Ghent University and VIB to build a global network on plant biotechnology and breeding

(06-01-2021) The network will unite at least 29 international partners from 15 countries, and advance scientific knowledge and responsible agricultural production.

The International Plant Biotechnology Outreach (IPBO) is a joint non-profit initiative from Ghent University and VIB, aiming to promote scientific partnerships and exchange new biotechnologies and innovations with Africa. A proposal of IPBO and professors from five Ghent University faculties, to create a robust and global plant biotechnology and breeding network (Plant B+B), has now been selected by Ghent University's International Thematic Network program.

Towards sustainable intensification

Food and agriculture are an important part of the UN's 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. To ensure food security and a food production that can keep up with the growing demand, agricultural productivity needs to increase.

Prof Godelieve Gheysen, who is the network’s promotor, adds: “To achieve this, agricultural systems will have to sustainably intensify. Plant breeding and plant biotechnology are key components to further develop agriculture in a world under conditions of climate change. These same technologies can help to reduce the environmental impacts of crop production.”

Uniting international partners

The Plant B+B network will connect the extensive plant biotechnology expertise of Ghent University and VIB’s Center for Plant Systems Biology with Ghent University expertise in philosophy, law, and political and social sciences, and with the expertise of international universities in the USA (Cornell, Iowa, Michigan), Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, South Africa) and Asia (China and South Korea). Furthermore the network will cooperate with existing Ghent University networks in Africa (GAP, Tricontinental), Asia (ASEANplus, China Platform), Latin America (CESAM) and the USA (Tri-continental).

Plant B+B will support research for development (R4D) and international breeding programs of key crops (e.g. cassava, banana, potato, maize, legumes) for fast-tracking the release of new crop varieties that can be more nutritious and better adapted to challenging circumstances. The partners will work together to develop educational resources and enable study exchanges, facilitate joint research proposals and symposia, draft policy recommendations, and engage in outreach activities.

Em Prof Dr Marc Van Montagu (Chairman IPBO): "The Plant B+B network will foster the use and adoption of innovative plant breeding technologies and improved crop varieties. This, in turn, will help us to ensure food security and fight world hunger."