, Volume 199, Issue 1–2, pp 81–95 | Cite as

Refining breeding methods for organic and low-input agriculture: analysis of an international winter wheat ring test

  • Almuth Elise Muellner
  • Fabio Mascher
  • David Schneider
  • Gheorghe Ittu
  • Ion Toncea
  • Bernard Rolland
  • Franziska LöschenbergerEmail author


An increasing interest in sustainable forms of agriculture exists worldwide and the demand for varieties specifically adapted to organic and low-input agriculture is rising. As a consequence, breeding methods need to be refined accordingly. In order to get better insight into needs and possibilities with this regard, a comprehensive ring test was performed from 2006 to 2008 with 14 winter wheat varieties in 36 environments in major cropping regions of Austria, France, Romania and Switzerland. Environments were grouped into 9 different subsets according to input systems, years, and countries. Input system N0 consisted of 13 organic and 6 no-input trials; 17 trials in input system N received various levels of synthetic nitrogen. For grain yield (YLD) and protein yield (PYLD), significant G × E was detected. Countries had a stronger effect on both traits than systems. Overall, it was more efficient to select YLD and PYLD in N, for targeting both systems N and N0. For PYLD, direct testing within a given country was always more efficient than indirect selection. Many traits could be scored equally well in both systems, N and N0, but for some traits particularly important for organic agriculture, such as soil coverage, better differentiation was observed under organic conditions. Therefore, we agree with other authors that a commercially sustainable breeding program for organic and low-input agriculture should combine information from high and low-input levels and from diverse regions. Local testing of varieties, however, remains indispensable.


Breeding Genotype by environment interaction (G × E) Low-input agriculture Organic agriculture Relative efficiency of indirect selection Triticum aestivum 



Broad sense heritability


Low-input (conventional) trials


Without synthetic nitrogen supply


With synthetic nitrogen supply


No-input (conventional) trials


Organic trials


Protein content


Protein yield


Relative efficiency of indirect selection


Grain yield



We thank Heinrich Grausgruber for statistical advice, we are grateful to Hannah Keely Smith for English writing advice and to Matt Clark ( for English proof reading. This work was initiated in the framework of the EU supported cost action 860 SUSVAR ( and data analysis was supported by EU FP7– project SOLIBAM (


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Almuth Elise Muellner
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fabio Mascher
    • 3
  • David Schneider
    • 3
    • 6
  • Gheorghe Ittu
    • 4
  • Ion Toncea
    • 4
  • Bernard Rolland
    • 5
  • Franziska Löschenberger
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute for Biotechnology in Plant ProductionUniversity of Natural Resources and Life SciencesTullnAustria
  2. 2.Saatzucht Donau GmbH & Co KGProbstdorfAustria
  3. 3.Institute for Plant Production SciencesNyonSwitzerland
  4. 4.INCDA (NARDI) FunduleaFunduleaRomania
  5. 5.INRAUMR 1349 IGEPPLe RheuFrance
  6. 6.KielGermany

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