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In a new project, financed by Novo Nordisk Foundation, NordGen and Aarhus University will map the Nordic seed collection of protein crops. The project will lead to a substantial lift for the genebank collection and will lead to researchers and plant breeders getting access to brand new information about NordGen’s seeds – information which is vital for developing future plant-based protein sources.

Plant genetic resources are crucial for our agriculture and NordGen is responsible for some of these resources by safeguarding approximately 33 000 seed samples from important crops – the Nordic seed collection. 

“The Nordic seed collection can be compared with a library, where each seed sample is a book. Currently, we know the titles of the books, but we don’t have access to the text inside them – in other words the traits that each seed carry. This project will provide us with that information”, says Michael Lyngkjær, Teamleader at NordGen and responsible for the project.

Researchers and plant breeders use the Nordic seed collection when they are developing the food of the future. Through plant breeding they develop new crop varieties which are adapted to mitigate the effects of climate change, which fulfill stricter environmental demands, or which satisfy our wishes for nutritional content or taste.

Next Generation’s Genebank

Plant breeding is a time- and resource demanding task. It can often take ten years before a new crop variety is developed. The goal of this project is to contribute to a faster course. In the project called “Next generation genebanking: Unlocking the potential of plant genetic resources in the sequencing era”, NordGen and the Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics at Aarhus University will create an entirely new genebank infrastructure enabling researchers to easier and faster find the genes that code for certain traits in the plant.

“This project will lead to new possibilities for researchers and plant breeders. Through faster knowledge about seeds that might be interesting, their work will be greatly facilitated which by extension will promote a green transition of the Nordic agriculture”, says Torben Asp, Professor at Centre for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics at Aarhus University.

The project focuses on 4500 protein crop accessions from the Nordic seed collection, such as peas, beans, lentils, and clover, that will be genotyped and phenotyped. Further, a number of so called core collection will be established. Core collections are a smaller number of seed samples that can represent a large part of the genetic diversity for each species. The project, which will run from 2024-2026, also involves sharing all the gathered information under open access.

It is financed by Novo Nordic Foundation with 15 million DKK.

About Genetic Resources

Genetic resources are living organisms that humans need or might need in the future. These resources provide us with food, medicines, fuel and shelter and are in many cases essential for human life on earth. But in the same way as biodiversity at large is decreasing at unprecedented speed, the genetic diversity is also being lost. At the same time, genetic resources are important tools for solving challenges that for example come with climate change.

About the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre (NordGen)

NordGen is the Nordic countries’ joint genebank and knowledge centre for genetic resources. As an institution under the Nordic Council of Ministers, NordGen conserve and promote a sustainable use of the diversity of farm animals, forests and plants that are important for the Nordic agriculture. Our head office is situated in Alnarp, Sweden along with the Nordic seed collection.

About Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics, Aarhus University

Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics (QGG) is an international research center which do basic and applied research within quantitative genetics and genomics. QGG particularly work with the development of statistical models to be used in animal and plant breeding, studies of the genetic basis for different traits and diseases, and management of genetic resources. 

About Novo Nordic Foundation

Novo Nordic Foundation is an independent Danish foundation with corporate interests. They have the following objectives: to provide a stable basis for the commercial and research activities of the companies in the Novo Group (Novo Nordisk A/S and Novozymes A/S), and to support scientific, humanitarian and social causes.