Consumer quality traits, such as flavour, nutritional value, colour and firmness are becoming increasingly important in current plant breeding programs. Advances in X-omics technologies make it possible to study these complex, multifactorial traits. The Breeding for Quality group aims to elucidate the genetic and molecular basis underlying these fruit quality traits, using genetic, genomic and metabolomics approaches.
Research is carried out in a multi-disciplinary setting, in close collaboration with research groups specialised in sensory analyses, human nutrition, metabolomics and statistics. In addition there is a longstanding collaboration with several breeding companies.
Our research approach
Our research mainly focusses on elucidating the molecular genetic and biochemical basis of flavour and health-related metabolic pathways in tomato and pepper. In general we use two complementary approaches:
- a genetic approach including utilisation of (exotic) germplasm collections, development of breeding populations and extensive geno- and phenotyping to identify QTLs underlying flavour attributes and health-related compounds and
- a functional genomics/metabolomics approach to elucidate the biochemical pathways and key genes underlying specific flavour-related volatiles and health-related metabolites. Highlights of our research include a detailed insight in the genetic loci and metabolic pathways relevant for tomato fruit flavour and the elucidation of a novel mechanism to determine the release of flavour-related volatiles through differential glyco-conjugation of their immediate precursors.
Focus on genetic strategies
Future focus is geared towards the design of (molecular) genetic strategies and the development of breeding (half) materials to solve four major problems/needs:
- to maintain a good fruit quality throughout the post-harvest production chain in order to prevent or limit food waste,
- to maintain quality at increased production and yield,
- to achieve good quality fruits under sub-optimal growing conditions and
- to develop specialised food products for specific consumer groups (personalised nutrition).