FFG-Projekt Optidur

ETB 2006-020


Breeding for Organic farming

FFG Projekt MAS



GENOWHEAT Eureka -Eurostars -Project E!6399


Genomic selection of wheat varieties for robustness, yield and quality

The GENOWHEAT project applied genomic selection (GS) for the first time in winter wheat for Turkey, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) to bring improvement of robustness, yield and quality to the market in minimum time.

Short Summary:

The Aim of the Project GENOWHEAT was to develop wide-adapted Winter and Durum wheat with high baking and pasta quality, that are grown in future from Austria to Middle- and South-eastern Europe and to Turkey. This brings license revenue as well as income from seed production and -sales for the partner companies in Hungary, Romania and Turkey. Another aim was to supply the Austrian mills with high quality raw materials and improved knowledge about the quality of international raw materials and possible ways of influencing them. BOKU University/IFA Tulln (Institute for Agricultural Biotechnology) qualified as a leading research centre for genomic selection in Europe.

Our results show that the objectives are met with the highest probability

GENOWHEAT - Project E!6399 - more detailed summary:

Wheat provides one fifth of the food calories and is first as a source of protein to humans (Braun et al. 2010, CIMMYT). Grain yield and quality improvement will have to be addressed to meet the increasing demand. In GENOWHEAT an international phenotypic selection approach will be extended by development of a new Genomic Selection (GS) strategy. GS already revolutionized cattle breeding and breeding of field crops such as corn. Expertise from BOKU University division of Livestock Sciences in Vienna was transferred to the wheat crop.

The goal of GENOWHEAT was to develop robust, high yielding common wheat and durum wheat varieties meeting the agronomic demands of farmers and quality demands of millers, pasta industry and consumers. This covers the whole production chain "from field to fork" in Central and East European (CEE) countries and Turkey. None of the project participants could reach this goal alone.

The project consortium led by the Turkish breeding company ProGen Seed Inc. (PG) combined profound knowledge and expertise in the fields of crop management, seed production, breeding, product quality testing, molecular plant breeding, biometrics and statistical genetics. The approach of genomic selection was applied for the first time in this important crop plant (wheat) in our target area (Central to South-East Europe) to bring genetic improvement to the market in as short time as possible.

Early breeding generations and double haploid populations out of a gene pool identified as suitable in an earlier Eurostars project were pre-screened for abiotic stress resistance and general adaptation in Turkey and for disease resistance, yield potential and product quality in Austria. Selected lines were evaluated ("phenotyped") for robustness, yield and quality in seven countries during three growing seasons (2012-2014).

Breeding material was characterised on a molecular level ("genotyped"), genotyping of the genetic material was not only needed for the establishment of the new genomic selection procedure, but also as a knowledge tool for germplasm protection. As a side effect, genetic diversity was monitored and introduction of more biodiversity encouraged. Basis for a long-term collaboration of the partners was laid by starting new crossing cycles and material development within this project.

Besides biotic stresses, which are observed in the regular field trials in all countries, like rusts, powdery mildew and leaf blotch, fusarium head blight resistance received special attention in order to ensure healthy products. This topic was met by specifically designed resistance testing in inoculated field trials by Saatzucht Donau (SZD) and IFA Tulln.

After establishment of a GS model, GS was used in young generations in order to optimally allocate the limited multi-location field trial resources to the most promising set of improved genotypes. International field trials and quality laboratory testing will continue also in the long run, these activities are needed for continuous model updating.

Variety candidates were defined for application to national list trials in several countries by the project partners already within project duration. With the most advanced material, market was reached right after project completion.


EASTBRED – Eureka – Eurostars Project E! 4321 (2008-2011)

Eastbred EASTBRED created a unique and innovative selection strategy for widely adapted premium baking quality winter wheat, winter barley and durum wheat for the climatic regions starting with Central European River Basins from Austria along the Danube up to the Black sea. In anticipating future effects of global warming on local climate instability, know-how and genetic material from Turkey was combined with know-how and genetic material from Central Europe. The main partcipants of the project for development of the joint selection strategy are located in Austria, Croatia and Turkey; research work was performed also in Hungary and Romania. Due to political reasons, limited exchange of genetic material and very little international testing for broad adaptation has been conducted since the 1960's in the target regions of this project. Saatzucht Donau (SZD) has developed premium baking quality wheat varieties for Austria, Hungary and Slovakia already in the past. The quality of these materials is highly appreciated by the market, but most of the lines were too late in maturity and not optimally adapted to Turkey, especially concerning continental hard winters and severe drought. Climatic stress factors available in Turkey could become also more important in Central European regions due to climate change. Interestingly, Turkey includes part of the Fertile Crescent where all three target crops of this project have first naturally developed, have been first agriculturally cultivated and have started their worldwide spread. Collaboration with Turkey within a new selection strategy for stability over diverse environments allowed a new spread of broadly adapted genetic material which was initiated by this Eureka-Eurostars project.


