Supporting food security through locally adapted, high-yielding crops as well as improving the sustainability of agricultural systems with pest-resistant varieties necessitates increased speed and accuracy in crop variety development. Yet, the impact of the phenotyping technologies on applied breeding remains opaque.
Since little is known on the adoption of these technologies by private breeding firms and their effects on shared crop genetic resources, the University of Bonn, the Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft (IPZ) and the Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Pflanzenzüchtung (IPK) are assessing how adopting new breeding technologies influences individual and aggregate crop genetic diversity.

Core Project 6 (CP6) focuses on technology adoption and its sustainability impacts at farm, factor market, and landscape scale. This project studies the adoption potential and related impacts of robotics and phenotyping (PhenoRob) technologies on agricultural development, welfare, and the environment at farm and landscape scales. It involves collaboration between agricultural economics and informatics and engages with projects across the whole cluster to understand the conditions under which PhenoRob technologies may contribute to sustainable agricultural transformation.


The overall objective of the pre-study is to assess how adopting new breeding technologies by breeding companies influences individual and aggregate crop genetic diversity. To contribute to this objective the preliminary study will genotype commercial maize, wheat and rapeseed varieties and harmonize these with economic indicators on a firm-variety level.
Using economic impact evaluation tools, the research team investigates how the adoption of hybrid systems influences the crop genetic pools. A preliminary genotypic data set will be generated, representative of commercially available varieties over the last 70 years for wheat, rapeseed, and corn in Germany.


The targeted research is the first to investigate the impacts of economic decision-making in plant breeding on crop gene pools grounded in genetic information. Difficulties of combining biological, economic and sociological approaches to plant breeding have so far limited the scope and explanatory power of many studies making the economic decision-making of breeding firms a black box. This project shall overcome this gap and be a cornerstone in developing new types of social-ecological analysis of breeding systems.

Contribution to Sustainable Futures

This study is partially funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) under Germany's Excellence Strategy - EXC 2070 - 390732324- PhenoRob CP6 and the Transdisciplinary Research Area (TRA) “Innovation and Technology for Sustainable Futures” at the University of Bonn, a research alliance focusing on the issue of sustainability.
The research activities will generate a new database to support research for public decision-making on the monitoring of crop genetic resources. Further, it will provide baseline evidence for the regulation of breeding technologies employed in the seed sector. This aligns with the overall targets of TRA 6 as it contributes to our understanding of technologies and resource management for a sustainable future.
It relates to Topic 1.2 of TRA 6 for evaluating technology adoption of seed breeding actors’ and their strategies in the seed sector, thereby contributing to sustainable governance of crop genetic resources (see TRA 6 Topic 3.4), which is a subcategory of biodiversity.

Related publications

Gerullis, M. K., T. Heckelei, & S. Rasch. 2021. Toward understanding the governance of varietal and genetic diversity. Ecology and Society 26(2):28. DOI: . https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-12333-260228

Staff working at ILR on the project

Maria Gerullis, Principal Investigator

Thomas Heckelei, Principal Investigator

Project Partners:

Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft – Institut für Pflanzenbau und Pflanzenzüchtung (IPZ)

  • Albrecht, Theresa, Dr.
  • Lorenz Hartl, Dr.
  • Barbara Eder, Dr.
  • Peter Westermeier, Dr.

Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung (IPK)

  • Jochen Reif, Prof. Dr.

Freelance Staff

  • Sonja Vilei, Dr.
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