R&D – Biotechnology


Plant breeding in many crop species has been supported by the use of biotechnological methods for several decades. However, in recent times those technologies became more and more important for variety development and their applications are still rapidly evolving. In this area there are basically two established technologies which are often used in a combined way.
In modern cereal breeding tissue culture plays an important role. Additionally, a number of different technologies from the field of molecular biology are being applied in order to shorten the breeding process and to save costs.

Dr. Jens WeyenJW
Dr. Anja HanemannAH

Tissue Culture

Since the beginning of the 20th century it is possible to culture plant cells from different organs/tissues in vitro (lat.: in glass). Specifically, different ways to obtain so called doubled haploid (pure breeding) lines were discovered and developed into standard procedures.

Doubled Haploids

Doubled haploid (DH) plants have many advantages. They possess a doubled, identical and therefore pure breeding chromosome set. Those plants can be produced by several technologies. In cereal breeding mainly anther/microspore culture and the regeneration of haploid plantlets by wide crosses (still intensively applied in wheat) are commonly used. By performing marker tests on donor plants or on DH plantlets significant cost minimization is possible.
Besides the traditional plant breeding method of pedigree breeding Saatzucht Josef Breun is working with doubled haploid technologies and has a great interest to improve those technologies further and to use DH lines intensively.

Embryo Rescue

After fertilization of the egg cell it is possible to dissect the developing germling in the in vitro laboratory and to further cultivate it. Using this approach seed maturity can be reached earlier and subsequently specific breeding programs can be better synchronized and accelerated with the support of greenhouses (optimization of sowing time, use of different geographical regions).

Molecular Genetics

Since the 80’s of the 20th century several molecular technologies have been developed. At the beginning they were extremely expensive und only a few samples could be analyzed per day. This changed with the discovery of the so called Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) (http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/labs/pcr/) which revolutionized molecular genetics research in recent decades. Thanks to that nowadays many simply inherited traits can be selected for in the lab which spares tedious phenotyping and in turn leads to cost savings. Today it is state of the art to produce many millions of data points per day using different chip based technologies. Plant genome research (especially the sequencing of genomes) together with bioinformatics and biostatistics have started to play a more and more prominent role in plant breeding making it feasible to select for traits inherited in a more complex manner.
More applications are for example analysis of the genetic distance (kinship analysis) and marker assisted backcrossing of exotic germplasm.

Molecular Markers

Since 1998 Saatzucht Josef Breun GmbH & Co. KG is equipped with an own protein electrophoresis lab and since 2006 with a molecular marker laboratory in which several diverse DNA-based methods are applied. So called Microsatellite markers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsatellite), but also the Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) technology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-nucleotide_polymorphism) are established. Important breeding traits which are selected for by those technologies in the lab are for example the resistance against the viral diseases caused by the virus complex of Barley Yellow Mosaic Virus (BaMMV/BaYMV) and of Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) in winter barley. In spring barley traits like Scald resistance, Leaf Rust resistance, Fusarium Head Blight (scab) tolerance and quality traits (thermostable β-amylase, α-amylase, GN-content) are analyzed. In wheat several traits or QTL (quantitative trait loci) can be tested. Some of them are dwarfing genes, resistance/tolerance against Eyespot disease, Fusarium Head Blight (scab) and Soil-borne Wheat Mosaic Virus (SBWMV). Besides homogeneity testing in the barley and wheat breeding programs quality tests (baking quality) in wheat are performed in the protein electrophoresis lab.
In the frame of R&D projects Saatzucht Josef Breun is actively involved in exploring the use and suitability of high-throughput technologies (chip-analysis) with many thousands to many 10.000s of data points per genotype for selection- and crossing decisions.

Gene Technology and New Breeding Methods

Gene technology has significantly influenced plant breeding and plant production worldwide. This technology also has a big potential for cereal breeding in Europe, but due to legal reasons and the low public acceptance it is currently not applied. Hence Saatzucht Josef Breun is not using gene technology in the variety breeding process, but has a close look to the worldwide technology development.
New Breeding Methods are able to modify plant genomes in a targeted manner. Those techniques are very recent developments and are still under constant improvement. They do partially not fall under the regulation of the gene technology legislation and therefore represent a very interesting way to engineer desired breeding traits and to incorporate them into new improved varieties. Some of these technologies make it possible to replace a single base pair/nucleotide at an exactly defined location in the genome. A desired change of function and a new or improved breeding trait can thus be achieved. An excellent overview on such breeding methods can be found under - http://ftp.jrc.es/EURdoc/JRC63971.pdf. Saatzucht Josef Breun is actively involved in R&D projects concerning those technologies.


Saatzucht Josef Breun owns a biotechnological lab with state of the art equipment for molecular genetic analyses. For the performance of R&D experiments and for the time and climate independent production and propagation of seeds Saatzucht Josef Breun has access to own greenhouses, climate chambers, and vernalization cabinets.

Membership in research communities and associations

Many employees of Saatzucht Josef Breun are active members in the Society for Plant Breeding.

Saatzucht Josef Breun GmbH & Co. KG is member of the GFPi (Gemeinschaft zur Förderung von Pflanzeninnovation e.V., Society for the promotion of plant innovation).