Main research question/goal
Industrial chicory is mainly bred for its inulin content. The global food industry uses inulin as a prebiotic fibre in dairy products and pastry. In the past, crossing different chicory varieties delivered hybrid genotypes with an increased inulin yield. This 'chicory protoplast' project focuses on two main objectives to improve chicory breeding: Can we introduce cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) in industrial chicory to obtain an economically justified seed production of hybrid varieties? Moreover, can we enlarge the genetic variation of the presently narrow gene pole by introducing desired features of wild and cultivated Cichorium species in our industrial chicory varieties without incorporating the undesired traits?Research approach
Through asymmetric fusion of industrial chicory (C. intybus) protoplasts and protoplasts of other Cichorium species, both nuclear and cytoplasmic DNA can be combined in one new plant cell. The main objective of this fusion technique is to introduce CMS, a cytoplasmic feature, into our industrial chicory. However, somatic hybridization through protoplast fusion still needs to be optimized in chicory: technical aspects of protoplast isolation, fusion and regeneration and an effective screening of putative hybrid fusion products is under investigation.Relevance/Valorisation
This project is a cooperation between ILVO and a private chicory breeding company (Cosucra Groupe Warcoing S.A). The production of somatic hybrids and cybrids through protoplast fusion can lead to the development of new, economically important cultivars for the company. The knowledge of the genetic aspects of chicory obtained by the research can be advantageous for further breeding. When the protoplast fusion technique shows its value for innovative breeding in chicory, the application can be expanded to more crops in horticulture where an increase of the genetic variation or the introduction of desired features is wanted.