Breeding chicory for medicine

Published on
February 23, 2018

While chicory has clear benefits for health the plant has even greater potential. Wageningen University & Research will be leading an international research effort by companies, institutes and universities to improve the crop. New breeding techniques could enable chicory to produce components which can be used in medicine. The EU is financing the four-year project.

Chicory contains many healthy substances which can, for example, slow down the growth of fungi and bacteria. The crop is very difficult to breed using the current technologies, breeding and selection, and it is also hard to increase production of the healthy components. New breeding techniques such as Crispr-Cas can be used to develop new chicory varieties, which contain more fibres and components suitable for medicinal applications.

Benefits digestion

Chicory is a crop that is similar to sugar beet and related to endive. At the moment, it is mainly being bred for inulin, which is valuable as a dietary fibre and sweetener. Inulin is often processed in bread and dairy products because of the way it benefits digestion, for instance.

Improving the plant

In addition to bioactive components, the research will also study how to improve the crop architecture – the so-called design of a crop. Another research goal is to develop better chicory breeding programmes.

The research is financed as part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme to the tune of 7.3 million euros for a period of over four years. The activities and results of the so-called CHIC programme will be available via the website of the project.


The research partners are: