Economic impacts of plant breeding – Sophia Lüttringhaus at the 1st International Wheat Congress

This summer, Sophia Lüttringhaus had the honor of presenting our research done within the project Breeding Innovations in Wheat for Resilient Cropping Systems (BRIWECS) at the 1st International Wheat Congress in Saskatoon (Canada).


In their research, Steffen Noleppa and Sophia Lüttringhaus investigate the socio-economic impact of breeders sharing plant material and interbreeding with it. This so called “breeders‘ exemption” is an integral part of the German plant breeding system. It regulates that breeders can use other breeders‘ released varieties as parent material for their future varieties. This exchange is without costs for the breeders as it was implemented to protect and broaden the genetic pool for all breeders and hence accelerate innovation.

The research now presented at the 1st International Wheat Congress in Saskatoon revealed that this exchange offers remarkable economic and environmental benefits for farmers, such as higher yields and hence higher revenues. Further, the breeder’s exemption also improved the wheat crop’s nitrogen use efficiency, so farmers need to apply less fertilizer and nitrogen runoff can be reduced. The full presentation can be accessed here.


The presentation sparked great interest among the conference attendees and led to many thought-provoking discussions on plant variety protection, breeders’ rights and patents that will enhance our future work. More details and input from the discussions will also be included into a future paper.

Participants of the 1st International Wheat Congress also had the opportunity to take part in a farm tour at Kenen Farm, where they visited many different wheat variety field trials. Some of our more general takeaways from the congress are:


  • Climate change decreases wheat yields in most regions.
  • Urgent measures are needed to increase productivity and achieve food security. Breeding, pre-breeding and also good seed rights are valuable for achieving this.
  • Breeders have many entry points to achieve that: e.g. improve input efficiency (ranging from water, nutrients to solar radiation), enhance photosynthesis (stay green), improve wheat quality for a better nutritional and conversion value.
  • There is no yield gap in Germany between attainable and actual farm yields. Germany over closes the yield gap.


A big thank you to all the organizers for this wonderful and inspiring conference, and to the conference participants for all the vivid discussions and questions!


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