Programme Prioritaire de Recherche Make Our Planet Great Again

Improve Crops in Arid Regions and future climates


Keywords: Vapor pressure deficit, drought, food security, breeding


Despite 2020 was Covid year significant progress were made in different fronts. An experimental space at IRD is now available. Two tenders for phenotyping equipment (a 3D multispectral scanner and 100 load cells for automatic pot weighing) were developed, and equipment was acquired and installed in December. Pressure pots have been manufactured, received, and tested. Although we’ll still need to test and adapt these equipment, acquire small accompanying material, and develop also a hydroponic system, we should be fully operational experimentally by spring 2021 and consider the experimental basis to support ecophysiology research at IRD is ready.


In WP1 a data analysis pipeline has been developed (Kar et el 2020) and published to extract features characterizing the transpiration response to increasing vapor pressure deficit (VPD) from load cell datasets, and this pipeline will be customized for the new load cell platform at IRD. Soil texture has also been shown to have a strong effect on transpiration efficiency (TE), in a crop-dependent manner (no effect in pearl millet but some effect in sorghum and maize), and the hypothesis is that these differences are explained by soil differences in the transpiration response to VPD, but also possibly to specie differences in the root to shoot area ratios. Trials have also been undertaken in Senegal despite of Covid, confirming TE differences among pearl millet genotypes initially tested in India in a very different soil. Work has also been initiated to produce CRISPR-Cas9 mutants, with the idea of altering aquaporin gene expression and testing their putative effect on root/plant hydraulic conductance, for a possible effect on the Tr restriction. Also, 33 AQP aquaporin genes were identified in pearl millet, and a higher expression of PIP forms of aquaporins was found in the low TE genotype, where a higher hydraulic root conductance was also found and a higher contribution from root aquaporin to root hydraulic conductance. A choice has been made on which AQP gene to use in the CRISPR-Cas9 work.


In WP2, genotypes with a stronger response to density had higher TE in the high VPD season. A major result was then in finding that these genotypes had a lower transpiration restriction under high VPD than low TE genotypes. Given that VPD was also lower in the high density canopy, regardless of genotypes, this result suggests that leaves located deeper inside the canopy receive light and then transpire / photosynthesize in high TE genotypes, and benefit from the low VPD conditions. Preliminary data in Senegal also show that an increased density decreases within canopy VPD, even at the very low density levels used there. Work is on-going to assess plant architecture traits in sorghum germplasm contrasting in its response to increased density.


Activities of WP4 have started by gathering tools and data to carry out crop modelling in the West Africa region. A coordination among different groups interested in this topic in the region to allow data sharing and exchange experiences. Initial experiments to acquire data on popular cultivars for use in modelling are in progress.


I’m also responsible for the coordination of collaboration between French institutions (INRAE, IRD, CIRAD, IRSTEA) and the CGIAR on climate change. This initiative offers a perspective to ICARUS and opens opportunities for expansion.


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

General informations

Acronym: ICARUS
Reference Number: 17-MPGA-0011
Project Region: Occitanie
Discipline: 4 - Agro Eco
PIA investment: 750,000 €
Start date: May 2018
End date: December 2024

Project coordinator : Vincent VADEZ

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