Project: PPP Phenotyping 4 Profit (P4P) – breeding for disease resistance in plants

To accelerate resistant variety development in plant breeding programs precise, non-destructive and quantitative methods to evaluate plant disease resistance or susceptibility are crucial. In July 2021 a 4-year public-private partnership was launched on this topic: Phenotyping 4 Profit.

Project Aim

In the era of genomics, genotyping plants is no longer the issue. However, plant phenotyping (especially of diseased plants) is critically lagging behind. In this PPP six breeding companies – East West Seeds, KWS, Syngenta, Enza Zaden, Royal van Zanten, Henan Biological Breeding Center – and NAKtuinbouw team up with Wageningen University & Research to accelerate phenotyping research exploiting the new state-of-the-art research facility NPEC.

Current methods to assess diseases in plants rely on visual estimation by trained experts. This is time-consuming and subjective, making it expensive and difficult to quantify or compare between experts and evaluations.

In addition, many important aspects of the infection process and disease development cannot be observed by eye. Also, the latency period before disease symptoms are expressed can be very long.

Innovative, sensor-based methods for the detection and evaluation of plant diseases have been developed earlier. Their application to quantify disease and also to detect non-symptomatic stages of the infection has been demonstrated, but mostly on a small scale. Particularly, chlorophyll-fluorescence-based methods and multi/hyperspectral imaging provide a fast and non-destructive way of scanning plants for diseased areas. These novel methods will be applied in this P4P project to improve the monitoring of disease onset and will support timely decision of disease management in general. The P4P project will, together with the breeding companies involved, explore how these screening approaches can be applied to launch breeding programs in which large populations are screened on plant disease resistance and susceptibility.

NPEC Usage

In this project we will select use cases for experiments in growth chambers, greenhouses and open fields. Our aim is to increase the throughput of data acquisition and to further develop quantification and pattern recognition. Hereby we will use artificial intelligence both in time and in accuracy. This will bridge the gap between genotypic and phenotypic data with respect to disease resistance and susceptibility at different plant development stages and under abiotic stress conditions.

Project Researchers

Project management is carried out by Carolien Zijlstra, supported by Theo van der Lee and Rick van de Zedde at Wageningen Research. Together with prof. Yuling Bai, Plant Breeding and prof. Mark Aarts, Genetics at Wageningen University. Post-doc Mari Duhamel and Phd student Laura Groenenberg have recently been appointed on this project.