Development of a cucumber plant architecture optimization toolbox
Cucumber is the second most important glasshouse vegetable for Dutch plant breeders and growers, and cucumber growth and production improved significantly over the last decades due to technological improvements and the introduction of new varieties. Nevertheless, there is strong competition on the European market and consumers and retail demand novel product innovations and production with reduced environmental impact. Recent developments in Next Generation Sequencing technology flood cucumber breeders with genome sequence and gene expression data that can be explored to optimize the genetic composition of cucumber varieties. However, we currently lack the knowledge about genes involved in important cucumber plant architecture traits and efficient methods to test their proposed functions. This is essential to optimize cucumber plant architecture and to optimally adapt cucumber growth to new greenhouse concepts and e.g. robotized picking of fruits. The main objective of this project is to explore the genetic potential within important families of key regulatory genes controlling plant architecture in cucumber. Secondly, we aim to develop and implement methods for the efficient testing of candidate gene functions in this recalcitrant species. The research in this project will provide the involved private partner with new and alternative tools to optimize cucumber plant growth (and at a later stage also other cucumber breeders), growers with starting material essential for sustainable cucumber production, and consumers with novel healthy cucumber-based food products.
In this project genome technologies will be developed to breed for plant architecture related traits in cucumber. Because of the high level of conservation of the regulation of architectural traits, we expect that the developed tools will also be applicable in other crops. Cucumber is a recalcitrant crop for targeted genome editing and modifications. Besides focusing on functional gene studies, also customized and optimized transformation protocols will be developed.
Cucumber is the second most important glasshouse vegetable for the Dutch breeding industry. Despite its importance, we currently lack sufficient tools to explore its genetic potential.
The knowledge gained in this project is expected to result in the following deliverables:
I. A set of key regulatory cucumber genes (Y1) and information about their role in orchestrating a cucumber’s plant architecture (Y4).
II. Insight into the genetic variation in these key regulatory genes and how this might affect the final plant architecture and growth capacity under different environmental conditions (Y4).
III. A ‘toolbox’ for cucumber breeders to adapt plant architecture to novel greenhouse conditions and to improve cucumber production (Y4).
IV. Reduced input of energy and labour in cucumber cultivation and a more sustainable production of this important vegetable (Y4).
V. Knowledge for the development of novel cucumber products, such as equally grown small snack cucumbers on a truss (Y4).
VI. Semi-annual progress meetings (Y1-Y4).