Plant breeding plays a key role in securing the world’s supply of food. The Breeding Research department exploits novel findings to develop innovative approaches to access crop genetic diversity, and thereby to support breeding into the future. The overall goal is to increase the efficiency of pre-breeding and breeding. The research employs a pipeline similar to that used by breeding programmes, involving the release of genetic variation, the choice of breeding parents and the selection of superior genotypes. It also includes an element of conservation breeding.
Since genetic advance is achieved by recombination, followed by the fixation of favourable alleles, and since both of these processes are dependent on the organisation, regulation and distribution of genetic information at the chromosomal level, a major research focus is placed on characterising the regulation and evolution of cell division and on the identification of key chromosomal regions. The knowledge gained through these studies is used to drive the development of more efficient breeding strategies.
In recent years, the various ‘omics technologies have significantly increased both data quantity and quality. In order to make such data usable for breeding, innovative approaches are being sought to enable their storage and to facilitate their analysis. At the same time, methods for predicting plant performance are being developed.
Exploration of the genetic architecture of agriculturally significant traits depends typically on the implementation of advanced statistical methods. The identification, validation and characterisation of candidate genes responsible for variation in key traits such as seed/ grain size, yield and pathogen resistance represent an important component of the department’s research.