Basic Sciences Support Directed Breeding and Optimized Cultivation of Crop Plants

The world-wide demand for an effective production of crop plants is strongly increasing. A still rising human population, limitations of the arable land areas, increased costs to provide sufficient water or balanced nutrients, and several environmental challenges make directed breeding and optimized plant cultivation to prime goals of breeders, agronomic companies and farmers.

Unfortunately, our knowledge on basic physiological/biochemical processes in crop species is still limited. Moreover, we have to accept that a direct transfer of knowledge gained on model species to crops is in most cases not possible. Accordingly, there is a need for solid physiological and biochemical analyses on crop plants. We hope that our findings on crop species allow the develop­ment of novel concepts and strategies for directed breeding and for optimization of cultivation of plants with high agronomic importance.

We concentrate our efforts on sugar beet (Beta vulgaris, the main sugar producer in the Northern hemisphere), Cassava (Manihot esculenta, a main starch producer in the southern hemisphere) and golden flax (Camelina sativa, an important oil plant with high levels of linoleic and α-linolenic acids). Because of the agronomic impact, our work is mainly supported by the Federal Ministry for Research (BMBF), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and by companies involved in breeding, plant nutrition and plant processing. Several patents and publications in leading journals resulted from these efforts. 

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