Main research question/goal
In this project we investigate the relationship between plant architecture (e.g. branching capacity) and important agronomic traits in perennial ryegrass, such as persistence, sward density, forage quality, yield, and regrowth capacity after mowing. On this basis, we determine the ideal architecture type of the crop for optimal cultivation, quality, and yield. In addition, we examine to what extent plant architecture is genetically determined. We identify the key genes that control plant architecture, investigate the allelic diversity amenable for genetic selection, and we develop methods to use this knowledge in breeding practice. At the same time the relationship between plant architecture, pruning needs, and production quality and homogeneity in apple is examined at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Prof. Wannes Keulemans).Research approach
This project builds on ILVO's broad expertise in grassland exploitation as well as genetic research and breeding of perennial ryegrass. We implement innovative technologies for the genetic characterization of the gene pool and develop genome-wide molecular markers that can be used for association genetics and breeding. The genetic diversity of a large population (including natural accessions and (pre-) breeding material) is mapped using Next Generation Sequencing DNA analysis technologies. Through comparative genomics, the ryegrass transcriptome is sequenced, assembled, and annotated. This information is used to identify candidate genes that control plant architecture. Next, we examine in these candidate genes whether certain alleles are associated with differences in branching capacity.Relevance/Valorisation
This project provides a thorough analysis of the genetic factors that control plant architecture in perennial ryegrass. This information will be used to develop novel methods of grassland exploitation. Furthermore, the phenotypic and genetic characterization of the gene pool will identify genotypes with optimal branching behaviour, which can serve as starting material for the breeding of new cultivars. We also develop methods for translational research, whereby fundamental scientific knowledge on genetics, plant physiology and molecular regulation of growth and development, is translated from model plants to crops.
IWT - Instituut voor de aanmoediging door wetenschap en technologie in Vlaanderen
KULeuven - Dept. Biosystemen