Wageningen scientist Erik Poelman is awarded a prestigious Vici grant for his research on plants and how they deal with stress. The Vici grant for researcher Louis de Smet was previously announced. The Vici grant is awarded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). Usually, all awarded grants are announced at the same time, but the absenteeism due to covid has caused the process to be delayed.
Poelman’s research focuses on plants and the uncertainty they experience in not knowing when and by what insects they may be attacked. In responding to and defending themselves from the current attacker, plants must also calculate the risk of attacks by future assailants. Poelman studies the evolution of this type of stress management in plants.
‘My team will unravel how wild plants align their defence strategy with the order in which insects attack’, Poelman says. ‘This is a significant stride in this field. We shift the current focus on defence against two assailants at most to studying how plants integrate possible attacks from dozens of different insects in their defensive strategy. By comparing related wild plants in how their defence strategy is aligned to the specific dynamics of the order in which insects attack, we can learn what properties make plants resilient against a variety of insect attacks. This knowledge is needed to make our crops resilient and resistant against pests within a sustainable agricultural system with reduced use of pesticides.’
Veni, vidi, Vici
The Vici grant is one of the largest personal science awards in the Netherlands and, with the Veni and Vidi grants, is part of the NWO talent programme. The Vici grant is awarded to very experienced researchers who have demonstrated the ability to develop their own research path and can coach young researchers.