Genetic characterisation of salinity tolerance traits

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One-third of the world’s food is produced under irrigation. This is challenged by over-exploitation of water resources and global environmental change. This talk will focus on the use of forward genetics to discover genes affecting salinity tolerance in barley, rice, and tomatoes, along with some recent genomics in quinoa, a partially domesticated crop with high salinity tolerance.

Wild tomatoes have been phenotyped in The Plant Accelerator® and in the field for three years, and association analyses are currently in progress.

For quinoa, the genome has been sequenced to high quality, and now about 1,000 lines have been re-sequenced. Up to 1,300 lines are being phenotyped in The Plant Accelerator and over a dozen field trial sites globally to identify natural variation in a range of domestication and tolerance traits.

To deliver our research, we have now established a company, Red Sea Farms LLC, where we combine engineering and plant science to develop and use saltwater-based agricultural systems, to reduce the water and carbon footprint of modern agriculture, and to do this environmentally sustainably and economically viably.

I have also recently taken on a new task, to develop a $3bn strategic plan for the food sector of NEOM, a new “sustainable hi-tech city of the future” being established on 25,000 km2 of land in north-western Saudi Arabia. Plans for this new city will also be introduced.

About Dr.Mark Tester:

Mark Tester is professor of plant science at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Head of the Food Sector at NEOM and co-Founder of Red Sea Farms LLC. Prior to joining KAUST in February 2013, he was an ARC Federation Fellow and professor of plant physiology at the University of Adelaide, where he established The Plant Accelerator phenotyping facility. Previously, he was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, where he also received his PhD in 1988. Mark’s research aims at understanding molecular processes that allow plants to survive in suboptimal conditions and using this to improve abiotic stress tolerance of crops. In 2017, he led the publication of the quinoa genome sequence in Nature, in 2018 he became a Clarivate highly cited researcher and in 2019 he won the Khalifa International Award for Distinguished Innovative Studies and Modern Technology and his company, Red Sea Farms, won the Saudi Arabian Entrepreneurship World Cup.

Mark Tester (King Abdullah University of Science & Technology, Saudi Arabia)

Time and date: Thursday 12 September, 11.00hr

Location: W01, Radix-mid (Building 107), Droevendaalsesteeg 1, Wageningen

For more information contact: Gerard van der Linden,