Innovative approaches to optimize genetic diversity for sustainable farming systems of the future - INSUSFAR

INSUSFAR is a cooperative research project, funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) in the frame of the funding initiative "Innovative Pflanzenzüchtung im Anbausystem" (IPAS, Plant Breeding innovations in the Farming System). The Project is being performed jointy by the Technical University of Munich, The University of Kassel and the Julius-Kühn-Institut.

Sustainable agricultural systems will need an excellent capacity for self-regulation and self-regeneration to allow for overall reduced external inputs while maintaining or increasing overall system output including delivery of ecological services. System output will be measured in the future not only as crop yields for food, feed, and energy but also as yields relative to inputs such as energy. Biodiversity at all levels is a major system component allowing for efficient self-regulation.   However, there is a lack of knowledge about the optimum level of diversity needed for high yield and yield stability, while at the same time achieving maximum self-regulation and self-regeneration to reduce the necessary inputs in a giving agricultural system.

The overall aim of the proposed work is to achieve a better understanding of how genetic diversity in self-pollinating crops with a focus on wheat grown in production systems characterized by reduced tillage and the use of living mulch crops can be optimized. To achieve these aims, the breeding innovations realized until now will be analyzed for their effects on adaptation to agricultural systems differing in input and diversity levels to determine which types will be necessary for diversified sustainable systems. The breeding innovations realized so far will be described and their role in the agricultural systems’ change management will be determined and critically assessed. The potential of plant breeding innovations for the development of sustainable production systems will be investigated by analyzing their performance when grown in systems characterized by different input levels and different levels of system specific species diversity.

Varieties, lines and populations as well as the genetic changes in genetically diverse populations will be studied. Model and real cropping systems will be made use of. Besides crop performance, ecological and economical parameters will be analyzed. The results will be reflected for their potential effects on agricultural practices and breeding methods and goals as well as the political and administrative measures that might be necessary to support sustainable agricultural development. As breeding is a long-term process, a critical aim is also to ensure that the data generated in the project will be available for future research as public and readily accessible source kept in an information system.