May 2024

BESE Seminar

Calotropis procera: A desert plant with a potential to create drought tolerant crops

Dr. Wouter Smet
08 May, 2024
02:00 PM – 03:00 PM

Second year evaluation for a postdoc Dr. Smet (KAUST Global Fellowship Program)

With global warming, drought is becoming a significant threat to crop production. Climate change is expected to lead to more fluctuations in water availability. Moreover, the reduction of available arable land by soil erosion, degradation, desertification, and salinization is another problem that negatively impacts food production. In a desert environment, plants have evolved their developmental program to survive and thrive with scarce water, low nutrients, and high temperatures. Calotropis procera is a good example illustrating these developmental adaptations. Despite its resilience to desert conditions, mechanisms underlying the developmental adaptations remain largely unknown. Here we propose comprehensive approaches to unravel how the Calotropis procera root system operates to sustain plant growth and survival in the arid environment. First, have determined the root developmental characteristics of this desert species and compared its developmental program under well-watered and drought conditions. Secondly, we have identified potential drought determinants in Calotropis procera through transcriptomics. The newly identified genes will now be tested for their potential to improve drought tolerance in crop species. The outcome of this study will contribute towards sustainable agriculture in desert habitats.

Wouter Smet obtained a joint PhD degree from the Wageningen University and VIB in November 2018 working in the lab of Prof. Bert De Rybel. He also holds an MSc degree from Wageningen University. His PhD project focused on the control of cell division orientation during root vascular development. This was followed by a postdoctoral training in the lab of Prof. Tom Beeckman at VIB, which focused on identifying novel fertilizer additives that could enhance phosphate use efficiency in crop species. His previous research and research collaborations have resulted in several high-impact publications and the filling of three patent applications.

Event Quick Information

08 May, 2024
02:00 PM - 03:00 PM
Building 9 - Room 2322