The Virtual Irish Centre for Crop Improvement brings together the most active crop and plant science research groups in Ireland to generate a critical mass of knowledge, expertise and resources of that will allow us to address the key challenges facing tillage and forage crop production in Irish agriculture.
Ireland has a very high yield potential for crops, but the same climate that bestows high yield potential also demands high levels of external inputs and associated costs. One of the most cost-effective strategies for reducing inputs, while maintaining or even increasing yields, is to continue to breed improved varieties of crop plants. Recently however, genetic gain for yield has stagnated in many crops, especially highly productive cereals. In addition, while genetic improvement of some species has resulted in major yield increases, the rate of genetic gain in others has been less than optimal due to complex genetics or other constraints. In the context of factors such as climate change and an increasing global population, these trends are worrying. However, these challenges have arisen against a backdrop of huge advances in the area of plant science, offering knowledge-led solutions that will secure sustainable productivity in Irish agriculture in the future.
Built around a team of sixteen of Irelands leading crop, plant and agricultural scientists from Teagasc, UCD, NUIG, NUIM and TCD, VICCI is focusing on four challenges in Ireland’s most important crops, namely cereals (wheat, barley, oats), perennial ryegrass, potatoes and beans.
To address these challenges, VICCI partners are screening large existing collections of breeding and experimental germplasm from Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe to identify plants that exhibit traits that will contribute to solving the above challenges. This is being combined with a multi-disciplinary approach that spans transcriptomics, metabolomics, proteomics, forward and reverse genetics approaches and gene editing that will allow us to both understand the genetic control of these traits and to exploit the results in breeding better varieties. As a result of this approach, VICCI research will identify plant varieties and elite breeding germplasm of immediate benefit to Irish agriculture, whilst developing the tools (eg. genetic markers) to enable the more efficient breeding of new varieties exhibiting these traits. Practical, real world outcomes are important to the initiative, and VICCI is well placed to ensure the exploitation of the research, as partners involved in the consortium are either directly involved in plant breeding (Teagasc breeds perennial ryegrass and potatoes), or have very strong existing linkages with commercial plant breeding programmes that target Ireland.
VICCI is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) Research Stimulus Fund (Project: 14/S/819)
VICCI is currently working on six crops that form the backbone of Irish tillage and forage argicultrue. Find out what we are doing in each crop.