New breeding project will secure high yields and better quality in future crops – University of Copenhagen

24 September 2018

New breeding project will secure high yields and better quality in future crops

A new research project will optimize the process in the breeding industry of developing new plant varieties for food and feed. It will heighten the quality, resistance, and yield of crops and increase the global seed market shares of Danish companies. The Innovation Fund Denmark invests 30 million DKK in the project.

With 29,8 million DKK in support from the Innovation Fund Denmark a new research project will improve the tools used by Danish plant breeders when breeding for instance grass, alfalfa, potatoes, barley and wheat. Plant breeding focuses on optimizing quality, yield and disease resistance – but there are many challenges in finding new varieties with new properties. Today, it is not possible to breed a desired trait precisely – for instance disease resistance – without getting other unwanted traits as well. This is what the project will change.

Companies and universities create results together

The research project is a cross-disciplinary collaboration between the breeding industry, represented by Sejet Plant Breeding, Nordic Seed, DLF, Danespo, and the University of Copenhagen and Aarhus University. With the breeders’ unique knowledge about crops and the universities’ research in the newest breeding technologies, the aim is to develop a precise tool to assist the breeders in finding the genes behind a desired trait in a plant and thereby optimizing the breeding process. This will benefit agriculture, the food industry and ultimately the consumers. It will also strengthen the sustainability, as the quality and yield of the plants will increase, and the need for pesticides for some types of crops will be reduced.

Denmark on the global market

It is not a new idea to research in techniques to make the breeding process more efficient and precise. Abroad big companies have already invested in the new breeding technologies and it is therefore important for the competitive position that Danish breeders are also at the front with the newest techniques.
- With the help of the Innovation Fund Denmark we can create new knowledge about the properties of the plants. This will mean, that we with assistance from breeding technologies can increase our global marked share with 5-10 % and at the same time contribute positively to the Danish economy, says Rasmus Lund Hjortshøj from Seet Plant Breeding, which is among the breeders in the project.

At the University of Copehagen they also look forward to participating in the project:
- The collaboration will make it possible for us to move away from working with a few old crop varieties and instead work with the elite lines of the breeders. This will benefit us as a research institution, because our international profile will be strengthened, and it will secure a strong market position for the breeders. Finally it will result in better and more sustainable food products for the consumers, says Kirsten Jørgensen, Vice Head of Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

About the project:

Innovation Fund Denmark investment: 29,8 million DKK.
Total budget:  41,8 million DKK.
Duration: 5 years.
Official titel: ReTraQue (Resistance-Traits-Quality)