EU Call for Proposals: Agri-Aqua Labs

In the area of crop production there is a fundamental interest in deciphering the dynamic responses of plants as they (pre)adapt to local conditions or adjust their growth and development to changes in the environment within their plasticity range. These adaptive traits are all the more important as plants are sessile and therefore require effective strategies to deal with uncertainty and to tolerate rather than avoid stress.
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Agriculture and aquaculture are increasingly knowledge-intensive sectors that need to be supported by advances in basic science domains in tandem with translational research. This nexus between basic and applied research requires specific openings for testing ideas and their potential application in plant and animal production, both terrestrial and aquatic.

Recent developments in genomic selection have revolutionised animal breeding and resulted in significant gains in production efficiency of animals. However, our understanding of the biological mechanisms underpinning traits remains limited. Most phenotypes, in particular for traits related to health, biological efficiency and robustness, are complex and a major goal of biological research is to use genome information to predict such complex outcomes.

In the area of crop production there is a fundamental interest in deciphering the dynamic responses of plants as they (pre)adapt to local conditions or adjust their growth and development to changes in the environment within their plasticity range. These adaptive traits are all the more important as plants are sessile and therefore require effective strategies to deal with uncertainty and to tolerate rather than avoid stress. Understanding the different adaptation strategies, and the circumstances that favour one strategy over another, is vital for understanding how annual or perennial crops perform in a given environment or under changing conditions. It will also help to assess how plants may respond to future environmental changes.

Scope

A. [2018]: Understanding the genome of farmed animals, its expression and translation into traits (RIA)

For the purpose of sub-topic A, the terms 'animal' and 'farm' apply to both terrestrial and aquatic animals. Research activities should generate experimental data to map out what part of farmed animal genomes are active (whether coding or regulatory), and under which circumstances, characterise the resulting phenotypes and assess how phenotypes are affected by genetic and epigenetic changes. Bioinformatic analyses should support identification of these functional and structural elements in genomes, and enable the development of tools for genotype to phenotype prediction. Work should also help to develop or extend terminologies (ontologies) to describe, represent and standardize annotation. Proposed projects should target one or more farmed animal species with high-quality genome assemblies (in particular cows, chicken, pigs, sheep, salmon and other relevant species), focussing on specific tissue panels, and address correlations between normal and abnormal situations. They may target different physiological and developmental stages and different breeds within the same species, where this brings added value to the understanding of the genotype to phenotype relationship. As regards genome annotation, the proposed projects should use FAANG metadata standards and core assays and coordinate with other projects in order to minimise overlaps. The data should be submitted to relevant European biological data archives in accordance with these standards to ensure they are available to the whole community (EMBL-EBI). The proposed projects should develop and test, where appropriate, innovative tools to measure related phenotypes, including intermediate phenotypes. Activities may include biomarkers and their proxies, as well as sensors, together with ways to record related phenotypes at population level (whether reference populations or not). Proposals should include a task to cluster with other projects financed under this topic.

Expected Impact

Results of funded activities will help to create knowledge hubs in their respective domains and develop specific pathways to feed biological insight into agricultural (husbandry, crops) and aquaculture practices.

In the short to medium term work will:

  • deliver comprehensive genome annotation maps of high quality in the targeted farmed animal species/tissues (sub-topic A);
  • progress in understanding genotype per environment interactions and deciphering the mechanisms by which some effects induced by environment/stressors can be transmitted across generations (sub-topic A);
  • pave the way for subsequent use of annotated genomes to improve precision breeding in farmed animal production, by linking genome to phenotype and improving means to measure/record phenotypes (sub-topic A);
  • contribute to international cooperation on genome annotation (sub-topic A);
  • provide insight into the range of mechanisms that underpin plant responses (from single cell to whole plant) to specific and/or multiple environmental change (sub-topic B);
  • deliver more accurate models for the prediction of crop adaptation in response to environmental stresses (sub-topic B);
  • translate knowledge on the adaptive plasticity of plants and complex genotype by phenotype interactions into crop improvement and management strategies sub-topic (sub-topic B).

In the long term activities will enhance the sustainability of farmed animal production (sub-scope A).

Dateline for submission: 11 September 2018 17:00:00 (Brussels time) 

Source: The European Commission

Illustration Photo: Salmon farming (credits: Norsk Havbrukssenter / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0))

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