2010-2015 FFG: Project NOVOMALT – Reacting to climate change by development of winter malting barley varieties

Gerste Spring barley is used traditionally as raw material in the malting and brewing industry. Climate change projections forecast for big areas in Europe an increase of autumn precipitation and a higher heavy rainfall incidence. A higher frequency of heat waves, drought and a general decline of water availability in spring is expected. This is threatening the production of spring barley by a decline of yields and quality instabilities. Winter barley can make better use of autumn rainfall and is therefore less affected. Hence, the project goal was the development of winter malting barley varieties, with raw material properties equal to spring barley. To ensure access to the market, such new varieties, when compared with feed quality varieties, must not have in yield, disease resistance or other agronomic properties, an economically relevant disadvantage. To achieve these new combinations of characteristics, classical breeding methods and field trials were combined with modern breeding techniques and substantial grain and malt quality analysis efforts. Marker assisted selection and the efficiency of double haploid plant production were improved. Microspore culture was in addition to anther culture in our laboratory new established. A series of new winter malting barley varieties, MONROE, AXIOMA, WANDA and MINELLI were released in several countries. Varieties with further improved yield and quality profile are expected to follow.

Responsible for this project was Dr. Herbert Bistrich.


COST 860 - SUSVAR - a COST network supporting sustainable cereal production

In March 2004 the network "Sustainable low-input cereal production: required varietal characteristics and crop diversity" was initiated by support from five European countries. In November 2004 all together 21 European countries have signed the Memorandum of Understanding, the official document defining the network.

The main aims of the network are to ensure stable and acceptable yields of good quality for low-input, especially organic, cereal production in Europe by developing ways to increase and make use of crop diversity (e.g. variety mixtures, crop populations or intercropping) and by establishing methods for selecting varieties, lines and populations with special emphasis on influence of genotype-environment interactions. Finally, the network will also establish methods for appropriate variety testing.

Cereals are an important contribution to food production and economy in Europe. Reduced input of pesticides and chemical fertiliser is everywhere of big interest. Also increasing the area grown under organic conditions where in general no artificial components are allowed gets much support. Cereals have for the last 50 years been evolved towards increasing the yield under potentially unlimited use of pesticides and synthetic fertilisers. These inputs have been necessary to achieve optimal growing conditions independent of the actual conditions on the farmer's field. The actual varieties and crops may therefore not be optimal to ensure stable and acceptable yields with low input.

In many countries, national projects aiming at making a difference in this respect are in progress. In the present network, these projects are coordinated by means of exchange of materials, methods for assessment and statistical analyses as well as combining national experimental results. The network is organised into six Working Groups, each of them focusing on one of the following five research areas: plant genetics and plant breeding, biostatistics, plant nutrition and soil microbiology, weed biology and plant competition, plant pathology and plant disease resistance biology; and variety testing and certification. The common framework is cereal production in low-input systems with emphasis on crop diversity. It is essential that scientists from many disciplines work together to investigate the complex interactions between the crop and its surroundings, to be able to exploit the natural regulation mechanisms of the systems to stabilise and increase yield. The results of the cooperation will contribute to commercial plant breeding as well as official variety testing when participants from these areas disperse the knowledge achieved through the action.

The network is headed by Senior Research Specialist Hanne Østergård, Risø National Laboratory, Denmark. More information about Working Groups, workshops and other activities as well as possibilities for participation may be found on the SUSVAR homepage:


FFG-Project EURO-BIO 2002 to 2007

Mohnblumen im Biofeld The Austrian national funded project EUROBIO aimed at setting up a leading breeding program for organic agriculture in Europa where environmental concern is growing. Goal was the development of specific cereal varieties for organic agriculture for the European market. In addition to the conventional breeding program, a new breeding pipeline for organic agriculture was set up for high quality winter wheat and for quality brewing barley. First, common breeding techniques available at SZD which correspond to an international standard of conventional breeding were evaluated for their use for organic farming. Extended field trials with young breeding material were performed on several organically managed fields in Upper and Lower Austria. Most emphasis was then laid on the development of new methods and combinations of breeding and selection methods especially suitable for breeding for organic agriculture. Intensive cooperation with the Austrian Millers association (VFG Institute for Cereal processing), University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) Vienna, and the Ludwit-Boltzmann-Institute for organic agriculture (now BIO Forschung AUSTRIA) favoured interactive creation of knowledge.

