Christian Hermans

Christian Hermans  is an F.R.S-FNRS research associate in the Lab of Plant Physiology and Molecular Genetics, Université Libre de Bruxelles. His primary research interest is on the mechanisms that define the bases for plant Nutrient Use Efficiency, using a model -to-crop framework. His focuses are on magnesium (Mg) and nitrogen (N) because those elements raise human health and environmental issues. He is exploring the genetic diversity provided by natural and experimental plant populations in order to identify differences in tissue mineral content and root morphology.

Christian Hermans’ talk during the event “Planet, what’s going on with my food?” will focus on Crop biofortification: a solution to human malnutrition?

Mineral and vitamin deficiencies affect over one-half of the world’s population and contribute to a number of human chronic disease conditions. Economic, social and food technological processing factors can contribute to lower nutrient intake. Progress has been made to overcome those nutritional deficiencies in human body mainly through supplementation and food fortification.
Another option to commercially marketed products is biofortification: a strategy aimed at developing nutrient- and vitamin-dense crops through conventional breeding or biotechnological engineering.
Determining how plants regulate mineral nutrient uptake from the rhizophere, as well as transport and allocate nutrients to organs can have significant implications for human health. With the knowledge of genes governing mineral homeostasis and pathways of nutritional importance, it is possible to develop biofortification strategies. This requires a multidisciplinary research approach with funding strategies to support such research and to ultimately disseminate crop varieties with improved nutritional characteristics. One of Christian Hermans’ research theme is on magnesium, which is a disregarded element both in human and crop nutrition (a paradox in view of the essential roles it plays in every cell of every organism). He is aiming at identifying key genetic controls, which could ameliorate magnesium content of plant tissues.

Which are the approaches in basic research? When will biofortified crops be available? Will be a change in consumer habits?

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