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Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2022-07-01 - 2023-06-30

Oats (Avena sativa L.) are an important crop in modern conventional and organic crop production systems. Nevertheless, the oats acreage in the European Union has decreased from about 3.1 million to 2.6 million hectares in recent years. With the decline in oat acreage in favour of other small-grain cereals such as wheat or maize, breeding activities in this traditional crop have also decreased. However, the cultivation of oats can significantly contribute to loosening crop rotation and increasing agrobiodiversity in farming, while oats are also considered a nutrient-rich food and feed. Saatzucht Edelhof, based in the Waldviertel, is a traditional Austrian plant breeding company that has been involved in oats breeding since the beginning of the 20th century and is currently the only breeder of new oat varieties in Austria. Through years of expanding and utilising the genetic diversity of its oat gene pool, Saatzucht Edelhof has a broad portfolio of modern oat varieties, both for the Austrian and international markets. There is therefore also considerable interest from foreign partner companies in Saatzucht Edelhof's oat varieties, and many varieties have already been registered in several European countries. With the increase in disease and pest pressure due to climate change and the striving towards a more sustainable agriculture with less agrochemical inputs such as fungicides, resistance breeding has become more and more a focus in recent years. Infection of oats used for food and feed by Fusarium fungi plays an especially important role: If oat panicles are infested with Fusarium graminearum during the flowering phase, a high concentration of fungal toxins (=mycotoxins) that are harmful to humans and animals can later be found in the harvested crop. The breeding of Fusarium-resistant oat varieties can thus be seen as a key technology to enable farmers to produce healthy and mycotoxin-free crops. However, the adequate assessment of Fusarium resistance in oats is a great challenge, e.g. due to the special flowering behaviour with a long and sequential flowering of the individual spikelets within each panicle. The OatToxLess project aims to develop the basis for the development of a scoring scheme for Fusarium resistance in oats and to investigate the possibility to use associated morphological traits as indirect selection. For this purpose, a panel of breeding lines and oat varieties will be investigated in a field trial to collect high quality data as a basis for developing an effective Fusarium screening method in oats in order to guide selection decisions in oat breeding programs.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2022-01-01 - 2025-01-08

Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) is the fourth most produced cereal crop worldwide, and plays an essential role in human and animal nutrition as well as in the brewing industry. In recent decades the growing world population and consumption demanded an increased barley yield production that has to be combined with superior malting quality. Malting quality, as a principal factor in brewing, and grain yield have a complex genetic architecture and are expensive to measure rendering both of them challenging targets in barley breeding programs. Current malting barley varieties suffer however from a lower grain yield in comparison to feeding barley. Massive changes in climate patterns and milder winters, have triggered farmers to more and more substitute spring barley, which is an initial source of malt, by winter barley. Hence, developing winter type malting barley via extensive crossing with spring barley is becoming a key objective in barley breeding programs. Longer periods of warm temperatures during autumn and winter are furthermore resulting in an increasing growth of pest populations. This leads to a higher frequency of virus-based diseases such as Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV), which is vector-transmitted by aphids. Since the common plant protection measure of neonicotinoid seed treatment was prohibited by new regulations from the European Commission, the most effective and sustainable approach to prevent yield losses by BYDV is the development of new resistant/tolerant varieties. The main goal for barley breeders is thus the simultaneous improvement of grain yield, malting quality and disease resistance to develop varieties that optimally pyramid the plethora of these agronomic characteristics. This poses a severe challenge to breeders due to the quantitative and multigenic inheritance of these traits, which are furthermore strongly influenced by different environmental and agronomical conditions. In this project, we aim to address this challenge by merging several omics-based breeding methods to accelerate the genetic improvement of winter malting barley. For this purpose, phenotypic data from multi-location grain yield, virus resistance, and micro-malting trials will serve as the basis to establish an omics-based breeding pipeline in an applied barley breeding program. This pipeline will facilitate a routine selection for virus resistance and superior yielding winter malting barley after completion of the project. The project will be carried out in a close collaborative work between the academic partner University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU) and several industrial partners.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2021-09-01 - 2025-08-31

Agrobiodiversity is a vital subset of biodiversity and is the result of the interaction between the environment, genetic resources and management systems used by culturally diverse people. It is a crucial prerequisite for ecologically and economically sustainable agricultural systems and is an important tool for ecological intensification. The aim of CROPDIVA is to reinforce agrobiodiversity on different levels and along distinct geographic and socio-economic areas. The activities of CROPDIVA are clustered around five connected research work packages and three pillars, each with a set of specific objectives: i) promotion of six key underutilised arable crops: oats, hull-less barley, triticale, buckwheat, faba bean and lupin; ii) creation of value chains for selected underutilised crops; and iii) study of the socio-economic impact of project results. The concept of CROPDIVA is an innovative challenge driven approach based on the promotion of underutilised crops in sustainable cropping systems and new regional value chains. Project activities will focus on the following major challenges: improved resilience of cropping systems, alignment of the economic and social needs of farmers with ecological goals as well as marketing of new food/non-food products meeting consumer demands. The results gathered in CROPDIVA will not be descriptive, but will be used for innovative solutions along the entire food and non-food chain to enable biodiversity management on all levels, including diversifying the use of genetic resources, crop production systems, new food/non-food products, market opportunities while satisfying producers and investigated consumer requirements.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations