Changing climate and degrading agricultural land are global challenges for agriculture and forest production. These pressing issues together with dwindling natural resources will increase the pressure on agri-food systems and forestry at the same time as we have to provide sufficient, safe and nutritious food for a growing world population. For example, warmer and wetter Nordic summers will require new, adapted plants for retained production and yield stability. Milder winters will allow new plant pathogens to migrate north leading to a changed plant pathogen pressure in the Nordic countries.
These challenges urgently call for new plant breeding and protection efforts to secure crop and forest production in future Nordic climate conditions. In the NordPlant consortium, five Nordic universities with versatile and complementing research infrastructures are joining forces to promote education, research mobility and technological development to meet future challenges in agriculture and forestry. Recently established facilities for both plant phenomics and climate modelling are part of this project.
Phenomics is a field of research that studies the interactions between genotypes, phenotypes and the environment. Right now this research area is advancing rapidly because of better imaging methods, cheaper and more efficient acquisition of large-scale molecular data and improved modelling capacity with high-performance computers. To fully take advantage of this better, interdisciplinary collaborations also addressing specific questions for future Nordic climate conditions are needed. To that end, the Nordic countries must mobilize science and innovation capacity to create a more climate resilient agriculture and forestry sector.
We need to develop modern breeding approaches that uses the expanding genomic knowledge on the one hand and the application of different climate scenarios on the other. NordPlant will help in this by forming a foundation of an internationally competitive hub. It will provide education and support the establishment of joint standards and protocols to facilitate sharing of data.
Apart from stimulating knowledge-exchange, NordPlant will provide much needed incentives for researchers to use facilities across the Nordic countries. Such incentives will broaden the use of the facilities and advance and optimize researchers individual experiments to answer new, more complex research questions.