In our Western society we have become accustomed to high quality fruits and vegetables. This is
achieved by process optimization in various parts of the food production chain and includes the
selection of elite varieties that are outstanding in terms of consistency in yield, shape, taste etc.
Good examples of vegetables that we master well are tomatoes, cucumbers, paprika, banana, etc.
However, for many crops, and especially for tropical trees, breeding has only started, and in many
cases the use of elite varieties is even not being practiced. My project is about developing
technology that will facilitate the mass production of elite varieties. The cloning of elite crops can
in some instances be achieved by micropropagation, an in vitro cultivation technique whereby
treatment with the plant hormone cytokinin leads to new shoots that then are used for cultivation
and production. The laboratory of Plant Production (UGent) has discovered a compound (C1) that
strongly promotes shoot formation. The objective of the project is to unravel the molecular
signaling following C1 treatment of root segments and to determine which master regulators are
controlling the induction of shoots. This information will then be used to create a model to help us
design new micropropagation protocols for the mass production of elite species. Ultimately, our
molecular framework may contribute to the production of elite tree crops such as cacao, the raw
material for the famous Belgian chocolate.