Plant breeding

Plant breeding for sustainable crop production (Prof. dr. ir. Dirk Reheul)

Triticale breeding (Prof. dr. ir. Geert Haesaert)


Plant breeding for sustainable crop production (Prof. dr. ir. Dirk Reheul)

We consider plant breeding as a prerequisite for sustainable crop production.

In the past decades the unit has conducted research into the development of new germplasm of forage crops and grain legumes, with the focus on maize and field beans and some grass species. Our maize material has an excellent cold tolerance. Our small seeded field beans are protein-rich, tannin-free and lodging resistant. The breeding programs with maize and faba beans are temporary put on hold and the germplasm is conserved in cold storage. 

The focus currently is on research and breeding of  tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.). We have a collection of ecotypes and varieties of tall fescue, our actual lead project. 

plant_breeding_for_sustainable_crop_production_1.jpgWe have a special interest in plant variety rights and acquired an appreciated knowledge in variety testing, biosafety of GM crops and in the coexistence between GM crops and non-GM crops.

Why and how we are breeding tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea)

If climate change is proceeding, perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.), our dominant forage grass species, is expected to suffer from warmer and drier summers. Tall fescue has a good drought and heat tolerance. Although it has a better yield potential than perennial ryegrass, its palatability and digestibility are lower. We apply a dual strategy in our work with tall fescue: (i) breeding research and (ii) variety development. 

(i) The breeding research is focusing on the reasons for the lower animal preference and for the lower digestibility compared to Lolium species and on methods that allow a reliable, feasible and quick quality assessment.

plant_breeding_for_sustainable_crop_production_2.jpg(ii) The goal is to create high quality varieties for the European market to be used as single crops or in mixtures with legumes and other grass species. The variety development leans on recurrent selection within and between families. Varieties are synthetics. We currently have breeders’ right for one variety on the Belgian Recommend List. Several candidate varieties have been submitted for National List Testing and for Plant Breeders’ Right. 



Triticale Breeding (Prof. dr. ir. Geert Haesaert)

The triticale breeding program was initiated in 1987 just after its breakthrough on the West-European market. The program was started as extension of the course plant breeding but evolved in a full-fledged program. The focus is on developing robust genotypes with good adaptability to less favourable growing conditions and excellent disease resistance. We try to expand the present breeding pool by making triticale x wheat crosses as well as wheat x rye crosses. Breeding population are not only used to make new varieties but also in genetic studies (e.g. marker development, gene expression). Recent studies focus on phenotypic and genotypic aspects of drought resistance and feed quality (whole plant silage).