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Bundesforschungsinstitut für Kulturpflanzen


Institute for Breeding Research on Horticultural Crops

Inhalt: Breeding research on species of Apiaceae

A key competence of the Institute

Species of the family Apiaceae are spread over the temperate zone of northern hemisphere mostly in steppe, fen, grassland and forest soils. Out of altogether 430 genera with more than 3,700 species, 200 are used as vegetable, medicinal, aromatic or ornamental plants worldwide. The occurrence of essential oils and carotenoids is the basis for the economic importance of many species used as medicinal and aromatic but also as vegetable plants. Carrot (Daucus carota) is under the top ten of worldwide produced vegetables with about 1.5 m ha crop area and about 34 m t crop yield. In Germany carrot is grown on about 10,000 ha. The crop areas in Germany are for celeriac and celery (Apium graveolens) about 2,000 ha, Florence fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum) about 450 ha, parsley (Petroselinum crispum) about 1,800 ha, dill (Anethum graveolens) about 560 ha, bitter fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ssp. vulgare var. vulgare) about 430 ha und caraway (Carum carvi) about 280 ha. All species mentioned are covered in breeding programs, national or international, more or less intensively, depending on the specific economic importance. Corresponding to this, breeding research is highly restricted in many species with the implication of inaccessibility of modern breeding methods for breeders. Molecular markers can be taken as an example because they are used up to now only for carrot by few big companies.

The institute’s breeding research on species of Apiaceae is offered as methodical and technological platform to consolidate skills across different projects and research approaches to achieve synergistic effects. The institute’s Apiaceae group is an active partner in research, but also provides a platform for exchange of information between national and international partners from breeding and breeding research in Apiaceae. Core competencies comprise the evaluation of genetic resources, breeding methods, classical and molecular genetics, research on resistances, metabolomics and genomics. Main topic is the fast transmitting of results from basic and advanced research to plant breeding and to plant production.

Evaluation of genetic resources

The  Institute for Breeding Research on Horticultural Crops of JKI covers in particular research areas between the global management of plant genetic resources (PGR), for example gene banks, crop wild relatives (CWR) trusts, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and nature conservancy on the one hand and the commercial plant breeding and the cultivation on the other hand.

At the institute, the following species and their wild relatives are of interest with different intensity of research: carrot, parsley, celeriac and celery, caraway and fennel.

Evaluations are carried out for:

  • Morphological and agronomical traits
  • Amount and composition of secondary metabolites, resistance screening

Cooperation with gene banks:

Both the national representative of Umbellifer Working Group of ECPGR and the national representative of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Working Group of ECPGR are situated at the institute.

Breeding methods

Different research approaches are addressing the regulation of generative development of selected Apiaceae. They include topics of flowering transition, morphology of flowers, fertilization and seed setting. Particularly the development of systems for regulation of pollination based on cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) as prerequisite for development of F1 hybrid varieties is focused on carrot, celeriac /celery and fennel (MADS-box genes, cell nucleus – mitochondria interactions Humboldt University, Berlin, Institute for Biology; University at Osnabrück, Dep. Biology/Chemistry)

Molecular markers and genome analysis

Molecular breeding research including studies on genetic distances, linkage map construction, QTL analyses, association studies and functional genome analyses are aimed at the development and application of (functional) molecular markers for both marker-assisted selection and the evaluation of plant genetic resources. In some selected species, for the first time a molecular characterization of intra-specific genotypic variability is being realized through molecular tools. Molecular-cytogenetic research is focused on mechanisms of centromer-mediated chromosome elimination processes, with the aim to develop a new haploidization strategy suited for the generation of double-haploid lines for carrot F1 hybrid breeding.

Disease resistance research

To select and assess new resistance donors for genetic investigations and the development of basic breeding material, efficient and reproducible phytopathological test systems and selection methods are developed. The main focus is on fungal pathogens and includes studies on resistance genetics, host-pathogen interactions, and the characterization of putative race structures. The most intensely studied pathosystems are:

Daucus carota
Alternaria dauci, A. radicina, A. alternata

Apium graveolens
Septoria apiicola

Petroselinum crispum
S. petroselini, Plasmopara petroselini, A. radicina, Erysiphe heraclei, Fusarium oxysporum
and Celery mosaic virus (CeMV)

Foeniculum vulgare
Mycosphaerella anethi in cooperation with Institute for Epidemiology and Pathogen Diagnostics (JKI).

Metabolomic analysis

The increasing knowledge about biochemical pathways of secondary plant metabolites known as VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and the availability of progressive analytical and biochemical methods allow targeted functional genomics approaches. As a prerequisite for this kind of complex multidisciplinary research, which has to consider a huge number of substances and their great chemical diversity, a tight collaboration with plant analysts has been set up (Institute for Ecological Chemistry, Plant Analysis and Stored Product Protection). Substance analyses and volatile profiles are produced mainly by GC-MS and HPLC for a large variety of carrot cultivars and breeding accessions, but parsley, fennel and caraway genotypes are also under study. The analytical methods themselves are an object of research, especially with the aim to establish holistic and non-targeted methods suited for large-scale automatic plant analyses.

With the goal to identify specific chemotypes improved for product quality, sensorial characteristics, but also with enhanced biotic stress tolerance, as for instance against herbivores such as nematodes or the carrot fly (Chamaepsila rosae) (Institute for Plant Protection in Horticulture and Forests), the terpene synthase and lipoxygenase gene families are studied in detail. Knowledge of functional allelic diversity of identified key genes will be used for the development of functional flavor and stress markers.