Lettuce breeding for Vertical Farming

Project: PhD

Project Details


Vertical farming (VF) stands as a state-of-the-art technology with the potential to grow crops in fully controlled indoor conditions. Namely, in urban areas and close to consumers, which shortens transportation distances. Thus, VF can help to deal with current concerns such as urbanization, limited arable land and scarce water supplies. Changes in production practices may demand new genetic solutions, as crop varieties available nowadays have been bred to grow in open-air fields or greenhouses, but not in vertical farms. The current research proposal focuses on lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.), one of the most important vegetables worldwide and a good leafy model plant for VF. According to preliminary examination, lettuce and its wild relatives have genetic variation for plant morphology, quality and resistance to abiotic stresses that can be used to breed optimized cultivars for VF. All climate parameters, including light, CO2 concentration, and temperature, but also diel length, can be fine-tuned in vertical farms. This opens new possibilities for breeding, but also to test environmental conditions that couldn’t be reproduced in other settings, such as non-circadian diel cycles (?24h) and extended photoperiods. Given that the external conditions have a strong effect on the plant circadian clock, which modulates a wide range of plant responses and agricultural traits, there might be potential within VF to exploit the circadian oscillator to enhance productivity. In this project, we will examine the phenotypic and genetic variation in cultivated (and non-cultivated) lettuce germplasm under different diel length conditions, light intensities and photoperiods. We aim to identify new breeding targets for VF, study their molecular mechanisms and elucidate the regulatory role that the circadian clock plays in agronomical traits. Our goal is to identify candidate phenotypes and genes that harbour allelic variation that can be selected to breed tailored lettuce cultivars for VF: with an increased resource use efficiency, yield, and quality. Ultimately, we want to contribute to VF feasibility by providing a genomics toolkit for breeders, that can be used in the development of novel lettuce genotypes.
Effective start/end date1/03/21 → …


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