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Plant Health Week - VeGIN: the Vegetable Genetic Improvement Network

Lauren Chappell discusses her research as part of the VeGIN (Vegetable Genetic Improvement Network) project:

The spread of plants pests and diseases has increased dramatically in recent years. A combination of climate change, increased trade and decreased agrochemical availability have all played a part. With these many challenges faced by the food and farming industry there is a need for sustainable solutions.

VeGIN, the Vegetable Genetic Improvement Network, is one of several crop genetics projects funded by Defra. VeGIN has worked to create an interactive network of researchers and industry leaders, who work together to promote market delivery of improved vegetable varieties using sustainable production systems.

The VeGIN network brings together research focussed on four key vegetable crops – onion, carrot, leafy vegetables and salads - and encourages collaborations between industry and researchers to address how genetic improvement of crop varieties can contribute to a sustainable increase in food production to meet the twin challenges of food security and climate change. The ‘biotic’ or pest and disease research is carried out by the University of Warwick, whilst the ‘abiotic’ or physical challenges associated with climate change are being carried out by Harper Adams University. Industrial partners play an invaluable role, advising on key concerns within the horticulture industry as well providing feedback on the work being undertaken.

Clockwise from top left: Cabbage plant, carrots just harvested still covered in soil, onions growing in the field and beds of lettuce in the field.

Clockwise from top left: Cabbage plant, carrots just harvested still covered in soil, onions growing in the field and beds of lettuce in the field.

The project utilises the genetic diversity in the Vegetable Genetic Resources Unit (GRU) which is also based at Warwick Crop Centre. The GRU has a remit for collection, conservation, characterisation and research for a range of vegetable crops and their wild relatives. The gene bank holds thousands of accessions representing different crop species. As these accessions characterise the range of genetic diversity within a single crop species, from wild type crop relatives to commercial varieties VeGIN can use these accessions representing a huge range of genetic diversity to identify genes of interest that can be used to breed more sustainable crops.

The primary airs of VeGIN are as follows:

· To develop the genetic resources and tools to accelerate breeding for ‘sustainability traits’ in field vegetables

· To establish an effective network with industry, for knowledge transfer to promote market delivery of research and development.

The list below indicates just some of the pests and diseases VeGIN are currently researching, both in identifying sources of resistance, and improving the knowledge of the pathogen/pest and plant system:

· Cavity spot caused by the Oomycete Pythium violae in carrots

· Clubroot in leafy brassicas cause by the fungus Plasmodiophora brassicae

·  Lettuce wilt cause by Fusarium oxysporum

· Willow-Carrot aphid infestation of carrot crops and the associated viruses the aphids transmit

· Currant-Lettuce aphid on lettuce crops

· Diamond-back Moth infestation of leafy brassica crops

· Cabbage Root Fly damage to leafy brassica crops

Clubroot resistant (right) and susceptible (left) brassica seedlings and Carrots with cavity spot damage from Pythium violae.

Clubroot resistant (right) and susceptible (left) brassica seedlings and Carrots with cavity spot damage from Pythium violae

If would like to learn more about VeGIN please visit the website (new website launching soon!), and follow us on twitter @WarwickVeGIN. If you would like more information about a specific project, would like to be added to the VeGIN mailing list or are an industry member looking to work together please email lauren.chappell@warwick.ac.uk

Fri 13 May 2022, 18:07 | Tags: Study, Research, Plant Health Week