Developing Smart Breeding Methods to Increase Crop Resilience
While today’s crops perform well under stable conditions, future crops must overcome increasingly common and intense heat waves, droughts, floods, nutrient shortages and higher salinity, as well as diseases and pests. As the pace of climate change picks up, speeding the development of resilient crops is urgent. The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) is awarding a $5,473,000 grant to CropXR, a partnership between several Dutch universities, companies and Dutch granting agencies, to build, support and facilitate a development pipeline for more resilient, sustainable and climate-adapted varieties of agricultural crops. CropXR members provided matching funds for a total $37,438,664 investment.
CropXR’s research, supported by the Dutch Research Council‘s PlantXR research program and the National Growth Fund, convenes academic groups to integrate multiple disciplines and increase understanding of plant resilience, a complex trait in which many genes and processes interact. Even the most advanced current plant breeding techniques lack the ability to efficiently select for resilience. CropXR’s research is aimed at understanding the mechanisms behind plant resilience and translating that insight into innovative “smart breeding” methods that can enhance complex resilience traits in crops. The research combines plant biology, computational modelling and artificial intelligence to create computational, functional plant models to predict and guide rational, targeted breeding and cultivation strategies.
Traditional as well as many cutting-edge plant breeding practices have trouble responding quickly to emerging climate threats. This research is integrating a spectrum of technology and knowledge to allow plant breeding to be nimble in meeting our global food and nutritional needs.Angela Records, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer
In collaboration with leading plant breeding companies, CropXR will also develop a smart breeding method that enables breeders to enhance crop resilience more quickly and efficiently. They will test the feasibility of the new smart breeding method on model crops ranging from lettuce and tomato to potato, onion and ornamental plants.
“This crucial funding from FFAR will not just support basic research and fundamental understanding but also help us translate the new insights into an innovative method for breeding more resilient crops,” said Dr. Guido Van den Ackerveken, CropXR scientific director. “FFAR helps us in our mission to make agriculture worldwide become more sustainable and more climate adaptive.”
CropXR’s smart breeding technology will allow breeders to focus on specific regional crops and stresses, speeding the distribution of resilient crops to growers around the world.
Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.
CropXR is an initiative of four Dutch knowledge institutions (Utrecht University, Wageningen University and Research, the University of Amsterdam, and Delft University of Technology) and Plantum, the umbrella organisation of approximately 250 Dutch-based producers of starting materials such as vegetable seeds, seed potatoes and ornamental crops. CropXR is made possible by (1) a major investment provided by the Dutch National Growth Fund and (2) a long-term program, named PlantXR, of the Dutch Research Council (NWO).
CropXR’s mission is to make agricultural production less vulnerable to climate change and less dependent on artificial fertilizers and chemical pesticides.
In addition to knowledge institutions, dozens of public and private partners participate in CropXR’s work, including “green” universities of applied sciences, biotechnology companies, processing industries and large and medium-sized plant breeding companies.
For more information, visit cropxr.org.