Testing and application of markers in breeding
Project member: Bo Gertsson
Associated to the project: Dr. Gabriele Engqvist
So far breeding of Salix for energy purposes has relied on traditional breeding methods with crossings followed by plant selections in field trials. Great progress has been made in improved shoot growth, and at the same time increased resistance against important pests and diseases, such as leaf rust and tip-damaging insect pests. But it will successively become more and more difficult to make such progress using simple breeding methods; especially if the crop needs to be adapted for new environments. This project has the goal to make breeding of Salix more efficient by development of molecular markers to be used as selection tools for plant characters that cannot easily be selected for in the Swedish breeding nursery. DNA markers for such plant traits are identified and tested, first in special populations and then also in the ordinary plant material for breeding. If the breeder gets a battery of such markers, several characters can be tested simultaneously on a large number of single plants, in the laboratory. Only the most promising seedlings will advance out in the field for further testing. As for the most severe disease, leaf rust, DNA analyses will also inform about the diversity of rust resistance genes in the breeding material. To guarantee sustainable biomass production a broad genetic background of rust resistance based on many different genes in the Salix varieties is desirable in order to impede rust adaptation to the resistance traits.