HMGU: Programme „Environmental and Metabolic Diseases“

      The Plant Sciences activities of the departments at HMGU are included in Topic 2 "Environmental Health" of the research program "Environmental and Metabolic Health - ENABLE" in the Research Field Health (Helmholtz Health).


      Human health depends on natural resources and environmental conditions that directly impact human physiology, such as pollutants and microbes. Health of populations as well as individuals can be enhanced by the production of plants with high nutritional value (and/or reduced allergenic potential), safeguarding of drinking water or sequestration of carbon in plant biomass. However, the efficacy of such socio-economic/ecological services is being endangered by ongoing global change. For example, the increased frequency and duration of extreme meteorological events, such as prolonged droughts, heat waves and heavy rain events in Central Europe, have caused significant reductions in crop yield and quality, enhanced emissions of greenhouse gases, and lower transformation rates of pollutants such as pesticides by the soil microflora.

      The Plant Sciences at the HMGU work towards solutions for the stewardship of natural resources such as plants, soil, and water, whose quality is a major driver of human health in the face of ongoing global change, by improving the mechanistic molecular understanding of ecological interactions.

      Mission and Goals

      Our major aim is to improve understanding of fundamental molecular and ecological principles related to plant growth and stress resilience as a basis for the sustainable use of resources in conjunction with improved management of ecosystems. These provide mankind with most essential goods, including plants for food and feed. An important focus ison analyzing the genomes of different crops and elucidating the regulatory systems underlying plant resilience and growth. In addition, the HMGU Plant Sciences strive to elucidate how different environmental conditions affect plants in their biotic interactions (pathogens and herbivores).

      Specifically, our research addresses current problems of environmental science including:

      (1) The genomic basis and molecular and biochemical dynamics of plants under different environmental conditions,

      (2) biotic interactions between plants and associated organisms under changing environmental conditions.

      By addressing these questions, the Plant Sciences provides a bridge between environmental and health research and, in collaboration with colleagues from Environmental Health Center (EHC), contributes to prevention of environmental and metabolic human diseases.

      The development of solutions for the sustainable use of natural resources requires a strong interdisciplinary approach, including the use of plants optimized for stress tolerance and resource-use efficiency. Molecular plant biology and plant bioinformatics, together with our environmental simulation facilities and plant phenotyping platforms, enable precise genotype-phenotype characterizations and evaluation of plant resilience to future climactic challenges.