Launch of EU Research Project BreedingValue: Breeding Strategies for Resilient and Highly Nutritious Berries

European research partners and breeders are coming together to jointly focus on a better understanding and adaptation of the genetic resources of strawberry, raspberry and blueberry for a sustainable berry production throughout the European Union.

Multidisciplinary Consortium Aiming to Create New Highly Resilient Berry Cultivars

Increased demand in berries across Europe meets challenges brought on by climate change, environmental preservation and the need for new cultivation systems as well a high-quality produce. The new European collaborative research project BreedingValue launching today will explore the most promising berry genetic resources (GenRes) to address these challenges. Receiving just short of EUR 7 million from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme, the project will be coordinated by the Università Politecnica Delle Marche in Ancona, Italy, over the next four years.

Berry production is widely established throughout Europe. Especially strawberry as the most important crop, but also raspberry and blueberry now play a significant role in European agriculture. These berries offer valuable prospects for the development and economy of rural areas in the EU due to their high value, both in the fresh market segment and the processing industry. Growing these berries requires highly specialised knowledge and is highly resource intensive with the current cultivation systems. Current berry cultivars have a limited environmental tolerance which is determined by the plant’s germplasm and reduces resilience to different environmental factors.

This is where BreedingValue intends to leave a mark. The multidisciplinary consortium of public and private actors, internationally renowned scientists, GenRes managers and SMEs will allow for studying the current biodiversity of these crops by applying advanced genotyping and phenotyping tools, and identifying new pre-breeding materials to be used for the creation of new resilient cultivars with high quality fruit. Furthermore, in order to create a strong connection between public and private institutions, berry breeders will be invited to participate in open calls for proposals to collaborate on specific project activities.

“Central to the success of BreedingValue is the establishment of a large network of experts in conservation, genetics, genomics, breeding, biotechnology, biochemistry, phytopathology, bioinformatics, statistics and the production of berries. This unprecedented multidisciplinary structure will help us attain and develop new insights, information and concepts benefitting the berry GenRes community and reinforcing the connection between EU producers and consumers.” says Prof. Bruno Mezzetti, Full Professor in Fruit Crop Breeding and Biotechnology in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Environmental and Crop Science at the Università Politecnica Delle Marche and coordinator of the BreedingValue consortium.

Overall, the 20 partners jointly pursue the following key objectives:

  • Designing innovative breeding strategies providing berry producers with commercial cultivars ensuring resilience, without a fruit quality penalty, across a broad range of geographic conditions.
  • Exploring berry germplasm with a particular focus on contemporary challenges in breeding, in order to assure genetic diversity and berry industry success across Europe.
  • Improving characterisation and selection efficiency among berry germplasm by providing new modern genotyping and phenotyping tools for identifying, sharing and disseminating results on factors controlling resilience, stress tolerance, yield stability and fruit quality.
  • Specifying and communicating sensorial quality factors and consumer quality preferences for different berry species in different parts of Europe.

Partner institutions from Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom will form the project consortium. The Eurice team is involved in BreedingValue in the successful implementation of the project goals by supporting the consortium in all aspects of project and innovation management as well as strategic dissemination and communication activities. The project will officially kick off its activities with a first virtual meeting from 20 to 21 January 2021.