Research at the Dept. of Plant Breeding

Last changed: 17 November 2023

Crop production in agriculture and horticulture will continue to require maximal yields with appropriate product qualities in combination with decreased environmental impact and energy input. To meet these requirements, cultivars need to have increased resistance and tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress factors, more efficient nutrient uptake, and requested product quality.

Research on plant genetics is conducted on crops to investigate existing genetic variation, and to study specific characteristics of importance for further use in plant breeding. Unique to the department is the strong link between basic research and applied plant breeding.

Research includes the following crops, for some of which we also have active breeding programs.

  • Cereals: bread and durum wheat, barley, oat, rice, sorghum, millet
  • Oil crops: crambe, field cress, camelina, noug, oil-rape seed, turnip rape
  • Fruit and berries: apple, banana, sea buckthorn, black currant
  • Root/tuber crops: potato, nutsedge, sugar beet
  • Vegetables
  • Forages: fescue
  • Protein crops: pea, faba bean


Department structure

Our department is divided between three divisions: Plant Breeding, Plant Product Quality, and Plant Biotechnology. 
Nordfruit homepage.jpg In Division of Plant Breeding, our research activities cover both pre-breeding, such as evaluation and utilisation of genetic resources, and breeding of both Nordic and tropical crop species. Domestication of new plant species is also important in our research activities. We use both traditional and modern breeding methods, such as crossing, molecular markers, high throughout genotyping by GWAS, genomic selection, phenotyping using machine learning or artificial intelligence (AI) techniques.
In Division of Plant Product Quality, our research activities include analysis of health-related product qualities, evaluation of genetic, environmental and storage factors affecting the postharvest product quality, use of side-streamed biomass, studies on important factors affecting product quality of biomaterials and development of novel plant-based biomaterials that can be used for pharmacological, food, chemical, and packaging industry. In this work a wide range of chemical analyses of different plant compounds are used together with computer modelling and different X-ray techniques.
Barley  shoots induction 2015 resized.jpg In Division of Plant Biotechnology, we focus on understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying quality and quantity of oil, protein or starch and development of pre-breeding and new breeding materials in cereals, oilseed crops, faba bean, and potato as well as plant-based production of human heme-binding proteins or insect pheromone precursors for potential pharmacological, food, feed, and chemical applications. A wide range of techniques in biochemistry, physiology and molecular biology, genetic engineering, especially various omics and the CRISPR/Cas9 technique, are routinely used. 
Grön juice, denna gång av betblad, i Växtproteinfabriken vid SLU Alnarp. Här bedrivs forskning på växtprotein från grön biomassa.Green juice, this time from beet tops, in the Plant Protein Factory at SLU Alnarp where pilot scale extraction of proteins and other plant compounds from green leaves is carried out. At The Plant Protein Factory researchers with different skills are working together to develop the quality proteins of the future - from plant breeding to production and consumption. 
SLU Food Lab We also have the SLU Food Lab, which is an arena side-by-side with teaching and research, contributing to increased knowledge about the interaction between raw materials, process, and product.   


Research collaboration

The research is conducted in close collaboration with leading research groups worldwide. The department has an extensive SIDA-funded cooperation with universities in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia. A sample of research projects and some of our key partners are listed below. 

GeneBEcon (EU Horizon Europe)

Research and Innovation Action (RIA) project to develop the potential of gene editing in potato and microalgae while exploring various aspects of how the technology is embedded in society.

Coordinated by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Dennis Eriksson.

PlantEd (EU COST)

EU-funded (COST Association) networking project with over 600 participants from 38 European countries. Focusing on genome editing in plants from various aspects.

Coordinated by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Dennis Eriksson.

SLU Breeding Network

Competence resource on breeding informatics.


Consortium on banana (IITA), forages (CIAT), rice (AfricaRice), sweetpotato (CIP), wheat (CIMMYT, ICARDA) 

MISTRA Biotech

Research programme focusing on the use of biotechnology for sustainable and competitive agriculture (barley, crambe, field cress, potato)


Competence resource on molecular plant sciences in Southern Sweden.

SSF Oil Crops for the Future

Research programme on developing tailor-made oil qualities for various uses (camelina, crambe, field cress, nutsedge, oat)

SSF Plant Hemoglobins

Research programme on developing plant-based production of plant hemoglobins


Sustainable plant ingredients for healthier meat products

Bioraffinaderi Öresund

Production of chemicals on plant-based raw materials


Nordic pre-breeding public-private partnerships (apple, barley)

VINNOVA Trees and Crops for the Future (TC4F)

Research program and environment, part of the Swedish government’s Strategic Research Environment ‘Sustainable use of Natural Resources’.

Protein2Food (EU Horizon 2020)

Research programme creating innovative, high quality, protein-rich food crops.

ProIntensAfrica (EU Horizon 2020)

Initiative to develop a proposal for a long-term research and innovation partnership between Europe and Africa

SIDA Research and Training programs

Bolivia (Univ. Mayor San Simón), Ethiopia (Addis Ababa Univ.), Mozambique (Unv. Eduardo Mondlane), Rwanda (Univ. Rwanda), Tanzania (Univ. Dar es Salam), Uganda (Makarere Univ.) and Southern Africa (Univ. of Botswana).


A national laboratory hosted by Lund University that operates accelerators producing x-rays of very high intensity and quality.

BalticWheat Network

BalticWheat network is established by participants from 10 organizations in 7 countries with an overall goal of identifying new possibilities for promoting sustainable wheat production in the Baltic Sea region


Industrial research centre around oats, funded by SSF.