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Organic breeding – Increasing the competitiveness of the organic breeding and farming sectors

Proposals will develop a range of measures to increase the availability of organic seeds and varieties for the organic sector. Work will allow identifying relevant (combinations of) traits suited to organic farming conditions, make better use of genetic resources, test existing varieties for organic production, and initiate breeding programmes in response to identified needs of the sector. Proposed activities will be based on partnerships between the breeding, farming and research sectors and fall under the concept of the multi-actor approach [See definition of the 'multi-actor approach' in the introduction to this Work Programme part.]. Particular attention will be given to demonstration, testing and training activities in particular in EU Member States where the organic sector is less developed and has particular needs. The topic is open to all types of organic farming systems (e.g. arable farming, horticulture including aromatic and herbs, fruit trees, grasslands, mixed) in various geographical and pedo-climatic and conditions. Selected projects will be requested to work together closely and link up with (the) project(s) funded under SFS-7-2016 topic.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 6 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

The availability of organic seeds and varieties (including cultivars) is an economic and technical challenge for organic producers. It is estimated that more than 95% of organic production is based on crop varieties that were bred for the conventional sector and consequently lack important traits required under organic and low-input production conditions. In general, organic farming requires that crops are adapted to more variable conditions, amongst others by effectively interacting with their environment in terms of plant-plant, plant-pollinators and plant-soil interactions. Significant seed multiplication and breeding efforts are needed to improve the performance of the sector through better suited varieties.

Activities will contribute to improving the availability and quality of seeds and varieties suited to the specific conditions of organic farming. They will contribute to:

  • increased knowledge on relevant traits for organic crop production;
  • improved access to a wider pool of high-quality seeds, varieties and cultivars for the organic farming sector;
  • efficient seed multiplication and breeding methods;
  • the availability of tools and resources for pre-breeding and breeding (including improved genotyping and/or phenotyping capabilities).

In the medium to longer term, activities will help to increase competitiveness of the organic breeding and farming sectors throughout Europe and beyond. They will foster low-input agriculture, sustainability of farming practices and quality of products which meet consumer expectations. Conventional systems will also benefit from varieties which are better adapted to lower resource inputs and are more resilient to variable environmental conditions.