Main research question
Continued improvements in crop performance are needed to cope with climate change and to keep pace with population growth. To tackle these global challenges, novel approaches are required to identify superior crop varieties and to explain the genetics of agriculturally important traits. Plant phenotyping covers the description and characterization of such complex plant traits using non-destructive image analysis-based tools in the context of plant research and crop breeding. Synergies between Flemish phenotyping installations, coordination of phenotyping initiatives and training, and access to state-of-the-art phenotyping platforms is needed to drive world-leading plant and agricultural sciences.
This will be achieved through the development of a national node (EMPHASIS-Belgium) for the European distributed plant phenotyping infrastructure EMPHASIS (EMPHASIS.plant-phenotyping.eu). EMPHASIS-Belgium invests in a multidisciplinary approach, from lab to field, by (i) substantially upgrading already available controlled environments and field-based plant phenotyping infrastructures at the partner institutes to meet international standards, and (ii) extending an integrated FAIR data management system that is linked to the initiative EMPHASIS.
EMPHASIS focuses on four plant phenotyping infrastructure types: controlled environment plant phenotyping, intensive field phenotyping, network of field trials for breeding-like phenotyping and modeling for simulation and/or prediction of crop or plant performance. The entire plant phenotyping community in Flanders will be able to access these services, including training and outreach, through the national node EMPHASIS-Belgium. The visibility of phenotyping efforts in Flanders should be improved and extended worldwide. VIB and ILVO lead the development of this regional platform consisting of phenotyping under controlled conditions and in the field, with a research focus on drought/salinity adaptation of crops in the frame of climate change. As such, Flanders will maintain its leading role in the rapidly developing international plant phenotyping community and drive interactive collaborations across disciplines, within Flanders, Belgium, Europe and the rest of the world.