Towards targeted breeding of a European SRC willow crop for diverse environments and future climates (BREDNET-SRC)

Lead Research Organisation: Rothamsted Research
Department Name: Unlisted

Abstract

Genetic improvement programmes in Sweden and the UK have made significant progress in breeding Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) willow. However, to expand production, cultivars suited to a wider range of European environments and future climates will be needed. The project will address this by delivering an understanding of the genetic basis of yield in the context of varied European environments into breeding programmes and provide molecular tools for selection. The research will focus on a Salix viminalis association mapping population generated from the unique germplasm resources held by Rothamsted Research and Swedish partners. After first assessing population structure in the germplasm, suitable material (approx. 400 genotypes) will be planted at seven contrasting sites across Europe and key biomass-related traits will be assessed. Comparative trait data will be used in candidate gene-based association mapping to identify favourable alleles that will be delivered to breeding programmes for the development and deployment of molecular based selection strategies. Focus will be given to traits that are not yet will-studied in national programmes but are of importance, namely achievement of high biomass yield on marginal land and in conditions where water may be limiting. For growth on marginal land, novel microarray studies will be performed to identify candidate genes involved in this trait. To study yield in the context of future climate conditions, candidate genes for drought-related will be selected from our QTL and from the available literature. A similar approach will be taken for phenology traits. A significant component of the research comprises the analysis and transfer of existing research outputs to support this project and the development of willow in partner countries. Furthermore, active knowledge management and stakeholder interaction will ensure delivery into practice and provide an accessible legacy for efficient public research in future.

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