German Plant Breeding Conference 2024 “Accelerating Crop Genetic Gain”

19 – 21 March 2024, Geisenheim University, Germany

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The biennial main conference of the Society for Plant Breeding e.V. (GPZ), the “German Plant Breeding Conference,” took place in 2024 at Hochschule Geisenheim University (HGU) in the Rheingau region. Hosting this significant event was a distinct honor for the organizers at HGU. Notably, it marked the first time the GPZ Conference convened at HGU in Geisenheim. Moreover, the establishment of the new Department of Plant Breeding at HGU, merging the former Institutes for Grapevine Breeding and Molecular Plant Sciences, added to the occasion’s importance for HGU. Substantially supported by the LOEWE program of the state of Hesse, the new Geisenheim plant breeding department will focus on advancing breeding tools and methods in genomics, phenotyping, quantitative genetics, and biotechnology, with a focus on accelerating crop genetic gain for viticultural and horticultural species.

The conference, themed “Accelerating Crop Genetic Gain,” spotlighted the latest breeding innovations that could help to accelerate the breeding progress and yield faster genetic gains for future agriculture. A total of 330 delegates from almost 30 nations registered for the conference (290 in person, 40 online). Due to overwhelming demand for in-person attendance, the meeting had been booked out weeks in advance. The program included six keynote presentations by world-renowned breeding researchers, alongside 29 conference talks and 110 scientific posters selected from over 170 abstract submissions, covering diverse topics from genomics, predictive breeding, quantitative genetics, resistance & tolerance breeding, crop modelling, and precision breeding.

Responding to the high demand for targeted support for young early-career researchers in plant breeding, the “Next Generation Breeders Workshop” was held ahead of the conference from March 17-18. Organized by Kai Voss-Fels, Lee Hickey, and Morgane Roth, the workshop featured selected presentations on innovative breeding research topics and networking events, with 50 selected participants and 20 experts in attendance.

On March 19, 2024, conference participants convened at the fully booked Gerd-Erbslöh Auditorium at HGU, where they were welcomed by the head of the organising committee and head of the department of plant breeding Prof. Dr. Kai Voss-Fels, the state secretary of the Hessian Ministry of Agriculture Daniel Köfer, the HGU president Prof. Dr. Hans R. Schultz and the GPZ president Prof. Dr. Maria von Korff Schmising. The scientific program of the conference, which was divided into a total of five sessions, was then officially opened. 7

Session 1 themed “Managing and mining crop diversity using genomic tools” was opened by Prof. Agnieszka Golicz (JLU Giessen), who highlighted modern genomic technologies to accelerate crop genetic gain in her keynote speech. 
Session 2 covered “Innovative modeling strategies for future crop improvement”. A/Prof. Daniela Bustos-Korts (Universidad Austral de Chile) highlighted challenges and opportunities arising from GxE at different scales in her keynote speech.

Directly after the first two sessions, the founding meeting of the “Young GPZ” took place, during which two representatives of young GPZ members (<36 years old) were elected to the GPZ Board. This was followed by the general assembly of the GPZ, in which Prof. Dr. Klaus Pillen (University of Halle) was elected as the next president of the GPZ. The meetings were followed by the “Happy Poster Session” with a flying dinner, after which there was an invitation to network in a relaxed atmosphere in the Breeders’ Lounge.

The second day of the conference started with conference session 3 on “Accelerating crop breeding for improved climate resilience and sustainability”. Dr Dorcus Gemenet (CGIAR) kicked off with her keynote speech, in which she discussed the important topics of “Food and nutrition security in the global south” and gave an overview of crop improvement interventions by CGIAR and partners. After the extended lunch break and the second poster session, the two-block session 4 “Designing future crops using modern breeding technologies” followed, which Dr Hans Daetwyler from Bayer Crop Science kicked off with his keynote on “Transforming vegetable breeding”. The second keynote of the session “Using CRISPR/Cas for plant breeding: from gene editing to chromosome engineering” came from Prof Holger Puchta (KIT), who gave a comprehensive overview of new precision breeding methods for future crop improvement. After the end of the last scientific session, the conference dinner took place at “Mein Bahnhof” in Rüdesheim, where the three winners of the poster prizes were also honored. The following early-career researchers were awarded the GPZ conference 2024 best poster awards:

  • Rica-Hanna Schlichtermann (JLU Giessen, Germany), “Optimizing cross efficiency and seed multiplication in faba bean via insect pollination and retrospective genotyping”
  • André Mario Pupkes (Uni of Goettingen, Germany), “GWAS in Winter Faba Bean (Vicia faba L.) for grain yield and further agronomic traints sing data from 189 inbred lines and thr progency across 16 years: Début
  • Anna E. Backhaus (ICARDA, Morocco), “Harnessing the benefits of crop wild relatives for African dryland farmers”

The final conference day commenced with session 5 on ‘predicting a path for future crop improvement’, starting with a thought-provoking keynote address by Prof. Mark Cooper on “Rethinking the breeder’s equation: emerging open questions” and new plant breeding strategies in the future.

Directly following the last presentations and the end of the last scientific session, two awards for the best presentations by early-career scientists were awarded by Rod Snowdon, Kai Voss-Fels and Klaus Pillen. The award winners were:

  • Tien-Chen Wang (Humboldt Uni Berlin, Germany), „Location determines yield performance consistency in winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.): case study from multi-environment trials and simulation results”
  • Azadeh Hassanpour (Uni of Goettingen, Germany), “Dynamic otptimisation of resource allocation in breeding programs using evolutionary algorithms”

The conference participants were then bid farewell by Kai Voss-Fels and the new GPZ President Klaus Pillen, pointing out that the next GPZ conference will take place at Halle University in 2026. Sincerest gratitude was extended to all sponsors and supporters, especially the platinum sponsors Crop Trust and Bayer, the gold sponsors KWS and BASF, the LOEWE program of the state of Hesse and 15 other silver and bronze sponsors, whose generous support made it possible to realize the conference including the supporting program and social events at very low conference fees.

The full abstract book can be downloaded here: Abstract_Book_GPZ_2024_Geisenheim

Photos of the event can be viewed here:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Prof. Dr. Kai Voss-Fels

Head of Department of Plant Breeding

Hochschule Geisenheim University


German Plant Breeding Conference 2024 – organisation

Scientific board

Kai Voss-Fels, HGU Germany

Maria von Korff Schmising, HHU Germany

Lee Hickey, UQ Australia

Rod Snowdon, JLU Germany

Andreas Stahl, JKI Germany

Morgane Roth, INRAE France

Local committee at HGU, Geisenheim

Kai Voss-Fels, Martina Meissner-Link, Maximilian Schmidt, Johanna Frotscher, Andrea Wünsch, Simone Böhm, Angelika Kohmann, Tobias Hartung, Tina Kissinger. Alina Kramer, Robert Lönarz, Julia Baumberger, Christiane Wenz, Timo Strack. Achim Matti, Felix Baumgartner, Philipp Stieffenhofer