Flower Science Café at BaseClear, Leiden

"Newest DNA technologies are going to bring major changes in floriculture"

We regularly hear about new breeding techniques and about the large accelerations that are going to be made. For most of us an unfamiliar matter, but also an exciting demand on our industry. Will I be left behind, will my neighbor soon have varieties that outshine mine? Reason for Flower Science to dive into the matter with all involved and interested parties from the bulb world.

Bas Reichert

It's hard to find a location more suitable than BaseClear. BaseClear is the company of Bas Reichert and claims, in his words, to be the largest independent genetic research laboratory in the Netherlands. Already 25 years ago Bas had the conviction that if all of the properties of an organism are stored in the genome, then that must also be readable. The nice thing is that this prediction has indeed come true. Today he and his colleagues are primarily occupied with the use of the latest technologies to find answers to specialist, diverse but also practical questions from all kinds of sectors, where knowledge of this genetic code is required. Bas: "Plant breeding in agricultural crops is one of those sectors, in which DNA technologies have already caused major changes. That is also going to happen in floriculture."



Tulip genome
The most appealing example to substantiate this claim, even before one knows something about technology and genetics, is the project in which the tulip genome is mapped out. This project, which was carried out by a consortium of companies and research institutes, is prestigious, especially because the tulip genome is extremely complicated. It contains, it was explained, more than ten times as many building blocks as the human genome, and if they wanted to map these with existing techniques, then, with the limited technology and computing power, it would take forever. "In fact, we needed two things," said Ron Dirks, director of partner company Future Genomics Technologies: "A device that can read long sequences and the software that can compare the different building blocks with each other. These we have now, and that offers many interesting perspectives."

Ron Dirks

Plant substances
A second theme with the same perspectives is in the so-called plant content substances. This is also regularly spoken about, but the subject is surrounded by mystery. This is partly due to the fact that there are many thousands of substances that have been examined only for a very limited part. At the same time, the substances that are known, are used in many sectors and for various purposes, which means that there are also many possibilities on the production side. "That makes the Netherlands as a horticultural country interesting again for researchers and producers of all sorts, because the supply chain is safeguarded here", professor Peter Klinkhamer of the IBL (Institute of Biology) in Leiden concluded his story.

Peter Klinkhamer

Spadix
If you, as a breeder or otherwise involved in bulbs, cut flowers or potted plant cultivation, have a question, then you should contact the bioscience park. The established research facilities of Leiden University have in recent years attracted numerous companies, where research, technology and commerce know how to locate each other better. Another good example of this is the new company Spadix, also a kind of spin-off from BaseClear, which director Leon Mur finally was allowed to promote. "Spadix aims to use the latest DNA analysis technologies specifically for parties in floriculture. These techniques have reduced the difference between genotype and phenotype, or in other words, the difference between the genetic code and the whole of physical properties. As it were, one can outsource genetic issues to us and make use of our knowledge, equipment and specialist knowledge."

Leon Mur

Click here for more information about (the monthly meetings of) Flower Science Café (in Dutch).


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