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ECOBREED – Increasing the Efficiency and COmpetitiveness of organic crop BREEDing. A new H2020 project on organic breeding of wheat, potato, soybean and buckwheat

Heinrich GRAUSGRUBER; Vladimir MEGLIČ; Pavol Hauptvogel; Peter Dolničar; Kristina PETROVIĆ; Dagmar JANOVSKÁ; Paul BILSBORROW; Werner Vogt-Kaute; Mario A. Pagnotta; Antoaneta G. Kuhar

The Horizon 2020 project ECOBREED ( is coordinated by the Agricultural Institute of Slovenia and is carried out in collaboration with 25 partner organisations from 15 countries, i.e. Austria, China, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, United Kingdom and the United States. ECOBREED will improve the availability of seed and varieties suitable for organic and low-input production. The activities will focus on four crop species, i.e. wheat (Triticum aestivum and T. durum), potato (Solanum tuberosum), soybean (Glycine max) and common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum). Objectives of the project are among others the increase of breeding activities for organic and low-input crop production and the development of breeding material with improved stress resistance, resource use efficiency and quality. In wheat, the focus lies on the development of bunt (Tilletia caries, T. controversa) resistant genotypes by marker-assisted selection (MAS), and the development of new ՙpopulations՚ including genetic material from all involved partners following a multiparent advanced generation intercross scheme. Moreover, genotypic effects will be evaluated with respect to arbuscular mycorrhizal colonisation and in vitro root exudation of allelochemicals. MAS will also be exploited in potato to select advanced clones with resistance against potato virus Y (PVY) and late blight (Phytophtora infestans) using the ‘Sarpo Mira’ genepool and other resistant germplasm. Moreover, different strategies for a sustainable control of Colorado potato beetle and wireworms will be evaluated under field conditions. Soybean will be tested for the competitiveness against weeds and for tolerance to naturally occurring biotic stresses and abiotic stress factors such as drought and chilling. MAS will be carried out for the identification of germplasm with low cadmium cadmium accumulation in seeds, supernodulation and drought tolerant biological nitrogen fixation, and resistance against Sclerotinia sclerotiorum and the Diaporthe complex. Buckwheat genetic resources and breeding material will be screened for allelopathic activity and for genetic variation in phosphorus mineralisation. To identify the underlying genetic responses to abiotic (cold, drought, salinity) and biotic stresses together with quality traits, the germplasm will by genotyped by sequencing. The specific tasks within the individual crops will be accompanied by the screening of a broad range of genetic material in all four crops in organic multi-environment trials. Based on these and previous results, new crossings among suitable parental genotypes will be carried out and distributed among partners for further selection. Thereby, ECOBREED will enhance the portfolio of wheat, potato, soybean and buckwheat varieties suitable for organic farming in Europe and identify traits and combinations of traits suited to organic and low-input farming. Besides the breeding activities, farmer participatory trials will be established in different ecogeographical regions and training courses on e.g. advanced genotyping and phenotyping methods, and participatory plant breeding will be organised. Demonstration, testing and training activities within ECOBREED, in particular in EU Member States where the organic sector is less developed will help to fulfil this gap.

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