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Julius Kühn-Institut (JKI)
Federal Research Centre
for Cultivated Plants

Temporary Head
Dr. Thilo Hammann

Groß Lüsewitz
Rudolf-Schick-Platz 3a
18190 Sanitz, Germany

Ms Annett Sitte
Tel: +49(0)38209 45-200
Fax: +49(0)38209 45-222

Gabriele Platek
Tel.: 038209 45-100
Fax: 038209 45-120

E-mail: zl@  jki.bund.  de

Institute booklet


Preparing our crop plants for oncoming challenges requires continuous enrichment of their genetic basis. To achieve this, a dedicated focus on pre-breeding is required to bridge the gap between non-adapted plant genetic resources and our high-bred crop plants.

Plant genetic resources (PGR) – e. g., old landraces of a given crop species or crop wild relatives – may provide potentially valuable gene variants. However, they usually are not suitable per se for crop farming because they are decades of intensive plant breeding behind current cultivars. This gap has to be bridged by pre-breeding activities. Pre-breeding, though, is methodically complex, requires long time periods and  is often hard to estimate with regard to the prospects of success. Pre-breeding is located in the pre-competitive sector of plant breeding. As such, it aims at unlocking genetic diversity hidden in PGR as an initial step, rather than breeding commercial cultivars.

We have a strong focus on pre-breeding, thereby demonstrating the potential that plant genetic resources retain for plant breeding, as well as their significance for securing the livelihoods of tomorrow's generations.

Enhancing yield and yield stability in narrow-leafed lupin via pre-breeding

Lanbrbo landr1 Markerbild. © Brigitte Ruge-Wehling/JKI
PCR analysis of 20 lupin plants for the presence of resistance genes LanrBo and Lanr1, respectively. a) Melting-curve analysis of a LanrBo marker: 10 plants are homozygous for LanrBo (10 green curves) while the remaining plants are LanrBo-negative (10 red curves). b) Display of a PCR fragment of the Lanr1 marker via agarose-gel electrophoresis: the same 10 plants which are LanrBo-positive in a) also display the Lanr1 marker in a homozygous status (right-hand side of the agarose gel) while the remaining ones are Lanr1-negative (left-hand side); the PCR fragment specific for the presence of Lanr1 is highlighted in green whereas the “negative” PCR fragment is marked in red colour.

Narrow-leafed lupin provides a valuable protein resource for feed and food purposes. However, at least in Germany breeding activities in this crop species are comparatively sparse. Since about 15 years we have been running a programme focussed on improving germplasm of narrow-leafed lupin with regard to some key traits such as grain-yield potential and resistance to anthracnose, a plant disease caused by the fungus Colletotrichum lupini. In the past, two dominant anthracnose-resistance genes, namley Lanr1 and LanrBo, were identified in different genetic backgrounds by Australian and German research groups, respectively. Molecular markers have been developed which indicate the presence of either of these genes with high probability and are, thus, ready to be used plant breeding in order to breed cultivars with improved resistance. In our pre-breeding programme we combine the two resistance genes in a common genetic background via crosses and use PCR marker assays to identify and select progeny carrying the marker alleles of both resistance genes. Resistant progeny is then subjected to controlled crossings with actual breeding lines of narrow-leafed lupin which we selected in multi-year field trails for high grain yield and high protein content. Subsequent selfings of the F1 generation accompanied by marker analyses finally yields progeny of generation F2 or higher homozygous for both resistance genes (Fig. 1). These novel breeding lines are ready to be transferred to current breeding programmes of lupin breeders.

Dr. Brigitte Ruge-Wehling
Florian Haase



Development of late-blight resistant pre-breeding germplasm for organic farming (EffiKar)

Detached-leaf assay for assessing pre-breeding clones in their susceptibility to late blight (Phytophthora infestans) (© Michael Sprengel/JKI)

A network comprising organic farmers actively involved in the practical breeding process, professional potato breeders, and research institutions has initiated a breeding project focussed on potato varieties for organic farming in Germany. The project aims at generating pre-breeding germplasm which combines low susceptibility to late blight with other biotic and abiotic stress resistances, thus contributing to reducing the use of copper-based pesticides in organic farming.

Recent varieties as well as breeding clones are evaluated for their late-blight susceptibility under organic-farming conditions. Entries selected for their reduced late-blight susceptibility will be improved further with regard to essential quality and resistance traits. Pyramiding of individual resistance genes will be accomplished via marker-assisted selection. The pre-breeding clones will be tested and selected for essential trait combinations under organic as well as conventional farming conditions, thus ensuring that the results are relevant to organic farming. This approach may serve a basic concept for the breeding of potatoes which are well adapted to organic farming practice. Yield stability in organic potato production and competitiveness of potato breeding in Germany will be improved substantially. The composition of the network involved in the project is meant to ensure a quick and direct knowledge transfer from research to farming practice.

The project is funded in the frame of the “Bundesprogramm Ökologischer Landbau und andere Formen nachhaltiger Landwirtschaft” (BÖLN), initiated by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).
Our cooperation partners in this project are the Bavarian State Research Center for Agriculture (LfL, www.LfL.bayern.de), the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) - Satellite Collections North (https://www.ipk-gatersleben.de), as well as three alliances from the organic farming sector (www.bioland.de, www.naturland.de, www.oeko-komp.de).

Relevant publications (in German)
“Krankheiten im Keim ersticken” (https://www.bmel-forschung.de/index.php?id=889)
„Pre-breeding bei der Kartoffel (Solanum tuberosum) zur Verbesserung der Resistenz gegen Phytophthora infestans“ (Journal of Cultivated Plants; in press)

Dr. Thilo Hammann