Protected Site cesgene Aepfel Kartoffeln

Cisgenic apple trees now also on the
Protected Site

Agroscope runs its Protected Site in order to enable field trials with genetically modified plants. The University of Zurich has been conducting trials with powdery mildew-resistant wheat lines on the site since 2014. In addition, Agroscope researchers are testing potato lines with a resistance to potato late blight. Each study focuses on the effectiveness of the inserted resistance genes, as well as the characterisation of the plants in natural environmental conditions, including the interaction with insect pests. The results of the studies contribute to the discussion on the use of genetically modified plants in agriculture.

Furthermore, Agroscope launched a field trial on the benefits and risks of genetically modified apple trees in May 2016. In it, cisgenic ‘Gala Galaxy’ apple trees to which the FB_MR5 fire-blight resistance gene from the wild apple Malus x robusta 5 was transferred are being tested.  The researchers hope to gauge from the field trial whether a fire-blight-resistant apple variety can be created from a susceptible variety by cisgenic modification – specifically, without modifying any further traits of the initial variety. A further intention is to investigate biosafety aspects of the release, such as the interaction with selected insects and, using not genetically modified apple trees, the efficiency of the total netting of the orchard to prevent outcrossing.

New grape varieties – amassing resistance genes

Plant-protection issues in viticulture involve the reduction of phytosanitary inputs. Whilst the most commonly grown grape varieties are extremely susceptible to fungal diseases (downy mildew, powdery mildew, Botrytis blight), numerous other species of the Vitis and Muscadinia genera are resistant to these, but produce grapes of poor quality. Using classic hybridisations, resistance genes can be transmitted to descendants whilst preserving the known agronomic and organoleptic traits of Vitis vinifera. In this way, Agroscope obtained the grape variety ‘Divico’, and is pursuing its efforts in partnership with the INRA Colmar Centre with the aim of amassing as many resistance genes from different genotypes as possible. Several hundred genotypes are currently undergoing agronomic and oenological evaluation in Pully and Colmar. 

Flavescence dorée in the canton of Vaud

Flavescence dorée or grapevine yellows is a highly infectious quarantine disease – the most serious vine disease known to date in Europe. As such, it is legally notifiable and subject to mandatory control. Present in Ticino since 2004, it first appeared in the canton of Vaud in 2015.

A working group was set up in 2016 to coordinate the fight against this scourge, with a view to its eradication. The group consists of Agroscope researchers at Changins and Cadenazzo, experts from the Federal Plant Protection Service, the Agroscope Plant Protection Service, and the cantonal plant protection services (Vaud, Ticino, Geneva and Valais), as well as representatives from the viticulture sector. 

Antagonists and tritagonists for controlling pathogens in the soil

The control of soil-borne plant pathogenic fungi is no easy matter. Antagonistic microorganisms are a highly promising and sustainable approach to the problem. Although many antagonists are known, the factors which regulate their effect are poorly understood. The aim of the research is to identify application technologies and microorganisms (antagonists and tritagonists) which improve and stabilise the control of fungi in the soil.