Before project start, mostly conventionally bred varieties were used in organic agriculture, showing deficiencies in weed suppression, nitrogen efficiency and specific quality attributes when grown on organic fields. In the past only few breeders were engaged in breeding for organic agriculture. Saatzucht Donau is situated in the middle of Europe in a high quality wheat production region with traditionally low input management. The geographical position and the available very diverse high quality breeding material favoured development of varieties for the growing organic cereal market.

Nine out of twelve winter wheat varieties released in Austria after exclusive official organic VCU (Value for Cultivation and Use) testing were applied by SZD, seven of them originated from our own breeding program. The FFG - funded project EURO-BIO has initiated further success with SZD winter wheat varieties for organic agriculture in France, Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain.


SOLIBAM 2010 to 2014

Logo Solibam The objective of SOLIBAM is to develop novel breeding approaches integrated with management practices to improve the performance, quality, sustainability and stability of crops adapted to organic and low-input systems in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The underlying hypothesis is that diverse populations in diverse organic and low-input systems are more resilient to stress and can therefore be better adapt to environmental variation.

SOLIBAM Workpackages
  • WP1. Identify trails for organic8low-input systems
  • WP2. Identify and monitor genetic diversity
  • WP3. Exploitation of diversity in breeding
  • WP4. Exploitation of diversity in management
  • WP5. Exploitation of conventional/organic breeding
  • WP6. Participatory plant breeding and management
  • WP7. Breeding/management effects on crop quality
  • WP8. Sustainability assessment of innovations
  • WP9. Dissemination, training and technology transfer
  • WP10. Project coordination and management
In total 23 partners from 11 different countries collaborate in the project SOLIBAM. Saatzucht Donau contributes to work packages 3 and 5. Please find more information at

Responsible for this project was Dr. Franziska Löschberger.



2005-2010 FFG + BMVIT - Energiesysteme der Zukunft: Project GRAINERGY - Optimizing the raw material basis for bio-ethanol production

Co-operation partners: Zuckerforschung Tulln / Agrana

Objective was the selection and development of wheat and triticale varieties with optimised raw material properties for the production of bio-ethanol incorporating agronomical characteristics, feed quality and mycotoxin burden of destillers dried grains and solubles (DDGS). In addition to basic agronomical requirements, cereals for ethanol production must provide high starch content and high areal starch yield. Excellent fermentation properties are defined by early fermentation onset, high fermentation speed and complete substrate utilisation. High protein content is unwanted in contrast to food and feed use. If DDGS shall be used for feed or food, low mycotoxin content of raw materials is a must due to the enrichment in the fermentation residues.

Productivity and technical properties of wheat and triticale were compared. Quality samples from specific field tests were taken. Starch content, behaviour of fermentation curves and ethanol yields were analysed. NITS-calibrations were made and tested, ELISA and HPLC tests were used and compared for the determination of mycotoxin contents. Advanced wheat and triticale breeding material was tested in small scale lab assays, controlled fermenters and in pilot scale. The overall best performing genotypes were selected for VCU trials, favoured in breeding populations and used for new crosses to establish improved populations for the next breeding cycle. The triticale varieties CALORIUS and TRICANTO were developed in the GRAINERGY project. The "ethanolwheat" tag of PAPAGENO and some other wheat varieties is based on GRAINERGY results. Nitrogen fertilisation trials were conducted for improving the field production technology and to be available for production technology recommendations. Wheat and triticale production for bio-ethanol aims to high grain yield but low protein content. Exhausting the free soil nitrate it turned out to be very nitrogen efficient and environmentally friendly in comparison with bread wheat production. The use of DDGS for various classes of livestock and pets was tested.

Responsible for this project was Dr. Herbert Bistrich


FFG Project OPTIDUR 2006 - 2011

"Optimization of selection criteria in durum breeding with respect to quality"

Logo FFG Introduction of a quality index was the starting point of the Optidur project. The resulting shift in importance of quality parameters had to be considered in the breeding process. In cooperation with durum wheat processors the currently used methods for selection of quality were re-evaluated and new methods investigated. The focus was on parameters of the quality index (mainly protein and yellow pigment content) and on other parameters such as dark point, starch/preharvest sprouting, mycotoxins and also taste. The quality index existed only until 2008; after that there was a shift in importance of quality parameters. The Q-index had overvalued protein quality in a way that did not reflect demands of durum processors. Our conclusions after 5 years of intense quality evaluation were
  • Protein content ⇒ should be as high as possible, measurement with NIR
  • Protein quality ⇒ an average level, as present in most spring durum lines/varieties, is sufficient. Selection in young material with SDS-sedimentation, better differentiation with glutenindex or glutograph
  • Yellow pigment content ⇒ as high as possible, lower limit is the variety Floradur
  • Test weight - as high as possible. Compromises regarding this parameter backfire in bad years also with low seed quality and lower falling numbers
  • Thousand kernel weight ⇒ medium to high for better stress tolerance
  • Fusariumtolerance ⇒ there are no real resistances in current durum material, cooperation regarding this trait will be continued with ifa-Tulln


