Main research question/goal
In this project we develop innovative and supporting techniques for azalea breeding. These techniques create new opportunities for improved plant quality, disease resistant plants and expansion of the assortment. The following questions are addressed: 1) Which screening techniques can be optimized to screen for plants resistant to the most important fungal diseases? 2) How can we create more interspecific crosses? 3) What about the segregation and heritability of plant quality traits? 4) Can fundamental biotechnological research be used to build a basic genetic map in azalea that can be used to study complex plant quality traits more profoundly? The state of the art is either limited or not applicable. Because of the complexity of this subject, these knowledge-driven questions have not yet been explored in classical azalea breeding.Research approach
Three work packages are related to three specific domains. WP1 has the goal of introducing new and more disease resistant cultivars. It complies with recent environmental regulations to reduce the use of pesticides. WP2 explores techniques for interspecific hybridization to allow the breeder to go beyond the rather narrow gene pool that is currently used. WP3 focuses on the heritability of plant quality traits to select more profoundly (and more efficiently) when new crosses are made. The aim is to maintain and/or to improve the present cultivation standard. Sharing this knowledge and technological insight with the stakeholders is addressed separately through service provision and promotion of innovation.Relevance/Valorisation
This project has resulted in a three-fold knowledge platform that is directly applicable to azalea breeding. Two screening methods for disease resistance have been developed. These methods are systematically valorized for the gene pool and are implemented on a routine basis as a selection criterium in the breeding programme. We have gained enough insight into interspecific hybridization to generate a set of new plants (previously impossible crosses) that can be used in the breeding programme. Scent seems particularly promising. The heritability of complex plant features such as leaf shape and colour and plant architecture has resulted in a number of QTLs on the genetic map. Further research is needed to implement the results in the breeding programme.
IWT - Instituut voor de aanmoediging door wetenschap en technologie in Vlaanderen