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Improving nitrogen efficiency in European winter wheat under drought stress - CORNET EFFICIENT WHEAT

Project duration:
Start  01. October 2011
End 30. September 2013

Projekt Summary
The worldwide climate change is influencing the agriculture in middle Europe. As extreme eather events like heat and persistent drought become regularity, especially Pannonic regions suffer water insufficiency. Nevertheless other arid regions in central Europe have the same problems. Nitrogen (N) as an essential plant nutrient is affected most by heat and drought. Nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) is mostly influenced by the yield. Consequently wheat cultivars with a remaining high yield on a high protein level are the best adapted on the changing climatic conditions.
As bread making industry needs stable high quality of wheat and the farmers do not earn more if the protein content increases over 15 %, the main goal is to develop cultivars with high N efficiency, high yield stability and high baking quality even under unlike weather conditions. Three different working packages will be conducted: assessments in field plots, analyses of indirect and direct baking quality and association mapping of QTL  for improved NUE under drought stress conditions. The project stratefy is to examine if existing high yielding European cultivars carry valuable alleles for enhanced NUE which become effective under drought stress. The core set of 30 winter wheat genotypes bred in Austria, France, Germany, Hungary and UK represents the elite breeding material of different European climates. These genotypes will grow on field plots with natural water respectively supplementary irrigation on sandy soils. In addition to the field trials greenhouse experiments will be conducted under controlled conditions. As basis for the aimed genetic association mapping, a combination of morpho-physical trait evaluation and laboratory analyses concerning candidate genes will be performed together with an estimation of N-related paramenters in wheat straw and grain and in the soil. Innovation targets of EFFICIENT WHEAT are the establishment of applicable screening methods for NUE traits; identification of genome regions, genes, and markers associated with improved NUE under drought stress; identification of cultivars with high yield and quality potential carrying genes associated with higher NUE under dry conditions, as well as the development of new molecular markers useful for marker-assisted selection approaches.
Economic impact
The European Union is the biggest wheat producer in the world (ca. 124 million tons, EU-27 in 2008). In the EU-27 Germany, Hungary and Austria accounts for 22% of the wheat production. Breeding of high  yielding varieties better adapted to biotic and abiotic stress is one of the driving motors for research and development in plant breeding and seed companies. EFFICIENT WHEAT presumably will give an additional tool for them to improve their existing methods for variety breeding and selection.
In Germany and Austria the SME-dominated plant breeding sector is the beneficiary of this project. Due to other structures in Hungary where breeding of cultivars is mainly done by research facilities like CRC, seed. companies multiplying wheat varieties will mainly benefit from the projekt outcomes. They carry on field trials in oder to select the best varieties fit for the specific enviromental conditions. They commercialize those selected genotypes only that fulfilled the basic requirements of the growing regions in Hungary. In all cases EFFICIENT WHEAT will contribute to maintain the competitiveness of the plant breeding and seed compsnies in Germany, Austria and Hungary. International cooperation between SMEs. research institutes and associations will be strengthened. SMEs will be able to create new business relationships in other countries.

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