Seed quality is of paramount importance to agriculture, food security and the conservation of wild species. Considerable economic losses result from sub-optimal seed performance, undermining food security and livelihoods. Seed quality is strongly influenced by the environmental stresses experienced by the mother plant. Climate change will further exacerbate economic losses and decrease the predictability of seed yield and quality for the farmer. The looming challenges of climate change and food security require new knowledge of how stress impacts on seed quality, as well as a re-appraisal of optimal storage conditions. EcoSeed addresses these challenges by bringing together a group of distinguished European experts in seed science and converging sciences to characterise seed quality and resilience to perturbation. EcoSeed combines state-of the-art "omics", epigenetics, and post-"omics" approaches, such as nuclear and chromatin compaction, DNA repair, oxidative and post-translational modifications to macromolecules, to define regulatory switchboards that underpin the seed phenotype. Special emphasis is placed on the stress signalling hub that determines seed fate from development, through storage, germination and seedling development, with a particular focus on seed after-ripening, vigour, viability and storability. Translation of new knowledge gained in model to crop and wild species is an integral feature of EcoSeed project design, which will create a step-change in our understanding of the regulatory switchboards that determine seed fate. Novel markers for seed quality and new "omics" information generated in this project will assist plant breeders, advise the seed trade and conservationists alike. In this way, EcoSeed will not only be proactive in finding solutions to problems of ensuring seed quality and storability but also play a leading role in enabling associated industries to better capture current and emerging markets.

Project details FP7

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung Université Pierre et Marie Curie Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research Warwick University Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Versailles, France (INRA) University of Leeds Universidad de Salamanca Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives Limagrain Europe