BoostCrop’s long-term vision is to create a highly efficient, environmentally friendly and affordable foliar spray for crop growth enhancement and thus sustainable Food Security.
A major challenge in the twenty-first century is to increase global food production to feed a continuously growing population while the quality and quantity of arable land is diminishing. Central to this problem is the necessity to increase the yield of numerous important crop species and to find ways to extend geographical locations suitable for agriculture. Cold stress is an environmental extreme that hampers crop yield. Low temperatures restrict plant growth and development, while frost causes tissue damage. Yield losses are even more severe when cold stress occurs during the reproductive stage. Breeding programs for new tolerant varieties are diverse and usually tailored to the specific needs of a particular crop. The plant’s response to cold stress, however, is complex, involving many physiological, structural, and biochemical changes, which interact with other environmental factors and metabolic processes. BoostCrop represents a novel approach to improve crop yields by protecting plants from cold stress and stimulating their growth under a range of growing conditions. The invention is based on ‘molecular heaters’; nature-inspired molecules that absorb light at wavelengths that are either harmful to the plant or not used in photosynthesis, and converting this light energy to heat.
Radical vision of a science-enabled technology
BoostCrop’s long-term vision is to develop a suite of molecules for localised heat generation for Food Security. The entirely novel and ambitious research programme of BoostCrop, which surpasses substantially any technological paradigms currently in existence, employs a bottom-up approach to engineer photon-to-molecule heaters to optimise the absorption of selected components of the solar spectrum. In so doing, the ‘holy grail’ of BoostCrop is to use these revolutionary photon-to-molecule heaters in a foliar spray to enhance crop growth at low temperature and high UV-A/B exposure, enhance crop yield at high crop density (conditions which result in a reduced ratio of red to far red wavelengths; low R:FR), and concomitantly reduce greenhouse energy costs. To achieve this vision, BoostCrop brings together a team of scientists with expertise in broad areas of the physical and biosciences. The radically-new science-enabled technology that the project will engender involves: (1) Guiding the flow of photon energy in molecules; and (2) Utilising this energy to combat continual European and Global challenges, first and foremost, in sustainable Food production, as well as improvements in both Healthcare and clean Energy production. The combined efforts of the BoostCrop Team, which combines the expertise of 6 participant universities with 13 university based lead investigators, one government institute with one section leader, one SME with two group leaders and encompasses the 3 major disciplines of Chemistry, Physics, Biology.