SLU news

Charles Melnyk receives a consolidator grant from the ERC

Published: 24 November 2023
Photo of Charles Melnyk

Charles Melnyk, a plant biology researcher and grafting expert at SLU, has been awarded one of the most prestigious research grants in Europe, a consolidator grant from the European Research Council (ERC). During the next five years, Charles Melnyk will receive 2 million euros from the ERC to develop his project GRAFT-ABLE, aiming to create new hybrid plants by exploring and exploiting processes that occur during grafting of distantly related plants.

Out of 2,130 candidates, the European Research Council (ERC) has selected 308 researchers for this year’s Consolidator Grants. The funding will support excellent scientists and scholars at the career stage where they may still be consolidating their own independent research teams to pursue their most promising scientific ideas.

Charles Melnyk is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Plant Biology at SLU. Originally from Canada, he previously worked at the University of Cambridge before joining SLU in 2017. Throughout his career, Charles Melnyk has pioneered the field of plant grafting by establishing tools and answering key questions about how plant tissues behave during cutting and joining, a process known as grafting.

Modern agriculture depends on developing new crops and techniques to enhance yields, disease resistance and tolerance to drought and extreme temperatures. One such innovation has been the development of plant grafting whereby two plants are cut and joined together to combine their best properties. At the graft junction, cells from the different plants expand, divide and in some instances exchange genetic material including DNA. This exchange of DNA forms hybrid cells between the two plants. Our ability to graft distantly related plants is growing and thus, hybridisation at the graft junction is a promising means to allow plants to hybridise that normally could not. However, how tissues fuse and cells hybridise remains largely unknown, and our ability to exploit this hybridisation technology remains limited.

In GRAFT-ABLE, Charles Melnyk will consolidate his expertise in plant grafting and build a dedicated team to identify the processes and molecular players that contribute to tissue fusion and DNA exchange at the graft junction in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Using a combination of advanced microscopy techniques, single cell sequencing and genetic screens, he will identify how cells hybridise and determine which genes and cells contribute to hybrid cell formation. Using this information, he will generate graft hybrids from Arabidopsis thaliana to its relatives and also from various agriculturally relevant species.

By unravelling the molecular and developmental processes that occur at the graft junction, GRAFT-ABLE will provide fundamental information to better understand how different plants fuse tissues, how hybrids form and develop novel methodologies to isolate and grow hybrids. Such hybrids could overcome breeding barriers and combine genomes from two species to form superior plants for agriculture and forestry.


Charles Melnyk, Senior Lecturer
Department of Plant Biology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Telephone: +46 18 673238

Press release from the ERC