ETB 2006-020 SHORTWHEAT 2006 - 2009

Titel: "Molecular marker-assisted transfer of Rht (semi-dwarf) alleles from short varieties with weak Fusarium Head Bliht (FHB) resistance to medium/long-strawed winter wheat genotypes with superior FHB resistance"

The introduction of Rht alleles from different donor varieties using an accelerated backcross breeding scheme in breeder-owned FHB tolerant wheat lines was funded by a transnational project from EUROTRANS-BIO. Candidate varieties for this purpose were selected out of an observation nursery containing 80 varieties collected by the project partners which were phenotyped by artificial inoculation with a suspension of Fusarium culmorum at 5 locations.

Involved project partners:
  • Saatzucht STRUBE (STRU), Germany
  • Federal Center for Breeding Research (BAZ) - since 2008 Julius-Kühn-Institute (JKI, Quedlinburg, Germany
  • SAATENUNION-laboratory, Hovedissen, Germany
  • SU-RECHERCHE, France
  • SAATZUCHT DONAU (SZD), Austria (with subcontractor IFA-TULLN, Austria)
The same collection was genotyped by new microsatellite markers at Quedlinburg and Hovedissen for rht and Ppd-D1 alleles. Several crosses out of the most suitable genotypes, suited by DH-line production with embryo-rescue were conducted by the involved breeding companies. The following marker-based selection helped to reduce the breeding material after BNC2 on finally 4 populations, where the varieties MIDAS (SZD) and PHÖNIX (STRU) became the acceptors for the different rht donor varieties, containing Rht-D1b, Rht-B1b and Rht8.

With project end the breeders received between 3 and 30 DH-lines per population, were fusarium tolerance and different rht alleles were combined, ready for further multiplication and selection within their breeding scheme to develop improved varieties in the future. Responsible project participants at SAATZUCHT DONAU: Dr. Franziska Löschenberger and DI Anton Neumayer


FUCOMYR –EU Project  2001 – 2005

Titel: "Novel tools for developing Fusarium resistant and toxin free wheat for Europe"

Weizenähre mit Fusariumbefall, Foto DI Köppl, LWK OÖ Within the EU project FUCOMYR innovative methods are being developed which should make the selection for Fusarium head blight resistance easier for the breeder. These methods include in vitro resistance tests and molecular marker.

In addition a large collection of spring and winter wheat is being tested at different locations under artificial and natural infection over several years and analyzed for mycotoxin accumulation. This collection is also characterized with molecular markers to identify interaction between Fusarium tolerance and mycotoxin accumulation on the genetic level. At the same time many molecular markers are localized within the wheat genome.

The project also includes more basic research involving the organism brewers yeast. The results of this project will speed up the development of molecular markers for FHB tolerance in wheat.

Partners and working groups within this project:
P1 = IFA-Tulln, A
P2 = SEJET Planteförädling, DK
P5 = CEREAL RESEARCH non profit Co.-Szeged, H
P7 = ZAG (Zentrum f. angewandte Genetik)-BOKU, A

*) The main responsible participant at SZD is DI Anton Neumayer with assistance of one technician and participation of Dr. Franziska Löschenberger, Dr. Julia Lafferty.

Further information can be found at:


Breeding for Organic farming

Wheat Because of increasing share of organic farming in Austria and many other European Countries, Saatzucht Donau is breeding and developing varieties, which are especially suited for organic conditions. Up to now, former conventional varieties from the breeding stations Probstdorf and Reichersberg are very well adapted to organic farming. Examples are Winter wheats CAPO (leading variety in organic farming in Austria and some other European Countries for 20 years) Spring barleys EUNOVA and MODENA.

In the project SGSO "Seeds and varieties for Organic Agriculture 2004-2009" that was funded by the agricultural ministery and coordinated by Bio Forschung Austria, we conducted extensive trials with winter wheat and spring barley on organic farms in different climatic regions of Austria. The best lines of these trials were tested in an official registration process by the federal office for Food Safety.

