The Botanist Kölreuter discovered in plants the laws of genetics (around a century before Mendel and long before the foundation of the university). But still the Botanical Garden is absolutely essential for research at the KIT:
Model plants: Model plants allow to study conveniently what particular genes are actually good for. Whether Thale Cress, Rice, Grapevine, Tobacco or Tomatoes – without the professionality and competence of our gardeners our research would be impossible. We do not only try to uncover the molecular base of development, growth and metabolism. This research stimulates important applications – using Arabidopsis new technologies such as CRISPR-Cas can be perfectionated, rice genes allow to breed drought resistant plants, or genes from wild grapes improve plant immunity.
Wild Grapevine Collection: Our collection harbours meanwhile the complete gene set for Vitis sylvestris, the ancestor of our grapevine and serves as important genetic resource to breed new grape varieties that are immune against diseases, such as the Esca Syndrome that spreads in consequence of climate change. Recently, the entire genomes of these wild grape has been deciphered and deposited in a database. As next step we want to assemble all wild grapes in Europe – both as plants and as deciphered genomes – in the Botanical Garden.
Reference Collection for Molecular Authentication: Globalisation yields a steady flow of new plant products to our markets, a challenge for consumer safety. We develop new methods to detect fake food. Our collection of validated reference plants is often requested by industrial partners, but also international collaborators.
Gene Bank Crop Wild Relatives: Crop Wild Relatives often harbour genes that have been lost during domestication. We have collected those relatives all over Germany and established a gene bank to secure diversity for the future. The goal is to breed plants that are able to cope with the challenges of the future. And this treasure is already tapped – for instance by our project FragAnanas: wild strawberries from the heights of the Black Forest donate genes to render Egyptian strawberries resilient to occasional frost episodes in cold desert nights.