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

Dr. Peter Wehling

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

Ms Annett Sitte
Tel: +49(0)38209 45-200
Fax: +49(0)38209 45-222
E-mail: zl@  jki.bund.  de

Erwin-Baur-Str. 27
06484 Quedlinburg, Germany

+49(0)3946 47-701/-702/-704/-530
Fax: +49(0)3946 47-255
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.

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

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), private potato breeders federated in the Gemeinschaft zur Förderung von Pflanzeninnovation e. V. (GFPi, www.GFPi.de ), as well as three alliances from the organic farming sector (www.bioland.de, www.naturland.de, www.oeko-komp.de).

Relevant publication (in German): “Krankheiten im Keim ersticken” (https://www.bmel-forschung.de/index.php?id=889 )

Dr. Thilo Hammann