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Breeding for Resilient, Efficient and Sustainable Organic Vegetable production

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - BRESOV (Breeding for Resilient, Efficient and Sustainable Organic Vegetable production)

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2021-04-30

BRESOV deals with the urgent need to provide climate-resilient cultivars addressed to organic vegetable production systems. These new cultivars will benefit organic growers and the organic seed industry, providing much needed security both under current and future scenarios of climate change. In this project, we will exploit the genetic variation of brassica, bean and tomato for enhanced productivity, by exploiting up-to-date knowledge of genome structure and function. This work is enhanced by the active involvement of farmers, advisory services, research institutes, breeding companies and food processors from diverse geographical/climatic contexts in Europe and Non-EU countries. The selection of pre-breeding and breeding lines for the three species is undertaken in organic vegetable farming systems, utilizing an annual crop rotation scheme. New cultivars will be selected for efficiency when grown under drought, high temperature, and low nitrogen stresses, for resistance to some pests and diseases, for desirable product quality traits such as taste, visual appearance, bioactive compounds, or post-harvest performance. Crop genetic diversity is broad as we are utilizing several landraces (LRs) and crops wild relatives (CWRs) provided by partners for the pre-breeding and breeding activities. We adopt an innovative approach, where plant traits related to the roots-zone, and to root-growth, and architecture that enable a better interaction with organic soil and its microbiome, are sought to benefit the end-users. This approach will ensure that the available genetic resources and bred germplasm, combined with the best on-farm management practices will enhance resource use efficiency and productivity. The germplasm from this project will act to pump-prime the production of new seed for the organic growing sector and will also serve as a model for the enhancement of other crops.
BRESOV starts to be a structured support for developing organic farming by providing new breeding lines resilient, efficient and selected for sustainable production and to improve the agronomic techniques for increasing the yield and the quality for the vegetable supply chains. Several elite breeding lines resistant to specific biotic and abiotic stresses for broccoli, snap bean and tomato are ready to be provided to seed companies, organic growers, associationsto evaluate them on-farm. The great diversity for the above-cited crops, mainly represented by landraces and crop wild relatives, is evaluated not only for identifying elite plant genotypes resistant to biotic (drought, salinity, flooding, dark light senescence, high temperature) and abiotic stresses (several plant diseases) but also to associate them to genetic changes in broccoli, snap bean and tomato. The improvement of the knowledge on the genome diversity and structure of the three crops is ongoing rendering easier the identification of genes and molecular markers, including the use of innovative approaches, such as Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS), useful for individuating QTLs and genes. On the basis of the genotyping and phenotyping data BRESOV individuated several molecular markers related to different useful traits of the plant to use for marker-assisted selection (MAS) speeding up the genetic improvement of the three target vegetables of the project. The phenotyping data provided speed up the identification of several accessions resistant/tolerant to biotic and abiotic stresses, and others which showed agronomic, organoleptic and nutraceutical traits of interest for the consumers of organic vegetables. These elite breeding lines are actively utilized by BRESOV partners for developing mapping populations for studying specific QTLS and gene of interest for supporting biotic and abiotic stresses and for improving nutritional, organoleptic and nutraceutical traits of the products, using them to setting up new cultivars for organic farming. The new breeding lines are evaluated in multi-climate conditions by several partners in EU and for high quality seed production including the evaluation of biocontrol agents (BCAs) and natural compounds (NCs) for controlling the main seed-borne diseases of broccoli, snap bean and tomato. We have started to identify BCAs and NCs useful for controlling some diseases using them for seed coating and soil drenching and we are detecting their PGPR effects. We have developed protocols for detecting the diseases studied for each crop in order to use them for diagnosis and for evaluating well the effects of BCAs and NCs for controlling them. We individuated crop density and nutritional protocols to increase the quantity and the quality of organic seed production improving the soil fertility and the interaction plant-soil microbiome.
The overall aim of the project is to improve the competitiveness of three of the most economically important vegetable, such as broccoli, snap bean and tomato in organic farming systems. One of the key expected results of BRESOV is the genetic and phenotypic characterization of plant genetic resources (PGR) for B. oleracea, P. vulgaris and S. lycopersicum, including crop wild relatives and segregating populations. At the end of the project, BRESOV will release breeding material of broccoli, snap bean and tomato for the development of new resilient and improved organoleptic and nutritional quality organic cultivars. Additional breeding material is represented by improved breeding lines, and by organic heterogeneous materials (OHMs) starting from the LRs of the CC for establishing dynamic populations (DPs) and composite cross populations (CCPs) as foreseen by the new organic regulation (EU) 2018/848. For these new materials the interaction with the environmental conditions of several European countries will be evaluated, allowing the improvement of crop agronomic performances and the quality of the production. In this way, BRESOV will also provide recommendation to breeders, growers and farmers of new varieties / advanced breeding lines adapted locally and / or globally to organic agriculture. At the same time the BRESOV project will provide agronomical practices to increase the production of high-quality organic seed and advanced tools to control the sanitary quality of organic broccoli, snap bean and tomato seed lots available for the growers of different European geographic/climatic conditions. Increasing the availability of organic seed of high quality is a very important goal to implement the accessibility and the confidence in current and future organic agriculture systems within the EU. The project has also the ambition to enlarge the adaptability of the broccoli, snap bean and tomato crops in organic vegetable farming systems and to improve the interaction between the new cultivars and the soil microbiome.
The BRESOV project has established useful partnerships among the breeding, farming and research sector (multi-actor approach), organizing open days, seminars and workshops with the BRESOV stakeholders in order to identify resilient and sustainable candidate varieties of brassicas, snap bean and tomato for innovating vegetable organic farming and for increasing the yield, organoleptic, and nutraceutic value of the products. The BRESOV project has actively collaborated since its start with the other two Organic Plant Breeding H2020 projects funded under SFS-07-2016 LIVESEED and ECOBREED.
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