism using a combination of plant molecular genetics, biochemistry and physiological approaches. Sam is particularly recognized for his contribution to the understanding of starch metabolism using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Starch is a fascinating semi-crystalline substance uniquely produced by plants and algae. Work on Arabidopsis has facilitated the discovery of numerous previously unknown proteins that help to control starch synthesis and starch degradation. This field is very important to society since starch is the major nutritional carbohydrate in our diet. As starch metabolism is widely conserved in plants, the results of fundamental research on model systems is highly applicable for the improvement of staple starch crops, including the storage roots of cassava by altering yield and quality.

Starch metabolism ꟾ Cassava ꟾ Arabidopsis

Team

Yrjö Helariutta

Prof. Dr.

Ykä Helariutta is Professor of Plant Developmental Biology at the University of Cambridge and University of Helsinki. His research group is interested in molecular mechanisms governing the morphogenesis and functionality of vascular tissues, with an emphasis on phloem. Phloem is the conductive tissue that transports various organic molecules from the green source tissues to non-green sink tissues, such as grains, fruits and vegetables. The conductive cell type of phloem is the sieve element, an enucleate living cell with various ultrastructural adaptations that facilitate molecular transport. Sieve element is surrounded by other functionally important cell types, which together complete the long-distance transport function specifying further downstream processes in the sink tissues. Ykä is currently in the process of extending his research interest from the pure developmental basis of vascular tissues to also their function in coordinating development and growth of the various organs. This involves developing new source-sink models in Arabidopsis.

Source-to-sink transport | Phloem development | Arabidopsis

His Team

Lukas Mueller

Prof. Dr.

Lukas Mueller is a Professor at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research on the Cornell campus in Ithaca, NY, USA. He is a bioinformatician and genomics and breeding database developer for such databases as SGN (https://solgenomics.net/), Cassavabase (https://cassavabase.org/) and other Breedbase databases (https://breedbase.org/). For the CASS project, the Mueller lab develops database and data management practices and workflows (https://cassbase.org/), as well as analysis tools such as a biochemical pathway database for cassava called CassavaCyc and a comprehensive expression atlas based on RNA-Seq data.

Team