The Darwin21 lab is led by Professor Heribert Hirt. The group's research focuses on how plants can survive under abiotic or biotic stress conditions, with two established two research lines. One research topic focuses on how MAP kinases target chromatin primes stress resistance at both the genetic and epigenetic level. The other research line searches for beneficial microbes and investigates their mechanisms to enhance stress tolerance in plants. When coming to the Middle East, Hirt launched the large-scale Darwin21 project to bioprospect various deserts in the world for beneficial microbes that can ultimately enhance crop production on underused arid lands by increasing heat and drought resistance or using irrigation with saline water.