WP3 – Innovative breeding strategies for organic agriculture
The challenge: Overcoming technical breeding obstacles within organic farming to accelerate the adoption of new cultivars
There are still considerable gaps in the assortment of suitable cultivars for organic and low-input farming in Europe. Without the reliance on chemical fungicides, herbicides and pruning substances within specific crop species there are too few or no suitable varieties available for organic farming as certain important traits are lacking. One of the most important variety characteristics for organic farmers is not only yield potential but yield stability over years. As the organic sector has less means to correct unfavourable weather and other growing conditions, it is important that varieties are resilient enough to secure yields under a variety of conditions. There is a need to better understand the concept of resilience and how that can be transformed into breeding objectives. One objective is to develop plant traits for improved resilience. Improved disease resistance is one aspect that has not been fully addressed in breeding yet. The relationship between yield, resilience and product quality is also not yet well understood. Combining these different traits in new cultivars for organic agriculture is one of the biggest challenges in breeding. Another objective is to develop new breeding strategies based on more diversity such as the so-called Composite Cross Populations and variety mixtures. Farmers also face problems when trying to find the best combinations of varieties as breeding has not yet addressed combinability of varieties to optimise the benefit of synergies and plant-plant interactions.
WP3 will provide inspiring guiding principles (concepts, scientific hypothesis and strategies) to support the diversity of breeding activities to ensure that the needs of the organic sector are met. Moreover, breeding pathways will be exploited to enhance resilience at the farm system level taking into account the holistic dimension of organic systems, developing novel breeding concepts that combine participatory approaches with modern breeding tools considering different socio-economic contexts. Exciting scientific discoveries on the complex interface of the plant not only with the abiotic environment but also with the living microbiome in and around the plant will be analysed for their potential exploitation in breeding programs for organic and low input breeding. Experts from the formal (universities, seed companies) and informal breeding sector will meet, exchange experiences and explore models of cooperation to make small breeding programs more effective.
- D3.9 List of existing organic breeding initiatives
- D3.10 Report on the results of Workshop 1 for input from formal and informal breeders involved in breeding for organic farming systems for priority setting of research needs for organic plant breeding and selection methods
- D3.4 Report on breeding gaps and key factors for strengthening small breeding initiatives: Experiences on five crops (White lupin, Brassica, Apple, Winter wheat, Tomato)
- D3.5 Novel Report on novel breeding concepts and strategies for organic and low-input farming systems – from trait-based to system-based strategies
- Annex I – “Systems-based breeding approach” presentation by Edwin Nuijten, LBI (12 February 2019, Biofach)
- Annex II – “Need for integrated approach for organic plant breeding to secure integrity of organic food” presentation by Monika Messmer, Freya Schäfer, Eva Winter, FiBL (12 February 2019, Biofach)
- Annex III – “Commitment of organic value chain for marketing phytophthora resistant potato varieties by 2020” presentation by Edith Lammerts van Bueren, Wageningen University (12 February 2019, Biofach)
- Annex III – “Involving the food chain in organic breeding – examples of best practice” presentation by Gebhard Rossmanith, Bingenheimer Saatgut AG (12 February 2019, Biofach)
Other outcomes and results
- T3.4.2 Brassicas: Initiate a European network for cell-fusion free brassica vegetables
The CMS technology compromises the integrity of the cell by the forced fusion of cells from different species, this is not in line with the organic principles. Therefor several private organic labels initiated this positive list of vegetable varieties which are cell-fusion free. This list is based on personal trustful contacts to individual breeders, analytic qPCR test or tests for male sterility to find out which cultivars are really cell fusion free. This list is very helpful for label organisations and traders to specifically allow certain cultivars for contract cultivation and for farmers who produce under certain labels and this list also helps to identify most important breeding gaps.
- T3.4 Presentation about LIVESEED and T3.4, Supporting small existing breeding initiatives & initiating new collaborations to close gaps in various crops, given by Adrian Rodriguez Burruezo (UPV Universitat Politècnica de València) at the “Workshop on potentialities and challenges of breeding for the vegetable organic systems” held on 28 November 2019 at the University of Almeria
Apples are the most prominent fruit produced in Europe. However, their organic production is very challenging and most cultivars can only be produced economically with copper application to combat fungal diseases. Therefore, the existing cultivars need to be replaced by more resilient genotypes also considering improvement of the rootstocks for better adaptation to organic soil and fertility conditions. LIVESEED connects existing and new organic apple breeding initiatives to join forces and share knowledge and genetic resources. The map linked above illustrates a non-exhaustive lists of apple breeding initiatives across Europe.