Research project Development of novel breeding technology for improved root system, drought tolerance and sustainable plant productions

Hairy root development in Osteospermum fruticosum

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Main research question

With climate change, we are experiencing more and more periods of drought, a water shortage increasingly earlier in the summer, and heavier precipitation in the fall and winter. These longer periods of drought will result in significant yield losses. In addition, the use of chemical plant growth regulators is under pressure due to their potentially harmful effects on humans and the environment.

In this project we want to address these 2 topics in parallel by developing a new sustainable breeding technology that focuses on the roots, using rhizogenic bacteria.

Research approach

Natural strains of Rhizobium rhizogenes contain a unique Ri plasmid (which includes the rol genes) that allows them to transfer and incorporate the T-DNA genes lying on this plasmid into the plant genome. The result is extreme root formation (hairy roots). When these roots in turn regenerate into a plant one obtains Ri plants. The presence of the Ri genes in these plants results in a typical phenotype with a more pronounced root system and more compact growth, as well as changes in flowering and leaf morphology. These Ri plants are 'pre-breeding' material and can result in commercial cultivars with a stronger root system and meeting all the specific quality characteristics.


This new breeding technology will make the agricultural and horticultural sector more resilient to drought and contributes to more sustainable production using fewer plant growth regulators.