Review: Experimental Year 2017

Apple Trees

The apple trees planted by Agroscope last year on the Protected Site can hardly be missed. Some of the trees are cisgenic and carry a fire blight-resistance gene originating from a wild apple tree. Despite the cold snaps in April, with night-time soil temperatures as low as -10 °C, the apple trees have developed well and grown strongly over the summer. Foliage samples are currently being collected to investigate whether leaves of the GM trees can be used by decomposing arthropods, such as springtails or fruit fly larvae, similarly to those of unmodified apple trees. 


The frost-sensitive potato plants were not adversely affected by the cold snap after Easter, since the seedlings were protected in the ridges, or the tubers had not yet been planted. The plants of the resistance-test were infected with late blight very late in the season, and only thanks to inoculation with infected leaves and temporary irrigation. After the pathogen had become established, however, conditions for the disease were optimal and the plants’ resistance could be tested. In this year, only plants carrying multiple resistance genes remained without leaf blight symptoms. Planted for the first time, the yield trial was harvested in late September, and the tubers will be analysed over the winter. 

Spring Wheat

Scientists of the University of Zurich tested their spring wheat for powdery mildew resistance also this year. This fungal pathogen developed well and maximum infestation of the susceptible control varieties was achieved already in mid-June. The researchers are currently analysing the field-trial data of the last four years and will publish the results in a specialist journal. 

Winter Wheat

The winter-wheat field trial conducted by Agroscope in cooperation with researchers from the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Gatersleben (Germany) was in its first field season. This trial deals with the question of whether genetically modified wheat lines with enhanced sugar transport to the grain that delivered higher yields in the greenhouse also exhibit this advantage in the field. The harvest took place at the end of July. Whilst data are currently being analysed, the second field season has been launched with the sowing of wheat in mid-October. In this experiment, the response of the GM wheat lines to different quantities of fertiliser will be compared to the unmodified parent variety.

Four Trials in the Fourth Year on the Protected Site 

With the planting of the last part of the potato trial in mid-May, all genetically modified (GM) test plants of the four ongoing trials on the Protected Site are now in the field.

The potatoes carry late-blight resistance genes from wild potatoes, and are to be examined this year not only for their resistance and for colonisation by aphids, but also to determine their yields.

The apple trees were planted last year, and carry a fire-blight resistance gene derived from a wild apple tree. The field trial is meant to test whether the genetic modification has unintentionally modified further traits of the initial varieties.

GM wheat lines showing an increased yield potential in the greenhouse are in their first trial year. Since we are dealing here with winter wheat, it was sown back in November 2016. The harvest in late July will give initial indications as to whether the GM wheat lines are higher-yielding than the unmodified initial variety under field conditions as well.

The University of Zurich is studying the powdery mildew resistance of their GM wheat lines this year as well. The summer wheat lines were sown in mid-March.