Abiotic Stress and Climate Change Group

Group Convenor: Matthew Gilliham (University of Adelaide, Australia)

This special interest group focus is the molecular and physiological mechanisms of model and crop plant abiotic stress perception and tolerance, the development and implementation of technologies underpinning precise phenotyping and monitoring of environmental conditions, and on the agronomic practices that improve plant stress tolerance. The group’s ultimate intention is to foster a multidisciplinary approach that will lead to tackling crop stress tolerance encompassing disciplines beyond plant sciences, and to be a forum for open and informed discussion about approaches that lead to this aim -  from breakthrough discoveries, experimental design, traits that have relevance in the field, and management options. Therefore interests of this group span from blue sky fundamental research to targeted solutions in the field.


Abiotic stress – non-living environmental factors that have the potential to negatively impact plant growth – routinely reduce the yield of all the major crops, and can lead to considerable yield losses in any given season if a stress or combination of stresses is severe enough. Whilst the mechanisms of plant stress perception and tolerance are active areas of research there have been limited examples of research translation into the field to improve crop stress tolerance. Furthermore, crop-breeding programs have traditionally not overtly bred for improving abiotic stress tolerance, focusing primarily on yield improvement. Abiotic stress episodes are increasing in the face of climatic change. This all combined is exacerbating the challenge of future food security, especially considering that the rate of yield improvement currently lags behind the targets set for producing enough food to feed the predicted global population of 2050. There is a pressing need for accelerated research translation including multidisciplinary approaches embracing disciplines beyond plant and soil sciences.