Work package 4: Novel breeding strategies and tools

A unifying novelty implemented by work package 4 will consist in incorporating below-ground traits, either related to roots or to the rhizosphere microbiome, as derived from the phenotyping efforts achieved in work package 2.

Novel tools such as molecular markers targeting these unconventional traits will be developed and released to breeders. Novel breeding strategies, strongly involving breeders and other stakeholders along the production chain, will consist in conducting genomic selection for bread and durum wheat on the one hand, and participatory, evolutionary breeding for durum wheat on the other hand.

For bread wheat and potato, designing hybrids will be another novel strategy developed in work package 4 to exploit heterosis for above- and below-ground traits involved in crop performance under combined stresses. This novel genetic material will be used by other work packages, from controlled lab, semi-field or field conditions (work packages 2 and 3) to farmers' networks across Europe (work package 5), both in conventional and organic farming systems.


Work package 4 aims to develop novel breeding strategies and tools to improve crops for adapting to combined water and nutrient stresses, with the ambition to constitute general strategies that can be exploited in any other condition of multiple contemporary stresses. The specific objectives are to:

  • Identify genetic associations between markers, below- and above-ground traits for yield adaptation to combined stresses (Task 4.1)
  • Develop a genomic selection (GS) strategy for breeding of adaptation to combined stresses (Task 4.2)
  • Develop an evolutionary participatory breeding strategy for yield adaptation to combined stresses in durum wheat (Task 4.3)
  • Develop a strategy to design F1 hybrids in bread wheat and potato to cope with combined stresses (Task 4.4)


  • Nicola Pecchioni, CREA, Work package leader
  • Sjaak van Heusden, SOLYNTA, Work package co-leader