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The Nordic growing conditions and climate change require adapted crops. But plant breeding processes are costly and take long time. Therefore, much is to be gained from cooperation between private and public actors. The secretariat for the Nordic PPP-collaboration for pre-breeding is placed at NordGen and recently four projects were granted for the sixth round of PPP-funding.

The large multinational breeding companies do not directly breed nor have interest in developing adapted cultivars for a small and particular market, such as for the Nordic region. Because of that we need to address the challenges together. Cooperation is also the very core of the Nordic Public-Private Partnership (PPP) for pre-breeding where pre-breeding is the costly and time-consuming initial step of plant breeding.

“On behalf of the Steering Committee, I am very pleased to announce the decision to provide funding for four projects within the Nordic PPP-partnership. We are convinced that these collaborative projects will generate important knowledge that will benefit Nordic agriculture, both in terms of sustainability and competitiveness," says Birgitte Lund, Chair of the PPP Steering Committee.

The PPP-projects are funded by the Nordic governments and the private companies taking part in the projects. The four projects have been granted a total funding of 34,7 million SEK during 2024 to 2026. The costs are shared equally between the public and the private sector.

New Projects on Berries and Oats

One of the four granted projects is a new collaboration called BERRIES. This project has the main purpose to develop the germplasm of strawberry and raspberry available for Nordic and Baltic breeding.

“In strawberry the project aims to enrich the gene pool for breeding through introduction of novel genes from the origin species of modern strawberry. In raspberry we will explore and exploit the diversity in national raspberry cultivar collections in the Nordic-Baltic countries,” says the Project Leader Dag Røen, Breeder and Project Leader at Njøs Fruit and Berry Center. 

The other new project is titled RobOat with the main aim to develop the resistance of future oats against biotic (especially crown rust and semi-loose smut) and abiotic (drought and waterlogging) stress factors. In this project, the partners will study the less explored oat genetic resources from NordGen and other collections by combining diverse phenotyping, genotyping and genomic methodologies.

“Breeding future oat cultivars by the smart and wide use of genetic resources is a key for sustainable solution in agriculture within climate crisis paralleled with growing demand for healthy and high-quality raw oat materials. RobOat will facilitate in ensuring sufficient supply of oats by resilient future cultivars having particularly in mind Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2023 and the European Green Deal Strategy,” says Project Leader Marja Jalli, Group Manager and Senior Scientist at Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).

Resilient Spring Wheat and Potatoes

The other two granted projects are continuations of previous PPP projects. One of these is called SustainPotato II, a collaborative project in which more than 300 potato varieties are included to develop resistance against several skin blemish diseases and late blight (Phytophthora infestans). The other continuing project is called CResWheat II, which has the main objective to support the breeding of climate-resilient spring wheat by identifying genetic resources for disease resistance, drought tolerance and important adaptive traits for the Nordic region, as well as conducting genetic studies and providing breeders with germplasm and markers.

“Having successfully identified resistance donors for seven major wheat diseases, pre-harvest sprouting, and early spring drought in the initial phase of CResWheat, we are excited about the opportunity to continue our work”, says project leader Therese Bengtsson, Associate Professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

By strategically utilizing these donors, the project established 16 populations, which now will be evaluated to identify superior progenies and genetic markers for use in marker-assisted backcrossing and selection. In the second phase, the goals include identifying donors resistant to the re-emerging wheat pest, gout fly, and the cereal cyst nematode, pests increasingly affecting spring wheat production as a result of pesticide restrictions, poor crop rotations, and climate change.

“The significant advantage of public-private partnerships lies in the increased exchange of knowledge, resources and educational initiatives, which will remain an integral aspect of CResWheat,” says Therese Bengtsson.

List of Project Partners

"BERRIES – Development of Germplasm for Berry Crops"

Njøs Fruit and Berry Centre AS (NO)//Graminor AS (NO)//Natural Resources Institute Finland, Luke (FI)//Estonian University of Life Sciences (EE)//Institute of Horticulture (LV)//The Programme for Diversity of Cultivated Plants /SLU (SE)//University of Copenhagen (DK)//The Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, NIBIO (NO)

"RobOat – Robustness of Oats for the Nordic Region"

Agrologica (DK)//Boreal Plant Breeding Ltd (FI)//Graminor AS (NO)//Lantmännen (SE)//Agricultural University of Iceland (IS)//Luke (FI)//Lund University (SE)//Norwegian University of Life Sciences, NMBU (NO)//NordGen (the Nordic countries)//Nordic Seed A/S (DK)//Oatly (SE)//SLU (SE)

"CResWheat – Pre-breeding for Nordic climate-resilient spring wheat II"

SLU (SE)//NordGen (the Nordic countries)//Nordic Seed A/S (DK)//Boreal Plant Breeding Ltd (FI)//Sejet Planteforædling I/S (DK)//Luke (FI)//Lantmännen (SE)//NMBU (NO)//Aarhus University (DK)//Graminor AS (NO)//Centre of Estonian Rural Research and Knowledge, METK (EE)

"SustainPotato – PPP Collaboration to Advance Nordic Potato Variety Development With Enhanced Resistance to Diseases by Pre-breeding Phase II"

Graminor AS (NO)//Danespo (DK)//SLU (SE)//NIBIO (NO)//NordGen (the Nordic countries)//METK (EE)