Three leading Dutch organisations, BaseClear, Generade and Dümmen Orange, are to start intensive collaboration to speed up tulip breeding and production and make it more sustainable. Using the latest DNA analysis technologies, it is now possible to unravel huge and highly complex genomes such as that of the tulip.
The collaboration brings together the financial resources, knowledge and technologies needed to map the tulip genome, which will be placed in the public domain. This represents an important first step towards innovation in the tulip industry, a sector that is facing social and economic challenges and will show the Netherlands, where the tulip is highly prized both culturally and as an icon, how public-private cooperation can achieve sustainable and innovative development in a traditional agricultural sector.
The tulip genome will reveal how DNA determines the characteristics of a tulip. DNA patterns that are linked to desirable characteristics can be combined in breeding to produce new, improved varieties. With this knowledge, new tulip varieties which are resistant to common diseases can be developed faster and in a more targeted way.
Another potential benefit is a reduction in the use of plant protection products. Hans van den Heuvel, Research & Development Director, Dümmen Orange: “New technological developments in the field of DNA analysis now make it possible to map the gigantic genome of the tulip. This will unlock a wealth of information which determines why a tulip behaves like a tulip. We will then use this knowledge to speed up tulip breeding. The DNA patterns obtained will immediately be placed in the public domain in order to encourage research on tulips worldwide.”
Generade is a network organisation with an important interface role between companies and knowledge institutions. At the opening of Generade in 2014, the centre was given a clear message that it should provide innovative, practice-oriented research for the tulip sector. At the time, mapping of the tulip genome was an almost impossible task because the related technology was not sufficiently developed. Now, two and a half years later, it has the opportunity to take up this challenge in collaboration with BaseClear and Dümmen Orange.
Helma Kaptein, Director of Generade: “With our partners, we are now able to do something that was previously impossible. I am very pleased with the collaboration to date and look forward to sharing the first results, as it shows how different parties can work together in the public interest. Generade focuses on applied research and this project is an excellent example.”
BaseClear is the biggest independent DNA analysis laboratory in the Netherlands. Bas Reichert, CEO of BaseClear, outlines his commitment to this project: “BaseClear develops the latest DNA analysis techniques and makes them usable in practice. Our ambition is to make this technology accessible to ornamental crop breeders. We see the project to unravel the tulip genome as a perfect example which will demonstrate the impact and applicability of this technology to the rest of the sector. It proves that this technology is feasible and affordable. Not only does it show the power of DNA analysis techniques, it also demonstrates most importantly that it is essential for different parties to work closely together, share knowledge and thus speed up innovation. We hope and expect that others will also take up this gauntlet.”