20 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM certain tasks such as the work on coordi- nation of variety testing networks and the diffusion of results to stakeholders and policy makers. The CPVO expects that the results of INVITE will lead to efficien- cies and higher quality in variety testing.” ACHIEVING THE MAIN OBJECTIVE According to Collonnier, the aim of the project is to explore, develop and test/ prepare the implementation of new approaches. “There will be focus on Genetics × Environment × Management studies, (epi)genotyping, high through- put phenotyping (automatic observations by low-cost sensors based on fluores- cence, thermal and spectral imaging techniques), bioinformatics and biosta- tistics,” she says. Collonnier adds the project will make use of historical data from variety tests done in the past but will also produce new experimental data. “Bioinformatics anal- ysis of genomic data will allow the devel- opment of new sets of molecular markers to improve the management of reference collections for DUS testing contributing to reduce the number of reference varieties used in the field when a candidate variety is tested. Genome wide association studies will be conducted to identify new markers linked to a range of phenotypic traits in order to accelerate the assessment of cer- tain DUS characteristics.” The use of modern high throughput phenotyping tools will also speed up obser- vations and provide detailed and accurate phenotypic data. Biostatistical approaches will be used to develop for example improved ways of assessing uniformity, in particular for cross pollinated species. “Regarding modelling, the idea is to use available molecular, phenotypic and agronomic data obtained in a given context to make prediction of variety response to a wide range of pedo-climatic environments. This could help identify- ing meta-environments for performance testing. In relation to DUS, these models could contribute to help assessing the resilience of certain DUS characteristics to environmental impact,” says Weitz. DEFINING EFFICIENCY “As has been indicated above, efficiency should lead to lower costs,” says Ekvad. “This can be achieved by less time and resources spent and more affordable and easy-to-use tools. However, by using new models and tools we believe that quality of data and interpretation may be improved leading to no or less redun- dancy of analyses and making more value of existing processes. Optimized and harmonized procedures will in the best of worlds lead to both quicker and robust decisions on DUS and VCU, something we believe the INVITE project will contrib- ute to achieve.” IMPROVEMENT TARGETS The improvements targeted by the project are defined as follows: -  New tools for DUS and performance testing (phenotyping and genotyp- ing tools, models) -  Identification and exploitation of potential synergies between DUS and performance testing -  Better coordination and sharing of data and databases between partners - Improved procedures and protocols - Strengthened networks -  Communication tools towards stakeholders and policy makers LOOKING FOR SYNERGIES The focus of INVITE is variety testing in the framework of variety listing. DUS test- ing, however, also applies to plant breed- ers’ rights and under EU law the same technical protocols are used for the two. “Indeed, the CPVO technical proto- cols for DUS tests are, and will be, used in the framework of listing applications and in the framework of intellectual prop- erty right applications,” says Collonnier. “INVITE addresses the importance to find synergies between DUS and VCU in the improvement of variety testing. Where characteristics are suitable for both, INVITE will investigate the possi- bility to describe the characteristics in a comparable manner. For instance, matu- rity in soya bean is a DUS characteristic and a VCU characteristic. The aim is to find ways to name and describe the char- acteristic in the same way for DUS and VCU purposes. The intention of the pro- ject is not to shift the existing balance of importance between DUS and VCU or to redefine the reasons why varieties are tested under the two schemes. The pur- pose is rather to improve each of them separately and possibly find synergies.” The CPVO technical protocols are adopted by the Administrative Council of the CPVO in which EU member states and the Commission are members and the breeders’ organisations observers. “This ensures that public and private interests are represented when potential changes are discussed. The decision on admission of a variety to the national list and subse- quently the common catalogue remains under the realm of the relevant national authority,” says Weitz. The implementa- tion of the potential research results will follow the usual channels involving all relevant stakeholders. Editor’s Note: Do you want to read more about private seed sector involvement in the INVITE project, make sure to check the full article on our website: https:// european-seed.com Variety trials in apple 1 Integration of molecular data into DUS testing