Three Questions with... Prof. Dr. Thomas Debener on Project ROGERES

Project ROGERES to Record DNA Data of 4,000 Rose Varieties for Enhanced Variety Identification

Since March 2021, Prof. Dr. Thomas Debener’s team at the Leibniz University of Hanover (LUH) in cooperation with the German Federal Plant Variety Office (BSA) has been working on an ambitious task: to design and implement new approaches to the management of large rose variety collections with the help of molecular markers. CIOPORA has been assisting BSA with reaching out to rose breeders – the title-holders of the rose varieties in question. To learn more about the project ROGERES and its goals, we have reached out to Prof. Dr. Debener for a short interview.

CIOPORA(C): Professor Debener, how the ROGERES project came to be and who is the driving force behind it?

Prof. Dr. Thomas Debener (TD): The origins of the ROGERES project go back to long-lasting discussions between BSA in Hanover and the Plant Breeding group at LUH on the use of molecular markers in variety fingerprinting in general and roses in particular. My working group at LUH has 28 years’ experience in developing and applying molecular markers in genetic identification and genetic analyses in roses. Early contacts to Dr. Burkhard Spellerberg (BSA) in the 1990s and, later, with his successor Dr. Daniela Christ led to the idea to use this experience for the characterization of rose germplasm maintained in the BSA’s federal gene bank project.

C: What are the objectives of the ROGERES project and what is the timeline?

TD: In the ROGERES framework, we aim at providing a genetic characterization of 4.000 rose accessions from two collections: the German Genebank Rose (a part of the German Genebank Ornamentals) and the BSA’s reference collection. The goal is to improve the management of large rose collections and to develop strategies for including markers in future approaches to the variety fingerprinting. In particular, we are looking to develop and optimize a set of SNP (single nucleotide polymorphisms) markers for precise and reproducible genotyping, which would allow to differentiate between rose varieties in a precise way. Further, we shall develop a design strategy for a so-called “core collection” of genetically unique and representative rose genotypes from the German Genebank Rose. Finally, we would like to identify the markers that are strongly associated with genes that result in important morphological traits in roses. We are interested in uncovering the gene-phenotype relations to enhance the predictive power of molecular markers in relation to phenotypic traits (genomic prediction). Optimization and standardization of marker assays for simple and cost-effective genotyping is another important goal. At the moment, the funding of the project defines its timeline - March 2021 through February 2024 - but we believe that utilization of the ROGERES results will definitely reach beyond the current deadline.

C: Access to ROGERES’ results may be very helpful for plant breeders, specifically for Plant Variety Right enforcement, where precise identification of varieties is key. Will breeders have access to the DNA data of their varieties collected in the course of ROGERES?

TD: Indeed, the final dataset resulting from the project may be suitable for enforcement purposes. With the consent of BSA, the project results will be published in scientific journals and media. Whether the DNA data will be made available to the title-holders is yet to be determined by BSA.


Dr. Thomas Debener is a Professor of Plant Breeding (W3) at the Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany. He specializes in plant genetics, including the application of molecular markers to the analysis of genetic diversity and plant genetics, analyses of plant genomes and transcriptomes, and plant genetic engineering for functional genetic studies. At LUH, he is heading the Molecular Plant Breeding Group.

About ROGERES: the project is carried out by the LUH in cooperation with BSA and the “Europe-Rosarium Sangerhausen”. The project is funded by the Federal Institute of Agriculture and Nutrition (BLE). The main research work is conducted by the Ph.D. student MSc Laurine Patzer and Sarah Sliwinska (Technician) with some management and support from Dr. Marcus Linde (LUH) and Dr. Daniela Christ (BSA) and further staff of both institutions.

Picture: Members of the ROGERES team at LUH (l. to r.): Tim Thomsen, Laurine Patzer, and Sarah Sliwinska. Credit: Private.