HMGU: Programme "Terrestrial Environment"

      The Plant Sciences activities at HMGU are included in the Terrestrial Environment (TE) Program namely in Program Topic 2 “Sustainable plant production in a changing environment” and Program Topic 5 “Terrestrial Systems: Form Observation to Prediction”.


      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, safeguarding of drinking water or sequestration of carbon. However, the efficacy of such services is being endangered by ongoing global change. For example, the increased frequency and duration of extreme meteorological events, such as prolonged droughts 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 a management of ecosystems that provide mankind with most essential goods, including plants for food and feed. An important focus is to elucidate the regulatory systems underlying plant resilience and growth. In addition, the HMGU Plant Sciences strive to elucidate elementary modes of action and interaction in microbiomes in different environmental compartments (soil and water) as well as in specific hosts (plants and humans). Thus, we take into account the projected constraints of climate development and the goals of ecosystem functions and services.

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

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

      (2) biotic interactions between plants and associated organisms,

      (3) microbiome dynamics as a result of global change.

      By addressing these questions, the Plant Sciences provides a bridge between the Helmholtz Research Fields Earth and Environment and Health. In collaboration with our colleagues from HMGU health research, our priority focus areas contribute to prevention of human diseases associated with environmental factors.

      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, and the integration of the genetic resources of microbiomes in management strategies for an optimized nutrient turnover. Molecular plant biology and plant bioinformatics, together with our world-wide unique facilities for environmental simulation and in-depth plant phenotyping, enable precise genotype-phenotype characterizations and evaluation of plant resilience to future climactic challenges.