In 2004 and 2005 the high quality winter wheat PIRENEO, AUROLUS and STEFANUS were registered to the Austrian list of varieties. These three varieties are the first in Austria as well as in European Union that are registered based upon organic testing only. PIRENEO which has extraordinary baking quality is marketed beside Austria in Germany and France for organic farming through partner companies.

In the year 2008 variety PEPPINO, in 2011 TOBIAS, in 2013 the conservation variety GREGORIUS, 2014 and 2015 the two purple seeded varieties MERLOT und CERASO, and in 2016 high quality variety ARMINIUS were released after organic VCU (Value for Cultivation and Use) test. Our outstanding quality wheat variety TOBIAS is among the most widely grown wheat varieties in organic farming in Germany to date.

Our concept of Breeding For Organic Agriculture was published in Löschenberger et al. (2008) in Euphytica 163: 469-480:

Breeding for organic agriculture: the example of winter wheat in Austria.
Löschenberger et al. (2008) Euphytica 163: 469-480

Breeding for organic agriculture (BFOA) is a strategy for a commercial breeding company based on the exploitation of the frequently observed high correlation for many traits between conventional, low input (LI) and organic agriculture (ORG).
Indirect selection under LI can be useful to roughly divide the germplasm into the genotypes better adapted to high input and those better adapted to LI or ORG conditions. BFOA is an evolving process, in which two methods are currently applied: early generations are either selected following the pedigree system under LI, or grown as bulk populations on ORG fields. In the latter case the system switches to LI after individual ear selection under ORG conditions. In both methods, the first replicated yield trial is grown parallel under ORG and LI. Subsequently, the genotypes are grouped into conventional or ORG advanced trial series. The BFOA strategy allows that the larger genetic variability of both the organic and conventional gene pool can be exploited in the selection for ORG. Hitherto, seven winter wheat varieties were released in Austria after exclusive organic VCU testing.


2001-2005 FFG Project MAS – marker assisted selection in cereal breeding

During this project marker assisted selection (MAS) was used in applied plant breeding for the first time in Austria. With yellow mosaic virus resistance in barley and fusarium resistance in wheat as an example an efficient system of molecular analysis on a large scale has been established and the use of molecular markers was integrated into the breeding process.

In winter barley this is the only possibility to breed virus resistant varieties of winter barely since the occurrence of yellow mosaic virus has not yet been proven in Austria.

Due to changing methods of cultivation an increase in fusarium infection is to be expected independent of climate fluctuation. This fungus causes not only a decrease in yield and quality but also poses a health threat because of the production of mycotoxins. In durum there exists no resistance; in bread wheat selection methods are tedious and only suitable for advanced generations. Molecular markers enable an early screening for the desired resistance genes and reduction of the breeding material to the desired genotypes before starting resource intensive field trials.

In a five year back cross program resistances from exotic sources were integrated into adapted breeding material that will serve for variety development. For acceleration DH techniques and winter generations in Chile were used as far as possible.


BARRACCUDA - EU Project (CRAFT 1999-70866)

Titel: Resistance Breeding against the Barley Leaf Spot Complex – a new barley disease in Europe

duration: 2002-2003
project management: Andreas Fleck (leading breeder), Johann Birschitzky (project coordinator)
scientific officer (EU-Commission): Dr. Guillermo Cardon

Project partners:
Saatzucht Donau GesmbH & Co KG , A (SME-proposer & project co-ordinator) Saatzucht Josef Breun GdbR, D, SME-proposer)
Pajbjergfonden, DK, SME-proposer)
University for Applied Life Science and Natural Ressources, Vienna, Department IFA-Tulln, A, RTD-performer)

A new barley disease has gained more importance in the recent years. A complex of leaf spots, usually appearing within a few days after anthesis can cause an extensive and rapid loss of green leaf area. Differential disposition to the formation of physiologic leaf spot (PLS), biotic (pathogenic fungi) and abiotic (environmental) factors were made responsible.

The fungus Ramularia collo-cygni has been identified as one pathogenic factor. Environmental conditions discussed, include high solar irradiation, insufficient nutrition (B, K, Zn) surface near ozone and even quick temperature changes. There is still considerable debate about the relative importance of each of these factors. Keeping apart the different spotting types on the field by visual evaluation is difficult, if not impossible at all.

Hence, DNA-markers for improved diagnosis in early phases of disease development were developed (details available on request). In biennial field trials in Austria and Germany under natural disease pressure far more than thousand genotypes were evaluated for their resistance reaction to the leaf spot complex. A quantitative variation was showing up and significant differences between cultivars were proven. New discovered additional resistance sources were used as parents in the production of more than 7000 new double haploid lines. These candidates are the starting point for a commercial breeding program whereof the development and release of cultivars with improved tolerance can be expected.