Latest Projects

Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2024-04-01 - 2027-07-31

Insect-borne cereal viruses are considered the 'winners' of climate change. Winter cereals, especially winter barley and winter wheat, are under increased pressure for infection with Wheat dwarf virus (WDV), Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) and Cereal yellow dwarf virus (CYDV). Cereal plants are most susceptible to these viruses at the juvenile stage. The viruses are transmitted by sucking insects (vectors): WDV is transmitted by a dwarf cicada (Psammotettix alienus), BYDY and CYDV by several aphid species. The activity of the vectors is dependent on temperature and thus weather conditions. Rising temperatures increase the mobility of the vectors. In particular, longer periods of warm temperatures in the fall, in some years into early winter, which are increasingly common, increase the risk of viruses to our cereal crops. The extent of damage varies depending on the degree of infestation; heavily infested crops can lead to total failure. In the project, the necessary preliminary work (pre-breeding) for breeding 1) new resistant breeding lines will be carried out and 2) effective selection methods will be developed, with a focus on resistance to WDV, because WDV is of increasing importance in wheat in Central Europe. In work package 1, the genetic variation in the current breeding material will be examined in multi-site field trials and selection markers for quantitative resistance will be sought. In work package 2, a highly effective resistance factor on chromosome 6A recently discovered by us in an old Eastern European variety will be introduced into regionally adapted winter wheat variety candidates. Overall, the expected new findings on the inheritance of virus resistance and the newly developed pre-breeding material with improved virus resistance represent an essential step towards future-fit wheat varieties and the sustainable safeguarding of wheat cultivation in Austria.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2023-04-01 - 2026-03-31

Global food security is seriously threatened by plant diseases, with one of the most dangerous epidemic fungal diseases in cereal production being Fusarium head blight. On the one hand, the yield is reduced, on the other hand, the quality of the harvest is drastically damaged. In the worst case, there is a serious health risk from the mycotoxins in the grain resulting from the fungal infestation. The aim is therefore to develop resistant varieties in order to avert the problems caused by this disease. In plant breeding, those varieties and new breeding lines that are resistant to the disease must be identified and selected, a task that is usually carried out by trained personnel. Since classical selection is very time-consuming, expensive and prone to error due to the human factor, such a procedure is enormously time-consuming in practice for larger selection programs: an automated approach is required. To avoid these problems, the aim of the project is to use a drone to automatically capture high-resolution images of the field plots and classify the different test lines. As there is no suitable technology for the specific task (high-resolution images, extreme flight altitude, oblique images), a new system for image acquisition must be developed. In addition, existing methods for image analysis are not suitable in this setup due to the highly variable environmental conditions. A new robust and generally applicable approach is required. In addition, the effort for labeling the data must be reduced in order to ensure a practically applicable system that is accepted in plant breeding. This requires close cooperation between breeders (from a plant science perspective) and computer scientists (from a technical perspective).
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.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations