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Modern breeding technology can increase Denmark’s share of the market

Methods that are being developed in a new research project can strengthen Denmark’s competitive edge on the international market for crop seeds.

2018.11.11 | Janne Hansen

Researchers are using New Breeding Techniques to improve crop yield and quality. The knowledge they create will be put to practical use in collaboration with the industry. Photo: Colourbox

As a plant breeder, you would like to have it all: good crop quality, high yields, disease resistance, and adaptation to the climate challenges of the future, such as drought. With traditional plant breeding techniques, this is not always possible, but a new research project, which includes researchers from Aarhus University, aims to rectify that. The five-year project, which has been granted 30 million DKK from Innovation Fund Denmark, is being led by the University of Copenhagen and is a collaboration between researchers and plant breeders. 

When a plant breeder tries to promote a certain trait in a plant, such as disease resistance, he or she often experiences that the breeding efforts also affect other traits – sometimes in the wrong direction. The aim of the research project is to develop a tool that helps breeders find precisely the genes that lie behind a desired trait in a plant. In this way, the breeding process can be made much more efficient. 

More specifically, the project will develop breeding techniques with the aim of improving crop photosynthesis in order to improve yield, increase crop resistance to fungal diseases, and improve crop feed digestibility. The researchers will work with a wide range of crops that are important in Danish agriculture, including potatoes, wheat, barley, grass and alfalfa.  

- We expect that with the aid of new breeding techniques, Danish plant breeders can increase their share of the global market by 5-10 percent, says one of the project partners Professor Henrik Brinch-Pedersen from the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Aarhus University. 

New breeding techniques translated into practice

The researchers will use New Breeding Techniques (NBT), which are a series of genetic modification methods. The methods make breeding efforts significantly quicker and more precise. 

The first task in the project will be to identify the specific genes for photosynthesis, digestibility and resistance to fungi that can be of interest in the various crops. Once the researchers find these target genes, the task will be to develop methods to focus and use these genes to select promising variants of crops that contain these interesting genes. 

The next step will be to test the various crops and their new traits in the field and feed trough. 

- More efficient plant breeding can increase the competitiveness of Danish plant breeders and farmers, says Henrik Brinch-Pedersen. 

Facts about the project:

Name: Improve yield and quality in crops – an industrial platform for new plant breeding technologies (Resistance-Traits-Quality: ReTraQue)

Funding: 30 million DKK from Innovation Fund Denmark

Total budget: 42 million DKK

Partners: University of Copenhagen (project leader), Aarhus University, Sejet Plant Breeding, Nordic Seed, DLF and Danespo

Duration: Five years (1 October 2018-1 October 2023)

For more information please contact:

Professor Henrik Brinch-Pedersen, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, email: hbp@mbg.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 8268