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JKI research on display at informal Council meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers

JKI expert for the German Vine Genebank Dr. Erika Maul (l.) introduces Federal Minister Julia Klöckner to the collection and conservation of genetic resources for breeding | (c) Kicherer/JKI

From 29 August to 1 September 2020, the Agriculture Ministers of the 27 EU member states met in Koblenz for their so-called Informal Meeting under the German EU Council Presidency to discuss current issues of European agricultural and food policy. The main agenda was complemented by a supporting programme on Monday, 31 August, to which Julia Klöckner, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, had invited her colleagues to Rhineland-Palatinate. On this occasion, the Julius Kühn Institute (JKI) – at the Minister’s invitation - was asked to contribute and to exclusively represent departmental research with a display of selected research topics.

For example, the JKI specialist Institute for Grapevine Breeding, which is at home in Rhineland-Palatinate (in Siebeldingen), had set up a pavilion and invited the participants of an excursion to the steep-slope vineyards in Winningen for a stopover. The high-ranking guests and accredited journalists could study the diversity of grape varieties in the German Vine Genebank. They could set off on a virtual journey with the Phenoliner using 3D glasses or non-destructively analyse the degree of maturity of grapes and, of course, they could enter into conversation with the JKI vine breeders over a glass of wine from the newly bred varieties. Besides JKI President Frank Ordon and Head of Institute Reinhard Töpfer, scientists from the Siebeldingen Institute were also on site and took the opportunity to make the “fruits” of their research and the JKI better known internationally.

A further opportunity to present the work of the JKI exclusively to the assembled Agriculture Ministers was offered on the evening of 31 August in the Koblenz Castle on the fringes of the gala dinner. To this end, the heads of the JKI Institutes for Bee Protection, Biological Control, Grapevine Breeding and the JKI Institute for National and International Plant Health had travelled to Koblenz at short notice. At the request of the German Ministry, Dr. Jens Pistorius, Prof. Dr. Johannes Jehle, Prof. Dr. Reinhard Töpfer and Dr. Bernhard Schäfer represented their institutes.

They presented their core competences in monitoring insects in agro-ecosystems, developing alternative non-chemical plant protection methods, protecting pollinators from the bee family (honey bees and wild bees). And they demonstrated the dangers of invasive species and quarantine pests, the use of molecular tools in pre-breeding and breeding, and the contribution of resistant varieties to environmentally friendly agriculture. These are all topics that are also on the agenda of the EU Agriculture Council.