Eco-PB’s 10 years’ anniversary: Organic plant breeding does make a difference!
Source: Newsletter on Organic Seeds and Plant Breeding III/2011
More than 60 breeders and researchers from 15 different countries attended the ECO-PB conference from November 3rd to November 4th in Frankfurt to celebrate ECO-PB’s 10 years’ anniversary. In twenty oral presentations, twelve posters and many discussions different aspects of the conference motto “Organic Plant Breeding: What makes the difference?” were highlighted.
Edith Lammert van Bueren, president of ECO-PB from the beginning, gave a short summary of the history of ECO-PB. She pointed out that the meetings have always been an important aspect of ECO-PB, as they have been influential and inspiring for the participating Member States to learn from each other and to exchange procedures to move forward towards harmonisation of interpretation and implementation of the European regulation on Organic Seed. Another significant ECO-PB achievement was the technical collaboration with the world umbrella organisation IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement).
In four different sessions, new approaches, socioeconomic aspects, examples of breeding programs and new questions on organic plant breeding were presented and discussed. Regarding the new approaches, Family Inter-Crossing (FIC) as an efficient and low priced way of developing a new variety was introduced and discussed. Another topic were methods for maintenance breeding of evolutionary populations in cereals, as farmers have a high interest in using Composite Cross Populations (CCP) in practice. Moreover, the participants were given an insight in extended methods to influence plants, such as eurythmy and tone intervals.
With a view to socioeconomic aspects, a report was given on the opportunities and obstacles for organic breeding programs in The Netherlands. There is a great interest of chain partners to support organic breeding, and especially for potatoes many efforts are taken and good networks have been established. As a result, 50 % of the Dutch potato varieties are selected by farmer breeders. More networking, not only within the organic value chain, but between organic and conventional breeders is another interesting aspect, which was presented. This approach offers several advantages and synergy effects for organic breeding programs. Moreover, the breeding programs on partnership basis of Kultursaat were presented. This breeding association is consumer oriented, transparent and open for anybody, is offers a bottom-up approach and does not insist on the breeder’s right.
As one example of an organic breeding program, the development of the hulless spring barley Pirona by Cereal Breeding Research Darzau was presented. Selection criteria were weed competitiveness and resistance to loose smut, barley leaf stripe, covered smut as well as fusarium head blight. Quality with regard to human nutrition was also taken into account. Another example was the low-tech breeding approach to dehybridize hybrids developed by Sativa Rheinau. F1-hybrides are used as genetic starting material for the organic breeding programs in vegetables because in those hybrids, most of the genetic progress of the past decades has been released. The last example was the biodynamic apple breeding at Poma Culta, where the observation of cosmic rhythms and the application of eurythmy are important aspects.
In the session on new questions, the influence of epigenetic effects was presented and discussed. It is known that epigenetic modifications are highly adaptive to the plants’ environment. If those reactions to the environment are inherited from cell to cell without alteration in the DNA sequence, an epigenetic trait has been established. This is important for organic breeding, as it shows that breeding under organic farming conditions is highly recommendable. Finally, the dignity of plant and the thereof resulting consequence for organic plant breeding were discussed. Thus organic plant breeding has to respect the organic farming system as spatial limit, the integrity of the cell as technical limit (no manipulations below the level of the cell) and the ban of patents as legal limit.
The country updates gave insight in the activities in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Great Britain, the Baltic States and Denmark. These country updates provided many inspirations and motivation for the development in the other countries.
For conference proceedings see
More news from: ECO-PB (European Consortium for Organic Plant Breeding)
Published: January 4, 2012