Category Archives: Plant Breeding

Response Doctoral Program: Unlock valuable protein sources in the pseudocereal buckwheat

Pseudocereals such as buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench) are under-utilized as sources for plant-based proteins in current times, where the world is searching for a diversification of agricultural cropping systems. Buckwheat was an important crop in recent times in Western Europe including Switzerland and has several qualities:

  • It is a valuable source of proteins for human nutrition. Buckwheat contains all nine essential amino acids which makes it a high-quality, complete protein. It is rich in limiting amino acids like lysine and arginine, which are in shortest supply in plant-based diets.
  • It became popular in satisfying the increasing demand for gluten-free foods.
  • It has a unique taste – in contrast to rice or wheat.
  • So far, it is little affected by pests and diseases in the field that could reduce its yield.
  • As a cover crop, it contributes to soil protection and soil improvement as part of a crop rotation.
  • It is good for pollinators and a rich source of nectar while contributing to a biologically diverse agriculture.

Despite all these positive qualities, buckwheat cultivation suffers from low and unstable yields, and in comparison to wheat, the baking quality is inferior. Potentially, this bottleneck can be overcome with breeding. Here, the screening of genetic resources could unlock undiscovered potential and the cultivation of buckwheat on Swiss farms may experience a renaissance!

Continue reading Response Doctoral Program: Unlock valuable protein sources in the pseudocereal buckwheat

Plant-based proteins: Peas as a source of necessary amino acids for human nutrition

In a series of articles, we introduce research from the PSC network that support increases of ecological plant-based protein production for human nutrition in Switzerland and worldwide.

Peas, for example the yellow pea, have a high concentration of almost all essential amino acids. Compared to soy, they have no allergenic potential. They are particularly interesting for human nutrition, both in cooking and as a basis in the food industry for meat substitutes or protein-rich drinks.

A challenge, however, is their cultivation. Here it is necessary to maintain a crop rotation that allows up to 8 years break between cultivation on the same land. Why? Soil legume fatigue is caused by various harmful soil organisms and affects pea roots to the point of total crop failure.

Resistant and high-yielding peas were the focus of a collaboration between ETH Zurich and FIBL. Research was conducted to see if peas resistant to soil legume fatigue could be grown with shorter crop rotations. In fact, resistant pea plants were found whose roots were heavily colonized by helpful soil organisms. Do these soil organisms help repel the harmful organisms?

With a newly established resistance screening reproducible distinction between susceptible and resistant pea lines is possible. The screening system allows to predict PRRC resistance for a given field site and offers a tool for selection at the seedling stage in breeding nurseries.

Citation

Lukas Wille, Mario Kurmann, Monika M. Messmer, Bruno Studer and Pierre Hohmann (2021). Untangling the Pea Root Rot Complex Reveals Microbial Markers for Plant Health. Front. Plant Sci.: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2021.737820

Some of the researchers

Dr. Lukas Wille, researcher at FiBL, Switzerland and former researcher at ETH Zurich is working on complexes of root rot pathogens, resistance of pea against root rot disease and the role that microbial diversity and plant-microbe interactions play in shaping the pathobiome and plant resistance. Bruno Studer is professor for Molecular Plant Breeding at ETH Zurich

Research on plant-based proteins at the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center

By 2035, plant-based protein products such as tofu, tempeh, seitan, vegi convenience or meat analog could replace 11-22% of conventional meat in Switzerland (BLW, 2022). Far too little to live within the limits of available resources of our planet. The Planetary Health Diet suggests eating more pulses (such as peas or beans), nuts, protein-rich grains (such as oats) and pseudocereals (such as buckwheat) and replacing at least half of meat with plant-based proteins (EAT-Lancet, 2020). How can we transform our food systems? We need consumers to accept increasing ampounts of plant-based proteins in their weekly diets and farmers to be able to grow more plant-based proteins in ecological ways.

We introduce research from the PSC network that support increases of plant-based protein production for human nutrition in Switzerland and worldwide.

Plant-based proteins: Finding a resistant gene against the novel bean leaf crumple virus in South American beans

In South America per capita consumption of beans is 14kg/capita compared to Switzerland with below 1.92/capita (statista.com). This shows the importance of traditional beans in the protein-supply of populations in South America.

Now a new threat to this base of food security has arrived: Since 2002 the novel begomovirus (BLCrV) is infecting common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) and is increasingly widespread in Colombia, the Andean and Mesoamerican areas. The virus is associated with leaf crumple symptoms and significant yield losses.

It is transmitted by the whitefly vector Bemisia tabaci and causes devastating yield losses in susceptible cultivars. Current climate change scenarios suggest that the whitefly populations can reach higher altitudes and move towards more temperate regions, expanding the range of infestation to other countries in Latin America.

Management of the disease relies on the use of insecticides to restrict the whitefly advancement, but resistance to these products have started to evolve. A more sustainable solution to control the disease is deploying plant genetic resistance.

Continue reading Research on plant-based proteins at the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center