18 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM A griculture is increasingly being urged to reduce its dependency on external inputs, lower its envi- ronmental footprint and cope with more variable climatic conditions. So, it should come as no surprise that plant breeders have taken up the baton and have started to breed for those characteristics that contribute to crop resilience to biotic and abiotic stresses, in fact that already started a long time ago. The next chal- lenge is to find criteria and methods to test and make value of the performances of those new plant varieties under condi- tions that are associated with sustainable and more variable farming practices. IMPROVE VARIETY TESTING The newly awarded INVITE project aims to address these issues by improving both the efficiency of variety testing and availability of information to stakeholders on variety performance under a range of production conditions and biotic and abi- otic stresses. One expected impact is to help introduce plant traits that respond to new challenges and demands in the conventional and organic sectors, while also considering the economic return of growers. The Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) is one of the initiators of the consortium together with a handful of other institutions involved in variety testing. To get a better view on this pro- ject, European Seed talked with Martin research needs and main challenges to be addressed, the EU Commission con- sulted main end-users such as examina- tion offices, CPVO and breeders before launching the call. Special attention was given to the dissemination of the results to a wide range of stakeholders. INVITE plans to address DUS and VCU testing in a balanced way and intends to max- imize synergies between them through related activities based on phenotyping, genotyping, modelling and database man- agement. Ekvad underlines that it is important that the EU spends money on improving efficiency in variety testing: “Agriculture and food systems sectors are at the very heart of the key challenges to be addressed for the years to come, including adaptation to climate change, ensure food security and safeguarding natural resources. Through the Horizon 2020 Work Program the EU aims at addressing such challenges, and the EU has included plant variety testing as an important element.” VARIETIES NEED TO PERFORM WELL Some years ago, the Commission made an impact assessment in the framework of launching a proposal on a regulation on plant reproductive material. “During that assessment, it became apparent that overall, plant variety testing is something that both the regulator and breeders agree is important in order to provide GETTING DUS AND PERFORMANCE TESTING IN SHAPE FOR THE NEXT PHASE. BY: MARCEL BRUINS Are we Ready for the Upcoming Challenges of Agriculture? Ekvad, President at the CPVO; Anne Weitz, Technical expert Agricultural species (CPVO) and Cécile Collonnier, Expert biomolecular techniques (CPVO). BROAD REPRESENTATION INVITE stands for INnovations in plant VarIety Testing in Europe and is a con- sortium that was set up in order to respond to a call for interest by the EU Commission under Horizon 2020, under which research in relation to plant vari- ety testing would be financed. And to ensure a diverse representation of interests, 27 partners from various sec- tors such as variety testing, research, universities, conventional and organic farming and breeders agreed to join INVITE. The project offer was accepted by the Commission in December 2018 and the awarded amount is about 8 million euros. It is expected that the work will commence in the second half of 2019 and last for a period of five years. The project manager is Francois Laurens from INRA (a French agriculture research institute). The project will focus on 10 crops selected according to a set of various criteria such as economic importance in the different partner countries, poten- tial for studies on durability and adap- tation to environmental changes, issues related to the assessment of DUS and/or VCU (maize, wheat, rye grass, sunflower, potato, tomato, apple, lucerne, soybean, rapeseed). In its attempt to identify the