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InnoVar ‘Next generation variety testing for improved cropping on European farmland’

InnoVar (‘Next generation variety testing for improved cropping on European farmland’) is a Horizon 2020 ‘Research and Innovation Action’ addressing the topic SFS-29-2018 ‘Innovations in plant variety testing’.  InnoVar is coordinated by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (UK) with funding of almost €8M shared between 21 partners in 10 countries.  Beginning in October 2019, the project will continue for 4½ years.

Variety evaluation systems have evolved in response to changing economic and environmental influences on farming and to drivers and advances in science and technology.  Since 1995, the EU Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) has implemented and applied the system for the protection of plant variety rights established by European Commission legislation, working closely with the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV).  Currently, rapid developments in genomics, phenomics, molecular biology and digital technologies are opening up a multitude of opportunities for a ‘next generation’ and ongoing evolution of DUS processes. In parallel, there is a requirement to measure the response of plant varieties (VCU) to environmental challenges including climate change and the associated variability in both biotic and abiotic stresses which are increasingly affecting crops, grassland and horticulture.

Using wheat as a test crop, InnoVar will devise and demonstrate improved, efficient methods of:

(1) integrating new science into DUS and VCU testing processes,

(2) combining DUS and VCU characters, and

(3) incorporating variety information into decision-making on-farm.

The objectives are to:

  1. Identify crop characteristics and sustainability criteria which indicate the capacity of varieties to maintain yield under more variable conditions and more sustainable crop management practices.
  2. Develop precise, rapid and automated methods for DUS testing in compliance with European/international requirements and the granting of PVR for new varieties.
  3. Revise and develop VCU trialling processes to provide data on characters that contribute to the capacity of new varieties to maintain yield under more variable conditions and sustainable crop management practices.
  4. Exploit synergies between DUS and VCU testing using genomics, phenomics, weather and soil data, and machine learning to set up databases and reference collections.
  5. Apply the methods and techniques developed for wheat to other cereals and other crop types, including grasses, legumes and maize.
  6. Develop new tools for the evaluation and detection of variety characteristics, using genomic, phenomic and digital technologies.
  7. Analyse and review existing systems for providing and delivering information about varieties and facilitate variety specialists in adopting and developing new effective methods and tools for dissemination.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 848144  InnoVar Factsheet