First Hybrid Rye – PollenPlus®

The fungus Claviceps purpurea is causing ergot in many grasses and rye. The alkaloids produced by the fungus are toxic and they form a serious health risk for both human and animals. Hybrids can be used to obtain ergot resistant rye however linkage drag, undesirable fragments of DNA crossed in during the breeding process, causes insufficient seed setting. To obtain a commercial interesting hybrid rye without the health risks of the ergot infection breeders we’re challenged to develop a hybrid rye with increased seed setting and ergot resistance.

The KeyGene approach

Genetic markers were identified for marker assisted selection to reduce the linkage drag during the breeding process. These markers could easily be converted to a DNA assay which can be used by the breeders. Using these DNA assays, the linkage drag could be removed, enabling the release of novel hybrid PollenPlus® rye varieties.


The Hybrid Rye has several benefits. At first an economical one for the seed company i.e. a growth of 17 Million Euro (40%) turnover in one year. Other important benefits are a high contribution to margins (from 3.6% EBIT 2005 to 14.3% EBIT 2009) for KWS – Lochow Petkus. Furthermore the farmers got more quality and less cleaning effort are needed. Also higher flour and feed quality is obtained fo the processors and a last benefit for the customer is the safety of the rye due to the reduced toxin.

Our research

KeyGene has identified the genetic markers closely linked to the resistance trait.