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Plant Abiotic Stress and Sustainable Agriculture: Translating Basic Understanding to Food Production (A6)

Scientific Organizers: Julia Bailey-Serres and Mike Hasegawa

January 17—22, 2013

Sagebrush Inn & Suites, Taos, New Mexico, USA

Sponsored by Monsanto Company

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Meeting Summary

The world must immediately increase global crop production to meet the food, fiber and biofuel demands of our growing population. This challenge is complicated by a decline in arable farmland due to human occupancy and soil degradation. Crop production is also compromised by an increased occurrence of severe weather events due to global climate change. To meet human needs, major crops must be rapidly modified to ensure productivity in extreme environments. A major target is the improvement of tolerance to abiotic stresses including extremes in water availability and temperature, as well as soil contamination by salts, phosphate and heavy metals. Allied with abiotic stress tolerance is the need to improve crop yields in nutrient-poor soils. Genetic diversity for stress tolerance and nutrient acquisition exists within some crop species. The molecular genetic basis of this diversity is being identified and harnessed into cultivars by marker-assisted breeding. The use of functional genomics to dissect abiotic stress sensing and signaling networks and the downstream adjustments in metabolism and development can provide additional solutions for crop improvement through genetic engineering. The emergence of deep-sequencing promises to permit rapid exploration of abiotic tolerance mechanisms of non-crop plants. Finally, the efforts to precisely define abiotic stress tolerance mechanisms can aid the effective pyramiding of multiple tolerances in a single plant. This Keystone Symposia conference will highlight progress in the dissection of the molecular basis of abiotic stress tolerance and the practices that enable rapid translation of abiotic stress tolerance to the farmer’s field.