Plant B+B network will strengthen the existing excellence at UGent and the capacity of its global collaborators. Partner selection was based on their current research/activities on plant breeding/biotechnology, the existing and previous collaborations with UGent and their commitment to scientific communication.

Coordination and organisation to exploit synergies and mutual integration will be a strategic feature of the Plant B&B consortium that aims at exploiting existing expertise and new biotechnologies to improve readiness to climate change and/or plant health in a range of crops (e.g. cassava, potato, banana, maize, grass pea, lentil, chickpea) providing food nutrition and security to millions of people worldwide.



Marc Van Montagu

The project Plant B+B not only hits a high score in the strategic plan of IPBO; it is also the realization of a long-cherished dream. I have always advocated for an effective interaction between plant breeding and plant biotechnology. The latter is useless without the former, and the former hopeless without the latter. Only the synergy between plant biotechnology and plant breeding can boost the development of new crops that we urgently need to transform current agricultural systems towards sustainability under a changing soil and weather conditions.

A new model of efficient farming is demanded. We need high productivity - essential to keep pace with the population growth – while taking care of environmental sustainability. Such a sustainable agriculture and horticulture should become accessible to small farmers in developing countries. The present industrial farming should not expand thus a higher yield on the present surface of arable land is imperative. The new agriculture should have positive impacts on nutrition and public health. Until recently breeding new varieties relied on empirical observations and traditional wisdom. Knowledge on the molecular base of plant genetics is very recent. Molecular mechanism controlling plant growth and development, basic physiology, stress resistance and trait inheritance is todays research. We will have to integrate new plant know-how with soil sciences, with special attention to the ecology of the soil organism and their contribution to composting and plant growth stimulation.

New crop varieties should be suited to local conditions, pest- and disease-resistant, and less dependent of chemical inputs and irrigation. On top of that, the process of developing a new cultivar must be drastically shortened to respond to the accelerating environmental changes. Plant science has already demonstrated that it is achievable. I am confident that plant breeding, with the assistance of genetic engineering and new breeding techniques tools, can help us to reverse the catastrophic trend of our present agricultural system.