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15 million DKK project under NordGen will increase knowledge about plant-based protein sources

In a new project, financed by Novo Nordisk Foundation, the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre (NordGen) and Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics (QGG) at Aarhus University will map the Nordic seed collection of protein crops. The project will lead to a substantial lift for the gene bank collection and will lead to researchers and plant breeders getting access to brand new information about NordGen’s seeds – information that is vital for developing future plant-based protein sources.

Professor Torben Asp, QGG
Photo: Colourbox.com

Plant genetic resources are crucial for our agriculture, and the NordGen gene bank is responsible for some of these resources by safeguarding approximately 33,000 seed samples from important crops – the Nordic seed collection. 

 “The Nordic seed collection can be compared with a library, where each seed sample is a book. Currently, we know the titles of the books, but we do not have access to the text inside them – in other words the traits that each seed carry. This project will provide us with that information”, says Michael Lyngkjær, teamleader at NordGen and responsible for the project.

Researchers and plant breeders use the Nordic seed collection when they are developing the food of the future. Through plant breeding, they develop new crop varieties that are adapted to mitigate the effects of climate change, fulfill stricter environmental demands, or satisfy our wishes for nutritional content or taste.

Next Generation’s Gene bank

Plant breeding is a time- and resource-demanding task. It can often take ten years before a new crop variety is developed. The goal of this project is to contribute to a faster course. In the project called Next generation gene banking: Unlocking the potential of plant genetic resources in the sequencing era, NordGen and QGG will create an entirely new gene bank infrastructure enabling researchers to easier and faster find the genes that code for certain traits in the plant. 

“This project will lead to new possibilities for researchers and plant breeders. Through faster knowledge about seeds that might be interesting, their work will be greatly facilitated, which by extension will promote a green transition of the Nordic agriculture”, says Torben Asp, professor at Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics at Aarhus University.

The project focuses on 4,500 protein crop accessions from the Nordic seed collection, such as peas, beans, lentils, and clover that will be genotyped and phenotyped. Furthermore, several so-called core collections will be established. Core collections are a smaller number of seed samples that can represent a large part of the genetic diversity for each species. The project, which will run from 2024-2026, also involves sharing all the gathered information under open access.

The Nordic seed collection contains 144 seed samples of beans that are included in the project.


About Genetic Resources

Genetic resources are living organisms that humans need or might need in the future. These resources provide us with food, medicines, fuel, and shelter, and are in many cases essential for human life on earth. However, in the same way as biodiversity at large is decreasing at unprecedented speed, the genetic diversity is also being lost. At the same time, genetic resources are important tools for solving challenges that for example come with climate change.

About the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre (NordGen)

NordGen is the Nordic countries’ joint gene bank and knowledge center for genetic resources. As an institution under the Nordic Council of Ministers, NordGen conserve and promote a sustainable use of the diversity of farm animals, forests and plants that are important for the Nordic agriculture. The head office is situated in Alnarp, Sweden, along with the Nordic seed collection. 

About Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics, Aarhus University

Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics (QGG) is an international research center, which do basic and applied research within quantitative genetics and genomics. QGG particularly work with the development of statistical models to be used in animal and plant breeding, studies of the genetic basis for different traits and diseases, and management of genetic resources. 

About Novo Nordic Foundation

Novo Nordic Foundation is an independent Danish foundation with corporate interests. They have the following objectives: to provide a stable basis for the commercial and research activities of the companies in the Novo Group (Novo Nordisk A/S and Novozymes A/S), and to support scientific, humanitarian, and social causes.


This is a slightly modified version of the press release issued by NordGen on 3 October 2023. View the full press release here.

Contact: Professor Torben Asp, Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics.