To meet the goals of sustainable and circular agriculture and food production, new crop varieties need to be developed that are more resilient, use less input of chemical crop protection products and fertilizers, and can cope with extreme climate conditions. Furthermore, food products produced from these crops should have a high quality and long shelf life to reduce waste in the food chain.
New breeding technologies
Introducing these traits into crops by classical breeding is time consuming and will take 5-20 years, depending on the crop. Therefore, new breeding technologies are essential to produce crop varieties that meet the challenges of today and the near future. One of these advances in new breeding tools is the most promising CRISPR gene editing technology. With this key technology crop traits can be modified or introduced into cultivars with high efficiency and in a single or a few generations without linkage drag, which is impossible with conventional breeding technologies.
Although the standard CRISPR technology toolbox is available and can be used for a number of crops, there are still numerous bottlenecks (e.g. recalcitrant crops, mutation efficiency, alternative tools of the toolbox, polyploid crops, IP claims, EU-regulation) that hamper the exploitation by breeding companies. To overcome several of these bottlenecks and to evaluate the potential of new versions of gene editing for breeding, this TKI partnership of academic groups and industrial partners aims to explore, develop, improve and implement an enabling toolbox for gene editing for plant breeding, and to keep up with the pace of new developments in this rapidly evolving field. With this toolbox we expect to facilitate and catalyze innovations in science and industry, and shorten the breeding process substantially to produce new crop varieties for sustainable, circular agriculture.