The researchers of the JKI help to prepare crops for the challenges of tomorrow. They conduct research to enable wheat, potato or apple to resist disease attacks and to adapt to changing environmental conditions. Varieties that are optimally adapted form the backbone of modern agriculture. Resistant varieties diminish the use of pesticides, while producing high yields. Another particular interest of the JKI is the protection and preservation of biodiversity, including the wild relatives or ancestors of today’s cultivated plants.
As regards major arable crops, vegetables or ornamentals, the JKI is already engaged in programmes prior to actual plant breeding, the so-called pre-breeding. Some effort is needed before scientists may precisely identify which genes are associated with which of the new desirable traits, for instance, the resistance to a fungus. For fruit and grapevine, we continue the breeding process until a new variety can be released. This is done because here the breeding process requires a long-term commitment of about 20 to 30 years. However, even the most robust variety is of no use if it lacks flavor or desirable ingredients. Therefore, the JKI has specialists who are familiar with flavor profiles and valuable ingredients as well.
To have success in pre-breeding or variety breeding, we also care for preserving biodiversity in agriculture. On the one hand, we network with other research institutions or gene banks and create own databases. On the other hand, we are involved in programmes for the preservation and management of plant genetic resources. In addition, we maintain our own collections of fruit or grapevine resources, the so-called gene banks. For Germany, we coordinate the German Fruit Gene Bank and the German Grapevine Gene Bank, while closely cooperating with other collections.