“Khalifa of Biotechnology” … a research icon in the study of desert plants

Abu Dhabi
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The Sheikh Khalifa Center for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering at the Emirates University is one of the most important research centers in the region and the world that apply a research strategy in studying desert plants, especially in the UAE environment to generate scientific knowledge and thus face global challenges in the issue of food security and the practice of agriculture Sustainable development through genomics research, genetic engineering, and innovation in biotechnologies.

The research of the Khalifa Center for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, which was inaugurated in 2014, with the support and guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, aims to develop agricultural crops in order to improve their resistance to environmental efforts such as thirst, heat and salinity.

Dr. Khaled Amiri, Director of the Sheikh Khalifa Center for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, said that the strategic vision of the center is unique, as the center’s research relies on identifying the genetic mechanisms that desert plants use to resist heat and thirst and using this scientific knowledge to develop agricultural crops that bear the environmental effort.

He added that the center is modifying and adding different genes for agricultural crops to improve plant strains of economic importance through implementing plans, programs, ideas and agricultural scientific research. The center also worked on studying 10 types of beneficial microbes in the UAE environment and was able to develop these microbes that lead to an increase in agricultural production by 40 % As proved by field trials.

Dr. Khaled Amiri explained that the center is working on a long-term strategy to produce “smarter” plants, so that the plants have different characteristics such as not needing pesticides, are abundant and economically feasible, and contribute to reducing environmental pollution, stressing that the genetic modifications made to some plants in the center need To less than 40% water compared to non-GM plants.

Dr. Amiri stated that the center does not use genomics only in plants, but also in insects harmful to agriculture such as the red palm weevil and other organisms to preserve biological diversity, as the center was able to genetically modify the palm weevil to make it unable to produce and eliminate this pest that causes environmental and economic disasters and affects In the production of palm trees, considering that the date palm is one of the main food crops in the region, especially in the UAE.

The director of the Sheikh Khalifa Center for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering emphasized that the center aims to contribute to food security and the preservation of biological diversity through research and studies that have been able to develop plants and agricultural crops that bear the environmental effort and adapt to the climates and desert environment.

It is noteworthy that the center contains high-tech green houses, growth rooms, and a number of environmentally controlled rooms, allowing users to allocate and monitor the various factors affecting scientific experiments to reach the desired environment. Molecular biology laboratories in the center are also the source of innovation as they contain molecular devices Modern science allowing scientists to carry out modern scientific experiments and to perform more intensive research in the field of genomics and computational biology.WAM / Ali Salem / Reda Abdel Nour