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FA COST Action 851
Gametic cells and molecular breeding for crop improvement

The main objective of this Action was to discover the biological controls of gametic embryogenesis and to exploit these in plant breeding. In doing so the Action would help Europe to maintain its lead in this area both in fundamental studies and in its commercial exploitation.

This COST Action placed the technology of gametic embryogenesis on a firm scientific basis and in doing so provided support for the resurgence of interest in haploids/doubled haploids in higher plants. The science involved basic research in double haploidy technology; functional genomics in gene discovery, gene expression and developmental studies. The research targeted a wide range of species including all the major European crop groups: cereals, vegetables, fruit, as well as medicinal plants and ornamental species.

There has been a steady transition in moving species off the recalcitrant category onto the responsive category. The transfer of technology from the model species to others has been a significant factor in expanding the use of doubled haploidy to new species. Woody species and legumes however remain difficult groups.

One of the highlights of this Action with respect to knowledge transfer was a joint venture with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the United Nations (UN) in the publication of an important book with protocols for Doubled Haploids induction in a wide range of crop species, entitled “Doubled Haploid Production in Crop Plants - A Manual” This book is of great importance and serves as a reference book for scientific and applied studies, and for breeding programmes and breeders. It is used in FAO/IAEA inter-regional training programmes. Dissemination of the results was also managed by organising workshops together with the European Plant Breeding Organisation (EUCARPIA).

The Action attempted to maximise the involvement and collaboration between plant breeders. This was tackled head on with one of the Working Groups being chaired by two people from different plant breeding companies. The speed of change and the challenge from out side Europe also put pressure on plant breeders to share information. A notable example of this is the joint publication on “Molecular markers and doubled haploids in European Plant Breeding”, which involved collaboration between plant breeding companies in Sweden, Finland, Germany and Austria. This is exceptional given that innovative methods are normally difficult to report on as these are often put forward for patenting.

The transfer of laboratory based innovations to end-user practice was not and is not straightforward, and this COST Action provided an important vehicle for such technology transfer. Short-term scientific missions were considered to be particularly relevant here, as they provide “hands-on” experience. For plant breeders, especially small companies in Europe this was important as they are often remote, both geographically and scientifically.

(Descriptions are provided by the Actions directly via e-COST.)

General Information*

Chair of the Action:

Dr Brian Peter FORSTER (UK)

Science officer of the Action:


Administrative officer of the Action:

Mr Christophe PEETERS


Action Fact Sheet

Download AFS as .RTF

Memorandum of Understanding

Download MoU as PDF

Progress Report

Download Progress Report as PDF


* content provided by e-COST.
Data is synchronised once per night.


Last updated: 02 May 2011 top of page