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Plant Genomics and Systems Biology

Plants in all their diversity are the basis of life on our planet. They secure our food supply and make an ever-greater contribution to our supply of energy. As renewable resources they are used in a wide variety of technical applications and are a central pillar of the bio-economy. They play an essential role in limiting global warming by counteracting  carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere caused by burning fossil fuels: CO2 is the basis of photosynthesis that allows plants to develop and grow.

Plant growth is a highly coordinated process involving numerous interactions on different levels. It begins with molecular building blocks, continues on to cellular structures and ultimately involves the entire plant. Due to their stationary nature, plants are particularly sensitive to environmental factors such as temperature, UV-irradiation and the availability of water. We will not be able to use our well-founded knowledge efficiently and sustainably for plant culture and for the future development of the bio-economy until the properties of plants have been analysed in detail at the genetic and substantial levels.

Science is in the initial phase of researching many key questions: for example, which genes are responsible for which functions in an organism and how do genes develop their functions in interaction with other genes. The analysis of the enormous quantity of data that is captured using highly developed genome research technologies requires close co-operation with Systems Biology. The results obtained by the researchers are screened using procedures from Bioinformatics and are then mathematically processed for the simulation of cellular and physiological processes. The aim is to generate models that predict plant growth and biomass production. These results are useful for planning plant cultivation and the advanced development of green Systems Biology research in Germany.

17 professorships of the Faculty of Mathematics and Science play an active role in the focus area Plant Genomics and Systems Biology.This focus area cooperates closely with the other focus areas, in particular with Functional Ecology and Evolution, Complex Systems, Functional Soft Matter and Earth Sciences. It is also part of a network that includes numerous non-university institutions such as the Max Planck Institutes of Molecular Plant Physiology and of Colloids and Interfaces, the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research, the Leibniz Institute for Vegetable and Ornamental Crops in Großbeeren and several others.

These close cooperations enabled research funded by third parties (including the German Research Foundation (DFG), the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the European Union).