GENLEG will include the following Workpackages (WPs):
- WP 1: Coordination and communication
- WP 2: Genetic improvement of productions in relatively favorable environments
- WP 3: Genetic improvement of productions in conditions of severe water stress
- WP 4: Genetic improvement of the protein content of productions
- WP 5: Development of new germplasm
WP 1 will coordinate research, dissemination and communication actions and will organize meetings and field visits with farmers and seed company managers. The meetings with farmers will also aim at the participatory evaluation of materials. Communication and dissemination actions will also include publications in scientific and technical journals, communications at international conferences, and a dedicated website.
WP 2 will develop and/or validate genomic selection strategies for alfalfa, pea and soybean aimed at increasing crop yields in relatively moisture-favourable environments such as those of Northern Italy (considering soybean as an irrigated crop). Its activities will encompass:
a) alfalfa: comparison between genomic selection implemented according to three different selection models and phenotypic selection based on actual yield gains (with materials evaluated for two-year biomass yield in pure stand and intercropping with grass varieties Northern Italy);
b) pea: comparison between genomic selection and phenotypic selection, each carried out on six different genetic bases, in terms of actual genetic progress for grain yield and protein yield per unit area (with pure lines evaluated for these traits and farmers’ acceptability over two cropping years in Northern Italy);
c) soy: construction of a genomic selection model for grain yield in favorable environments (based on an evaluation experiment under irrigation and sequencing data from 150 European varieties).
WP 3 will develop and validate genomic selection strategies for alfalfa and pea crop yield in drought-prone environments (soy is not included because a genomic selection model for these environments is being developed within the Horizon 2020 project INVITE). Its activities will include:
a) alfalfa: construction and validation of a genomic selection model (based on a phenotyping platform experiment and sequencing data of 150 half-sib progeny representative of a European reference population evaluated for two-year biomass yield), and study of the predictive ability of new models based on various estimates of the allelic dosage for this tetraploid species;
b) pea: validation of a genomic selection model based on the integration of a model for favorable environments and one for environments with very severe water stress (with pure lines evaluated for grain yield across moisture-favourable and severely drought-prone managed environments).
WP 4 will develop and validate genomic selection and marker-assisted selection strategies aimed at increasing the protein content of legume crops and the forage quality of alfalfa. Its activities will comprise:
a) alfalfa: construction of marker-based selection models for short internodes (associated with higher protein content and forage quality: Pecetti et al., 2017, Grass Forage Sci. 72, 714-722) and late flowering, and their validation on independent materials (150 genotyped half-sib progeny) with evaluation of protein content, Relative Feed Value, and digestibility of NDF;
b) pea protein content: construction of a genomic selection model, and genome-wide association study (GWAS), for protein content of the grain (based on data of 300 inbred lines from three genetic bases already evaluated in three environments of Northern and Central Italy), with validation on independent material (the lines evaluated in WP 2 and in WP 3);
c) soy: construction of a genomic selection model, and GWAS, for protein content of the grain (based on the evaluation of samples collected in the WP 2 experiment and sequencing data of 150 varieties).
WP 5 will develop new alfalfa, pea and soybean germplasm. Its activities are:
a) alfalfa: (i) selection of a candidate variety for relatively favorable environments chosen from the three genomic selections based on biomass yield and protein content data, and (ii) selection of parents for a candidate variety with high drought tolerance and high forage quality for Mediterranean environments;
b) pea: selection of a candidate variety for moisture-favorable environments and another for environments with severe drought stress, each featuring high protein content and grain yield for the target region;
c) soy: development of an elite genetic base for future genomic selections, represented by three Multiparent advanced generation intercross (MAGIC) populations, with 4 parental per population selected on the basis of yield data in a favorable environment (WP 2), yield in environment with severe water stress