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Plant breeding

Plant breeding makes an essential contribution to the ecological intensification of organic farming and to climate change adaptation. Important breeding aims include yield stability, efficient use of water and nutrients, pest and disease tolerance as well as tolerance of variable environmental factors. In addition to the main crop species, for which breeding work is also being conducted by commercial operators, our breeding work further focuses on leguminous plants (biological nitrogen fixation) and local crop plants. This work is important for the long-term maintenance of agro-ecological biodiversity (wide crop rotations), for minimizing risk under extreme weather conditions, and for the development of niche markets. Therefore our work primarily focuses on breeding and breeding research with respect to crop plants the currently available cultivars of which are not suited to the requirements of the organic sector or where insufficient quantities of organically propagated seed are available. Our breeding projects address, for example, the following questions:

  • What is the impact of the choice of selection environment on breeding success for organic farming?
  • Are there interactions between cultivars and cropping methods (wheat, maize, cotton)?
  • Can the combined selection of soya and rhizobial bacteria increase biological nitrogen fixation?
  • Can hybrid cultivars be used to develop open-pollinated cultivars for on-farm propagation?
  • How can we combine participatory approaches and new technologies with a view to breeding improved cotton varieties and safeguarding the availability of GM-free seed for organic production?
  • In the area of seed supply, what are the research needs in developing countries?
  • Which criteria may be used to assess breeding techniques?

Further information


Monika Messmer

Ongoing projects