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2005 Seeds and Breeds Conference, September 11-14, 2005, Iowa Alternative Plant and Animal Breeding Strategies in Europe

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2005 Seeds and Breeds Conference, September 11-14, 2005, Iowa Alternative Plant and Animal Breeding Strategies in Europe Edith T. Lammerts van Bueren 1,2 and Wytze J. Nauta 2 1 Wageningen University, The Netherlands [email protected] 2 Louis Bolk Institute, The Netherlands Outline

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2005 Seeds and Breeds Conference, September 11-14, 2005, Iowa

Alternative Plant and Animal Breeding Strategies

in Europe

Edith T. Lammerts van Bueren1,2 and Wytze J. Nauta2

1Wageningen University, The Netherlands [email protected]

2Louis Bolk Institute, The Netherlands



  • 1. Organic Farming in Europe
  • 2. Regulations in Europe
  • 3. Concept of naturalness
  • 4. Examples of plant breeding activities
  • 5. Examples of animal breeding activities

Regulations in Europe on organic seed

  • Closing the organic production chain requires organic propagation since 2004 (EC 1452/2003).
  • No EU regulations available (yet) on organic breeding (IFOAM draft standards 2002), except ban on GMOs
  • EU governments’ policy 10 % organic production (NL a.o. in 2010) requires better adapted varieties and thus organic breeding.

Concept of naturalness

In Europe genetic engineering forced the discussion on frameworks for ecological and ethical values to guide new developments.

The concept of naturalness includes:

a. non-chemical approach b. agro-ecological approach c. integrity of life approach


Four levels of integrity of plants

Integrity of life on four levels:

1. living organisms - autonomy, self-ordering

2. plant-typic - ability to adapt to & inter- act with its environment

3. genotypic - reproductive barriers

4. phenotypic - balanced crop and seed production


Plant breeding and propagation techniques

Consequences of the concept of naturalness for plant breeding and propagation techniques:

Organization level Non- Agro-

chemical ecological Integrity

Plant/crop level + ++ +++

(Organized) cell level + or – + or –– –––

DNA level – –– –––


Examples of plant breeding – Germany

  • Kultursaat – biodynamic vegetable breeding
  • Gardeners: propagation, testing, feed back
  • Farmer Breeders: breeding, research for breeding methods, nutritional quality
  • Association Kultursaat: coordination, financial support, registration, owner of new varieties
  • Bingenheimer Saatgut AG: Commercial seed producers company

Examples of plant breeding - Switzerland

Peter Kunz and Sativa – biodynamic cereal breeding

Chain model:

Peter Kunz – breeder of spelt & wheat varieties Sativa: maintenance, seed production, sales of seeds Miller with license for Sativa brand Bakery with Sativa brand Consumers (sponsorship)


Examples of plant breeding – The Netherlands

Vitalis Organic Seeds in cooperation with ENZA (conventional seed company)

Vitalis works independently:

- Vegetable organic seed production, sales in NL - Organic vegetable breeding

ENZA holds shares of Vitalis:

- Delivers genetic material for breeding and seed production - European market


Examples of plant breeding – France

  • INRA- national research institute
  • Supporting organic participatory cereal & vegetable breeding
  • Providing genetic resources & prebreeding
  • Farmers’ network for selection activities
  • Documentation

Examples of plant breeding – The Netherlands

  • Louis Bolk Institute – private research institute for organic farming with public funding:
  • Research projects to develop concepts and strategies for organic plant breeding, in close cooperation with farmers
  • On-farm variety trials, crop ideotypes, base populations
  • Providing network and know how to farmer breeders
  • Publications, documentation

Examples in plant breeding research

  • Broadening the genetic base by
  • Variety mixtures: barley –Denmark Hanne Oestergard – Risoe Nat. Laboratory,
  • Composite crossing: winter wheat – UK Martin Wolfe-Elm Farm Research Centre

Education in organic plant breeding – NL

  • Wageningen University – Department of Plant Breeding hosts a endowed chair for Organic Plant Breeding, since 2005
  • [email protected]
      • English MSc course on Organic Farming Systems
      • Supervising international PhD projects

International cooperation within Europe (1)

  • EU funded cereal network project: SUSVAR
  • Network of breeders for low-input and organic farming
  • Handbook for organic cereal variety testing
  • Exchange of genetic material
  • International workshops

International cooperation within Europe (2)

  • European Consortium for Organic Plant Breeding (ECO-PB, founded in 2001)
  • Member of IFOAM
  • Providing platform for discussion, exchange of knowledge and experiences
  • Initiation and support of organic breeding programmes
  • Independent expertise for standard setting
  •, on-line monthly newsletter
  • Conferences, round table meetings, workshops

International cooperation within Europe (3)

  • Working Groups Organic Plant Breeding and Seed Production within regular organizations:
  • ISOFAR – International Society of Organic Agriculture research
  • ESA – European Seed Association (member of ISF)
  • EUCARPIA – association for plant breeding researchers

Animal breeding in organic farming

  • Many countries with many breeds
  • Different rural areas
  • Limited possibilities for cooperation between countries
  • Different ideas about organic breeding?

Activities in countries

Netherlands: - Farmers vision/ G x E research - Farm based “Kin-breeding”

Germany: - Discussions about what organic breeding should be/become - Line-breeding (Bakels)/G x E research - Life time production selection

United Kingdom: - Crossbreeding

Switzerland/Germany/Austria: - Eco-breeding index


Vision: Major decision points

I: Use of artificial reproduction

II: Selection bases conventional or organic

III: General or individual (Kin-breeding) approach


Based on major decision points

I = no ET/AI, II = organic bases, III = farm bases



  • Naturality of the production process
  • Consumers wish (and expectation)
  • Farmers choice for organic
  • Legislation: intentions!

Current actions

  • ET-free bulls selection
  • GxE research
  • Social-economic studies
  • Course on-farm Kin-breeding
  • Networking for Organic Breeding!

On-farm kin-breeding

  • Selection of “best” sire dams from different families/lines
  • Select 4-5 breeding bulls per year from different lines/families
  • Use all these bulls over families avoiding close relations

Why On-farm kin-breeding

  • Many farmers want natural breeding with breeding bull/boars on the farm
  • Prevention of inbreeding (kin breeding is a mild in-breeding system)
  • Selection based on organic farm environment
  • Very uniform herds

Why On-farm kin-breeding

Dutch Friesians (FH) from kin-breeding farm Lozeman