ERC Grant: Contribution to Agriculture of the Future

The biologist Professor Rita Groß-Hardt will receive the ERC Proof of Concept Grant from the European Research Council. Within the TriVolve project, the scientist and her team want to investigate whether plant breeds produced by so-called three-parent-hybridization can be implemented in agriculture.

In 2017, Professor Rita Groß-Hardt and her team demonstrated for the first time that plant egg cells can merge with two sperm cells so that plants with three parents – one mother and two fathers - instead of two – are produced. “This research finding was a significant step forward in the field of plant breeding,” according to the biologist. “We can bypass hybridization barriers in this way and make use of the positive traits of more distant plant species.”

According to Groß-Hardt, the findings provide answers to the agricultural challenges of the future. “Conventional plant breeding cannot keep up with the immense changes due to climate change.” An agricultural revolution is apparently needed for climate-resistant plants to be developed. Groß-Hardt: “We must combine tested qualities with new traits in order to adapt crops to extreme climate conditions such as heat and drought periods.” New breeding technology could make all the different in putting farmers in the position of being able to secure high agricultural yields and ensuring there is food for the population, says the researcher.

The now accepted ERC Proof of Concept Grant titled TriVolve: Establishment of three-parent crosses in crop plants is to support Groß-Hardt and her working group in their endeavor to assess the market potential of their research and in implementing it practically. The project will receive 150,000 euros in funding. The so-called Proof of Concept Grant from the ERC is one of the most renowned distinctions and is only awarded if prior research has been able to attain future-oriented results and has good chances of reaching market maturity.

“I am extremely pleased for Rita Groß-Hardt, her working group, and the University of Bremen with regard to the grant approval,” says president Professor Bernd Scholz-Reiter on the decision made by the European Research Council. “This is the first significant step towards technology transfer, which is of great importance at the University of Bremen.”

Since 2015, the ERC has been funding Rita Groß-Hardt’s research. The council previously awarded her with the renowned ERC Consolidator Grant, which is endowed with around two million euros. The university research group now cooperates with KWS SAAT SE & Co. KGaA, the largest seed producer in Europe. The “Three-Parent-Hybridization” procedure, which was developed at the University of Bremen, has been granted a patent for Europe, the USA, and China. The Bremen InnoWi patent management agency was involved in patent protection and commercialization of the scientific results.


Prof. Dr. Rita Groß-Hardt
Faculty of Biology / Chemistry
University of Bremen
Phone: +49 (0)421 218-50203
Email: gross-hardtprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de

Professorin Rita Groß-Hardt
Professor Rita Groß-Hardt