Led by the Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA), the EU's ABSTRESS programme has 12 partner organisations from eight member states.
By infecting hundreds of leguminous plants with the soil fungus Fusarium and subjecting others to drought, researchers will gain an insight into the gene networks involved in responding to these twin stresses. Fusarium infestation is aggravated by drought and is expected to become more prevalent with climate change.
These genetic traits will then be incorporated into the breeding of new pea varieties. It is hoped the technique can be applied to crop breeding more generally, shortening times considerably.
According FERA researcher Dr Adrian Charlton: "This should lead to groundbreaking improvements."