The European Project BreedingValue Officially Launched
BreedingValue aims on breeding of new resilient and value-adding berries. As one of 20 partners from eight different countries IBG-4 is researching in the EU-funded BreedingValue project to improve strawberry, blueberry and raspberry varieties. On January 20th and 21st, the project partners met for a virtual kick-off meeting to get the project started officially.
Strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are popular fruits. With a high proportion of health-promoting, anti-oxidative plant ingredients, vitamins and minerals, they are also very healthy. In order to adapt them to the upcoming climate changes and being able to cultivate them better and more sustainably, new varieties must be bred. These varieties should also taste better, be healthier and have a better shelf life. BreedingValue joins experts in nature conservation, genetics, genomics, breeding, biotechnology, biochemistry, phytopathology, bioinformatics, statistics and berry production in a large network for the joint improvement of berry plants in Europe. Economically, the berries are high-quality products, strawberries, for example, bring in around € 9,000 per hectare of land, while wheat or maize only bring in around € 250 per hectare of land. Strawberries are the most popular berries, with 1,747,403 tons of strawberries being produced in Europe in 2019 (FAO 2021, FAOSTAT statistical database). While there are already many commercially used strawberry varieties, there is still little choice when it comes to raspberries and blueberries. The breeding of the last decades has been carried out only with a few varieties. In the older varieties there is a high diversity in the genes and therefore also in the characteristics of the varieties.
In order to breed new, better and future-adapted berry varieties, the scientists involved in the BreedingValue project want to look at the largest possible collection of different berry varieties, including older berry varieties. In previous EU projects, many of the partners involved in BreeingValue built and characterized collections of different cultivated and wild berry varieties. With this, a large “genetic resource” in several variety collections is now available, which are now merged and examined further in the BreedingValue project. The various properties of the varieties in taste, smell, appearance and stability of the fruit as well as the robustness of the plants against environmental stress and their adaptation to sustainable cultivation systems are carefully investigated and collected. Recognizing the individual properties and understanding the genetic background of the properties should be the basis for the breeding of newer varieties. With this, in the end superior varieties with relevant traits will be available for a further breeding program. For this purpose, the latest techniques for collecting plant and genome data are used to characterize the collections.
Task of the IBG-4 is the collection, adaptation and integration of the obtained data, also from metabolite analyses from this and previous projects. The data are then analysed for correlations between e.g. traits/phenotypes and genotypes and they will be visualized in a user-friendly manner. In the end, it should be achieved that berry plants of the future can be bred according to fulfill all needs of consumers, producers, sellers and of the coming environmental conditions. What exactly these needs are and which properties from the variety of varieties they best meet is also investigated in this project. The BreedingValue project will run for four years and it is coordinated by Prof. Bruno Mezzetti from the Università Politecnica delle Marche in Italy.