Goal and Objectives

Yield and nutritional properties of vegetable crops are affected by unfavourable environmental conditions, such as drought, salinity, extreme temperatures, and pollutants. NatGenCrop aims at improving stress tolerance of major vegetable crops (tomato, pepper, legumes, lettuce) and design new strategies for maintaining higher yields and food quality even during unfavourable weather conditions. One of the major research directions is exploring the wide genetic and phenotypic variations of vegetables to improve agronomical traits under abiotic stresses (e.g drought, salinity, and extreme temperatures). A suite of genetics and genomics approaches, such as GWAS in combination with QTL, will be employed to identify genes contributing to high yield and stress tolerance. In another research direction, the fruit metabolic compositions will be characterized in terms of flavour and healthy related compounds to assess the impact of abiotic stress on fruit quality. A wide range of plant phenotypic, and metabolic traits will be evaluated, followed by transcriptomic profiling in two genome-wide association (GWAS) panels and two backcrossed inbred lines (BILs) populations for both tomato and pepper. The identified genes will be subsequently validated by CRISPR-Cas9 editing technologies and field trials.

To implement this ambitious work program, a new research department “Crop Quantitative Genetics” will be established in the Center of Plant Systems Biology and Biotechnology (CPSBB) in Plovdiv. The new research department will scale up the applied research on vegetable breeding in CPSBB and the region. Furthermore, the new CPSBB department will link with Bulgarian and international research organizations, companies, and farmer associations in the field of crop science, creating an ecosystem network that is highly attractive to talented researchers and brings the innovations to end users for the benefit of the society.