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Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building

Plant breeding programs in Germany

The Federal Republic of Germany is situated in central Europe and has a land area of 357 092 km².

The landscape in Germany is characterized by arable land, meadows, pastures and forests. Farmers manage more than half of the total national territory. Although the area devoted to agriculture has declined since the end of 1992 (-3%), those areas used for renewable resources (e.g. rape and sunflower oils, starch and sugar) have nearly tripled between 1995 and 2005 to comprise 1,5 million hectares, i.e. 13,2 % of arable land in 2005.

In Germany, field crops cover some 70% of agricultural land, with only about 25 cash crops and 35 forage crops being used for arable farming.

At present, the most dominant crops grown are by far cereals (wheat, barley, maize, rye, triticale and oat), canola, potato and sugar beet. In 2006, cereals are cultivated on more than 57% of the arable land.

In Germany, as a rule, plant breeding and seed marketing of the main agricultural crops are well-organised activities of a specialized sector of the agricultural economy, and comprise mainly modern cultivars.

Worldwide, nowhere else are so many breeding activities carried out independently by private plant breeding companies. There are about 100, mostly medium-sized, private companies active in breeding. Major breeding programmes exist for cereals, especially for maize, wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Furthermore, there are breeding programmes for sugar beet, potato, canola and some fodder crops like ryegrass. Another 30 companies are specialized in plant breeding for horticultural crops with the emphasis on vegetables and ornamentals. The competition is complemented by cooperation, as many plant breeders share a marketing cooperative.

Research and education institutes with activities in plant breeding

University institutes for plant breeding and related matters are to be found at the universities of Bonn, Gießen, Göttingen, Halle-Wittenberg, Kiel, München (Weihenstephan), Stuttgart-Hohenheim and Kassel, the latter focusing in agrobiodiversity. Some universities of applied science hold institutes of agriculture and offer education and training in plant breeding and biodiversity-related fields (e.g. in Nürtingen-Geislingen, Osnabrück, Westfalen/Soest, Wiesbaden/Geisenheim etc.).

Public Institutes

Julius Kuehn Institute - Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants (JKI)
Website available in German and English

The Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, the Julius Kuehn Institute (JKI) is both a federal authority and a research institute of the federal German government. It is part of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). However, the new institute can partly trace back its origins over a period of more than a hundred years. It emerged from three renowned research centres: the Federal Biological Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry (BBA), the Federal Centre for Breeding Research on Cultivated Plants (BAZ) and two institutes of the Federal Agricultural Research Centre (FAL). The main task is research related to cultivated plants. Furthermore, the development and provision of breeding methods and the implementation of basic research achievements into practice are a main part of its mission. The latter includes also the characterization and evaluation of plant genetic resources as well as pre-breeding activities.

The Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK)
Website available in German and English

The Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Gatersleben is a large and internationally renowned plant research centre working on problems in modern biology by focusing on cultivated plants. The basic, application oriented and interdisciplinary research seeks to collect new knowledge and to find new technologies aiming at the extensive use of plant genetic resources for optimised nutrient production and environmentally friendly agriculture. With the central ex situ gene bank, IPK possesses a unique collection of plant genetic resources from more than 2,700 botanic species of about 800 different genera. The stock currently totals approximately 147,000 specimens.

Furthermore, the development and provision of breeding methods and the implementation of basic research achievements into practice are a main part of its mission. The latter includes also the characterization and evaluation of plant genetic resources as well as pre-breeding activities.


Public-Private-Partnerships and Programmes

National Evaluation Programme for Plant Genetic Resources (Eva II)
Website available in German

Within a public-private-partnership for evaluation of plant genetic resources, a cooperation network consisting of the respective administrative bodies, research institutes (public sec-tor) and plant breeding companies (Private sector) coordinated by the Institute of Epidemi-ology and Resistance Resources of BAZ implemented in 2001 the National Evaluation Programme for Plant genetic Resources of Cereals (EVA II). For this purpose, genebank material, national and foreign varieties and current breeding strains of barley and wheat (summer and winter forms) are evaluated by means of standardized evaluation methods for the resistance to major pathogenic fungi and viruses at different locations (breeding stations of the network partners) throughout Germany.

German Plant Genome Research Programme
Website available in German

The German Plant Genome Research Programme (GABI – Genome Analysis of the Plant Biological System) supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and private enterprises refers to the analysis of plant genomes. Plant genomics in general aim at providing a detailed and comprehensive knowledge of the fundamental molecular processes of plant life. The tremendous work load of plant genomic research explains the growing need for international cooperation. Therefore, GABI supports networking with many other national plant genomic research programmes in Europe and beyond.

Private Associations and Societies

Association for the Promotion of Private Plant Breeding in Germany (GFP)
Website available in German and English

The GFP was founded by breeders in 1965 and carries out and promotes basic research to assist in practical breeding work (e.g. at universities and public research institutes) and in the introduction of new biotechnology. It comprises 50 small and medium-sized plant breeding companies throughout Germany, which operate mostly independent breeding programmes on cultivated crops for agriculture and horticulture. The GFP provides for discussion on and active support of joint research activities. It is a nonprofit organization whose funds are used exclusively for research purposes.

Germany_ABDP

Association for Biodynamic Plant Breeding (ABDP)
Website available in German and English

The ABDP is an association of plant breeders who breed cultivated plant varieties for the organic sector, working with a biodynamic background. Goals are to breed varieties suited for organic growing conditions, and which are (a) appropriate for human nutritional needs and (b) adapted to local conditions, thereby enhancing regional diversity. Breeding activities focus on vegetables (e.g. bean, carrot, cabbages, chicory, cucumber, pepper, leek, radish, red beet, salad, tomato) and cereals (e.g. barley, maize, oats, rye and wheat).

Germany_GPZ

German Society for Plant Breeding (GPZ)
Website available in German

In 1991, the Society for Plant breeding (GPZ) was founded as the scientific forum for plant breeding in Germany. Its Members comprise scientists and plant breeders from scientific and applied research institutions, public agencies and private breeding enterprises.

Germany_GPZ

Max-Planck-Institute for Plant Breeding Research
Website available in German

With the development of molecular genetics, the genetic variation can now be studied at the molecular level. This has led and is leading to our improved understanding of the processes underlying plant growth and development and the interaction of plants with their abiotic and biotic environment. In addition, this knowledge has led to new tools for plant breeders that allow a more efficient breeding by the use of genetic markers that ‘tag’ traits of interest that sometimes are difficult to select for.

Coordination Committees

Advisory and Coordinating Committee for Agriculture and Horticultural Crops (BEKO)
Website available in German

In fulfilling its responsibilities for the implementation of the National Programme as designated by the Federal Government, the BMELV is assisted by the Advisory and Co-ordinating Committee for Agriculture and Horticultural Crops (BEKO). The BEKO consists of 18 representatives of the Federal and Laender governments as well as research institutions, breeders and non-governmental organisations. The work of the BEKO is supported by thematic working groups – one for in situ and on-farm conservation, and one for the ex situ conservation, including the coordination of the national participation in the European Cooperative Programme for Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR) – and by a Secretariat located at the Information and Coordination Centre for Biological Diversity (IBV) of the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE).

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Information by Informations- und Koordinationszentrum für Biologische Vielfalt (IBV) [Information and Coordination Centre for Biological Diversity (IBV)] - Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung (BLE) [Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE)]