When resistant varieties of our crops are wildly cultivated, resistance traits are regularly overcome by evolutionary adaptations of pathogens, i.e. single resistance genes lose their protective effect. Moreover, plant stress tolerance is based on a network of different mechanisms and interactions between biotic and abiotic stressors and the plant are complex. They depend, among other things, on the time of onset of a stressor (e.g., water deficiency at the seedling stage), its duration, as well as its intensity.
We are therefore looking for breeding options to sustainably improve resistance and tolerance features against biotic and abiotic stresses. One approach is to pyramidize qualitatively different resistance traits. Thus, genes that are each effective only against single races of pathogens, and often become ineffective after a few years, are combined with genes that cause only partial, quantitative protection against the pathogens - but usually confer more durable resistances.
High-throughput marker technologies and DNA sequencing techniques allow the development of tightly linked molecular markers and the identification of resistance genes (see also Genetic Analysis of Resistance and Tolerance). This facilitates targeted screening of large gene bank collections for effective gene variants (allele mining). It also enables resistance genes from plant genetic resources that have not been adapted by breeding (e.g. old varieties, wild species) to be combined by marker-assisted crossing programs (pre-breeding) and thus used more quickly in elite cultivars.
Plant genetic resources with their potential resistance and tolerance characteristics represent the backbone of breeding adaptation and must be safeguarded for agriculture and future use. To this end, we develop and test strategies for the conservation of genetic diversity of wild plants. With the Wild Celery Network, the first model concept for in-situ conservation of plant genetic resources exists at our institute. Another focus of our institute is the on-farm conservation of crop plants within agricultural systems.