Multidisciplinary research to improve lettuce crops started

6 June 2019

How do you create lettuce with the best qualities? How do you improve the growth and resilience of the crop? Researchers and the breeding industry will work on this theme together in the Perspectief programme LettuceKnow. On 3 June, all parties involved met for the joint start of the programme.

In ten research projects, different aspects of lettuce will be studied. Using DNA sequencing and by measuring the activity of genes, the project team looks at how lettuce regulates growth and, for example, resistance to plant diseases. Which external changes in lettuce are caused by changing environmental conditions such as drought or heat will also be investigated. In other projects, the focus is on bioinformatics, in which the researchers want to use big data and machine learning to find good selections of traits. ‘The ultimate goal is to design powerful breeding techniques to cleverly breed new lettuce varieties with favorable properties for growth and resilience,' programme leader and Professor Translational Plant & Microbial Biology Guido van den Ackerveken (Utrecht University) says. The findings should ultimately lead to knowledge that is useful for many different crops. The researchers use lettuce as a model for research into the optimal genetic composition of leafy vegetables and other so-called composite flowers, such as sunflower and chicory.

Kick-off

On 3 June the kick-off of the programme took place in the Academy Building (Academiegebouw) of Utrecht University. The meeting marked the official start of the research projects. More than 40 participants from universities and companies met, in order to get to know each other and to discuss the headlines of the cooperation. Professor Guido van den Ackerveken was the chairman of the day. Scientists of Utrecht University, Wageningen University & Research and Leiden University presented their projects in order to create further opportunities for collaboration. The day ended with a keynote lecture by Katherine Denby of the University of York.

Collaboration

The scientists of the various universities in this programme are joining forces with seven large breeding companies, who together control the majority of the global lettuce market. The eighth partner is Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands in Wageningen. They have a large collection of lettuce lines that the researchers will use extensively to broaden the knowledge base of lettuce. With this consortium of public and private organisations, the research theme can be studied from different angles. Application of the gathered knowledge is the key goal.

Watch the video on the LettuceKnow programme

Perpectief

Research programme LettuceKnow received funding in 2018 through NWO’s Perspectief programme. Perspectief is a funding instrument for multidisciplinary research that contributes to technological innovation with potential economic and societal impact.  

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Source: NWO