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Molecular breeding tools for quality improvement in cereals supporting sustainable agriculture

A eureka consortium of scientists from research institutions
and 8 leading plant breeding/biotechnology companies will
apply innovative molecular techniques to solve urgent
quality problems in the most important european cereals.

In previous years, significant progress has been achieved in wheat and maize breeding. This relates mainly to yield and yield stability under unfavourable environmental conditions. Well adapted, high yielding varieties are available for many different environments to date, leading to the predominant role of wheat and maize in European (and other) agrosystems. Many factors indicate that the importance of these cereals will increase even further in future. Solutions are therefore urgently required for still persisting quality problems in wheat and maize production. However, these problems relate to complex traits which are determined by a whole array of wheat and maize genes. It is a difficult challenge to identify all genes involved in a complex trait and combine genes/alleles by modern breeding approaches such that optimal alleles are combined in elite varieties. Moreover, the genetic variation in wheat and maize might not be sufficient to achieve the desired improvements. There is therefore a need to extend the genetic variability in wheat and maize by genetic engineering, using gene pools of different organisms. Thus, a combination of marker-assisted breeding and genetic engineering is the most promising strategy to solve urgent quality problems while improving the environmental compatibility of wheat and maize. The EUREKA Consortium will apply these innovative tools to establish: (i) silage maize with improved digestibility and ingestibility, (ii) N-efficient low input maize prototypes, (iii) insect resistant maize prototypes, and (iv) Fusarium-resistant maize and wheat breeding lines with little or no mycotoxin load. The relevance of these problems and the scientific strategies are explained in more detail in the annex. In this strategic programme, internationally acclaimed scientists from public research institutions in GERMANY and FRANCE together with eight world-leading plant breeding and plant biotechnology companies combine their know-how to provide highly innovative solutions to quality problems in wheat and maize, beneficial to breeders, farmers and end-consumers. Keywords: maize/wheat breeding, molecular markers, genetic engineering.
Acronym: 
CEREQUAL
Project ID: 
2 386
Start date: 
01-10-2000
Project Duration: 
66months
Project costs: 
19 500 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Genetic Engineering
Market Area: 

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.