The Dutch contribution to this EU project is based on observations that tolerance of abiotic stress in seedlings also increases tolerance against biotic stress (pathogens). It is though that research into this matter could result in a new organic seed health strategy. This knowledge will also be used in crop breeding, where the differences in vigour between seed batches are really shaking things up. This multidisciplinary approach involving seed physiology, microbiology, phytopathology and crop breeding is unique.

For many crop varieties, there is an EU obligation to use organically produced seed. However, not enough of this seed is available. Furthermore, for many crops, too few species are available that are suitable for organic cultivation. In some countries, many exemptions are made to allow the use of regular seed, which is cheaper. For horticulture in the EU, the Dutch sector is the most important supplier of seed and crop species (organic or otherwise). The goal of the Dutch contribution to the project is to provide support to the organic sector and the seed companies supplying this sector with regard to breeding and resolving problems in seed production in order to increase the availability of species and seed.

The results of this breeding work will also be applied to species used for ordinary agriculture, as there is also demand for more sustainable cultivation in this sector. The same applies to research aimed at improving the quality of organically produced seed and seedlings. As a result of the Netherlands' active participation, we have access to a network of 48 European organisations with a wide range of expertise and contacts at all levels of the sector, which is essential for implementation of the project results.

Desired output and impact

The goal of the project is to boost organic seed production, expand the range of available species and to help harmonise European regulation in relation to the use of organic raw materials. This will boost the trading position of the Dutch seed sector. WUR's contribution will specifically focus on the regulation (genetic or otherwise) of seed vigour in relation to seedling tolerance of pathogens and in resistance tests.