Challenges facing European agriculture and possible biotechnological solutions

Agnès Ricroch, Wendy Harwood, Zdeňka Svobodová, László Sági, Penelope Hundleby, Elena Marcela Badea, Ioan Rosca, Gabriela Cruz, Manuel Pedro Salema Fevereiro, Victoria Marfà Riera, Stefan Jansson, Piero Morandini, Bojin Bojinov, Selim Cetiner, René Custers, Uwe Schrader, Hans Joerg Jacobsen, Jacqueline Martin-Laffon, Audrey Boisron, Marcel Kuntz

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

    18 Citations (Scopus)


    © 2015 Informa Healthcare USA, Inc. Agriculture faces many challenges to maximize yields while it is required to operate in an environmentally sustainable manner. In the present study, we analyze the major agricultural challenges identified by European farmers (primarily related to biotic stresses) in 13 countries, namely Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, UK and Turkey, for nine major crops (barley, beet, grapevine, maize, oilseed rape, olive, potato, sunflower and wheat). Most biotic stresses (BSs) are related to fungi or insects, but viral diseases, bacterial diseases and even parasitic plants have an important impact on yield and harvest quality. We examine how these challenges have been addressed by public and private research sectors, using either conventional breeding, marker-assisted selection, transgenesis, cisgenesis, RNAi technology or mutagenesis. Both national surveys and scientific literature analysis followed by text mining were employed to evaluate genetic engineering (GE) and non-GE approaches. This is the first report of text mining of the scientific literature on plant breeding and agricultural biotechnology research. For the nine major crops in Europe, 128 BS challenges were identified with 40% of these addressed neither in the scientific literature nor in recent European public research programs. We found evidence that the private sector was addressing only a few of these “neglected” challenges. Consequently, there are considerable gaps between farmer’s needs and current breeding and biotechnology research. We also provide evidence that the current political situation in certain European countries is an impediment to GE research in order to address these agricultural challenges in the future. This study should also contribute to the decision-making process on future pertinent international consortia to fill the identified research gaps.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)875-883
    JournalCritical Reviews in Biotechnology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2016


    • Automated literature analysis
    • biotic stress
    • breeding
    • cisgenesis
    • marker-assisted selection
    • oligonucleotide directed mutagenesis
    • patent
    • text mining
    • transgenesis


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