A multidisciplinary approach for damping-off resistance in spinach
Spinach is an important component of baby-leaf salads, produced in organic and conventional production systems. Non-chemically treated spinach seeds can suffer seriously from damping-off and root rot diseases. In Europe as well as in the USA, Pythium species seem the most important pathogens. Variation in response to damping-off has been observed between cultivars, but also between seed lots of the same cultivar, and even within seed lots. Apart from problems with pathogens, breeders also experience that seed vigour plays a role.
Designing a breeding strategy for spinach to cope with damping-off will have an impact not only at the economic level, but also at the societal and scientific level. As problems with damping-off increase, there is a growing need for cultivars with high levels of resistance to this complex problem. Farmers will benefit from the cultivation of resistant cultivars, that will lead to increased production and diminish the risk of re-sowing. First step in any breeding programme for resistance is the development of reliable phenotyping assays to enable the comparison of different cultivars and breeding materials.
In this research project we combine scientific research of different disciplines, i.e. plant breeding, phytopathology and seed technology, to improve levels of resistance/tolerance to damping-off in spinach suitable for organic as well as conventional agriculture.
1. Knowledge on the possibility to improve spinach cultivars by breeding.
2. Screening assays for resistance to Pythium spp and for the determination of seed vigour traits of spinach seed, that can be used in breeding and seed processing.
3. Knowledge on the relationship between resistance/tolerance to damping-off and seed vigour.
4. PhD thesis and scientific publications on screening for resistance/tolerance to damping-off in spinach.