Climate change results in increase of the average temperature together with more frequent periods of severe heat and drought (abiotic stress). Consequently, the demand for crops that can cope with such conditions is also increasing. Moreover, shifts in the abundance of phytopathogenic fungi, viruses, insects and bacteria (biotic stress) require resistant crop cultivars, which are the most effective way to counteract pest pressure and minimizing the use of plant pesticides. Sufficient nutrient supply is essential to ensure yields and yield stability, as well as the quality of the harvested products. However, nutrient balance surplus can have negative environmental impacts. In addition, nitrogen fertilizer production is energy-intensive and global resources for fertilizer components such as phosphorus are finite. Consequently, there is a need to reduce nutrient losses through more efficient varieties.
Our institute is therefore working on knowledge-based principles to improve crop resistance and tolerance to adapt to altering growing conditions and to increase nutrient efficiency. We are developing concepts for safeguarding plant genetic resources in order to continue to have sources for crop improvement through breeding in the future. In this way, we support and efficient and environmentally benign crop production.
Our work focuses on three main tasks:
Evaluation of plant genetic resources for resistance/tolerance
Methods are developed and adapted to detect and evaluate the phenotypic response of crop plants to single biotic and abiotic stresses. Collections of plant genetic resources are specifically tested using these methods.
Genetic analysis of resistances/tolerances
The genetic basis for resistance and tolerance traits is elucidated and molecular markers are inferred. If these are genetically closely linked with the traits, they can be used for selection.
Utilization concepts for resistances/tolerances
Strategies and procedures for sustainable breeding improvement of crop plants with regard to the analyzed resistance and tolerance traits are developed.