Spotlight on WAGENINGEN RESEARCH (WR)
For more than a century Wageningen University & Research (WUR), which the Foundation Wageningen Research (WR) is part of, has been involved in research in the domain of healthy food and living environment. As such, WUR has built a reputation in performing high quality interdisciplinary research with an international orientation, in close collaboration with the users of the research results. Currently, WUR has nearly 14,000 students and over 6,000 staff members. WR consists of a number of leading, specialized institutes for applied research in this domain.
The Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands (CGN), established in 1984, carries out specific ‘statutory research tasks’ for the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. CGN is a leading center of expertise in Europe and globally for the conservation and use of genetic diversity in crops, farm animals, trees and shrubs. CGN carries out methodological research, and participates actively in national, European and global organizations and networks. CGN staff represent the Dutch government in the respective networks EUFORGEN, ECPGR and ERFP for forest, plant and animal genetic resources. CGN collaborates actively with the private breeding industry and national NGO’s, and supports the Dutch government in the field of policy development and implementation. CGN has a long-lasting record of accomplishment of coordination and participation in EU projects. Because of this CGN has a unique position in Europe with an extensive network in the area of conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources. CGN maintains the Dutch national genebank, which includes over 23,000 accession from a total of more than 30 crops. Currently, the cluster Plant of CGN has 13 staff members. CGN has a main focus on vegetable crops, but also maintains the genetic resources of 2664 barley and 4912 wheat accessions.
The department of Plant Breeding is involved in education, research and consultation in the field of plant breeding in the broadest sense. Education is performed at all levels from BSc, MSc and PhD to specific courses for external parties. Within Plant Breeding the main research focus is on the development, characterization, maintenance and exploitation of genetic material. To this end collections of plants (segregating populations, NILs, RILs, DH, transformation host etc.) are made in the most important focus crops Brassica rapa, barley, potato, tomato, lily and rose. Besides this, tools for efficient breeding are developed, such as molecular markers for traits (genes, libraries, maps etc.). This leads to the deposition of large amounts of phenotypic and descriptive data (Transcriptomics, Proteomics, Metabolomics, Microarray, consumer tests) in databases. The efficient use and integration of all these datasets is made possible through the development and implementation of statistical & computer programs. The department of Plant Breeding has more than 120 personnel and between 50-80 students and guests. Research is organized around five themes (growth, development and quality; (a)biotic stress resistance; biodiversity and genetic variation; biobased economy; quantitative aspects) with emphasis on crop plants and the model species Arabidopsis. The department of Plant Breeding and CGN are jointly participating in AGENT as WR.
Part of Wageningen campus, where CGN and the department of Plant Breeding are housed
CONTRIBUTION TO AGENT
In the framework of WP3 CGN made a selection of its genebank accessions and provided seed samples for the development of precision collections of barley and wheat. In addition, CGN has contributed accessions for the bridging collection and has provided historical phenotypic data on its accessions for further analysis in AGENT. The department of Plant Breeding is involved in the work on data standardization and data interoperability (WP5) and in the creation of GenRes data infrastructure (WP6). In these workpackages WR is leading the work on the specification of the formats required for data representation and exchange (Task 5.2) and that on the development of a portable set of interoperable tools for analysis and predictive modelling of genetic resources (Task 6.2). In WP7 CGN is leading Task 7.1 on genebank community capacity building and Task 7.2 on training and capacity building in genebank genomics.
Regeneration of cereals close to Wageningen campus
THE WR TEAM
OUR VIEW OF AGENT
Large-scale genotyping of genebank accessions has become commonplace but the wealth of data generally remains largely unexploited because of the lack of proper, user-friendly analysis and visualization tools. AGENT aims to change this perspective by developing the necessary bioinformatics tools for integrating passport, phenotypic and genotypic data using wheat and barley as study cases. This will be extremely useful for both the conservation and user community of genetic resources. Therefore, we consider AGENT an important and exciting project that may set a methodological standard for crop collections.