Breeding for sustainable ornamental plants

J. Van Huylenbroeck
During the last decades, the main goal in many commercial ornamental breeding programs has remained unchanged in a changing world: to develop new cultivars with improved floral attributes (colour, shape, perfume, enhanced vase life), leaf characteristics or plant habit. Only recently sustainability has gained increased interest by ornamental plant breeders. Enhanced disease and pest resistance, increased tolerance against abiotic stresses and less input of chemicals during the production phase or for postharvest treatments are big challenges but have great potential for future markets. How successful man can be to reach these novel breeding targets will depend largely on a multidisciplinary approach and collaboration between biologists, breeders, physiologists, plant pathologists and molecular biotechnologists. Public private partnerships can enhance the process, especially in the pre-breeding phase. Conservation and access to well characterized genetic resources is a first and important step. Only a small fraction of the worldwide available germplasm is used in breeding and the genetic background of the major commercial ornamental crops is rather small. To enlarge the genetic genepool and to create breakthrough innovations interspecific and intergeneric hybridization are major drivers. It enables to introgress novel genes (e.g., for biotic or abiotic stress resistance, plant architecture, etc.) absent in a specific target species. Tools such as robust bioassays for screening of offspring or parent plants and molecular techniques might help to speed up this process. In future, when more genomic data become available, the knowledge of the underlying causal genes of specific traits will increase. Together with precision breeding techniques this will allow to direct the breeding process. However, successful application in ornamentals will largely depend on the regulatory framework of these new technologies.
Van Huylenbroeck, J. (2020). Breeding for sustainable ornamental plants. Acta Hortic. 1288, 1-8
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2020.1288.1
sustainability, genetic resources, interspecific breeding, biotic stress resistance, drought tolerance, compact growth

Acta Horticulturae