Development of novel breeding technology for improved root system, drought tolerance and sustainable plant productions

Hairy root development in Osteospermum fruticosum

In this project we focus on the development of a new approach using rhizogenic agrobacteria as a novel breeding technology.

Natural rhizogenic strains of Rhizobium rhizogenes carry a unique plasmid (the root inducing (Ri) plasmid, containing a.o. the rol genes), which allow the DNA (T-DNA) located on the Ri plasmid to be transferred and integrated in the plant host nuclear genome. This will result in root formation (i.e., hairy roots). From these hairy roots, by tissue culture techniques whole plants can be regenerated, the so-called Ri plants. The presence of Ri T-DNA genes in such plants leads to marked changes in plant morphology. Traits often associated with the Ri phenotype include increased rooting ability and compact growth next to some changes to flower and/or leaf morphology. These Ri plants are pre-breeding material, i.e. the first step in a new breeding strategy where crosses of Ri plants, selection and molecular monitoring of the segregation of the rol genes go hand in hand to obtain a commercial variety or cultivar with a stronger root system and all qualitative standards.

Transformation approach
Source: Desmet et al. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol (2020)

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This project was granted by the SusCrop ERA-NET Cofund on Sustainable Crop Production. It started on April 1st 2021 for a period of 3 years.