Next generation variety testing for improved cropping on European farmland (InnoVar)

Wheat on plaggensoil in sand landscape
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The demand for food continues to increase, while farming is often done in an environment that is challenging. There is competition for land, the uncertainty of crop productivity in a changing and unpredictable climate, and farmers face efficiency and costs of operations. The continued development of new plant varieties is essential in addressing these challenges and to support resilience and innovation in farming. Next-generation variety testing will help countries and breeders focus on the challenge of feeding the next generations. InnoVar develops tools and models to enhance current testing practices for ‘Value for Cultivation and Use’ (VCU) and 'Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability' (DUS) of crops. InnoVar initially focusses on wheat and will then apply the same approach to provide road-maps for other crop groups with more detailed work on grass, maize, and legumes.


  • The InnoVar project will contribute to enabling the European Union and its farmers to maximize the potential of farming land, in terms of both yield and environmental sustainability, including adaptation to climate change and environmental resilience
  • To achieve greater efficiency in variety testing processes and in the use of on-farm resources, InnoVar will develop and deliver methods and tools using the combined expertise and knowledge from across crop science, bioinformatics, soil science, meteorology, and computer science.
  • Processes for identifying optimally-adapted varieties and delivering information to farmers, end-users and stakeholders will be put in place.


  • InnoVar will test a novel concept to introduce innovations in variety testing using data science, genomics, phenomics and machine learning.
  • ISRIC will contribute to InnoVar with acquisition, management and analyses of data on the environment (weather, soils) at InnoVar trial sites to be included in variety testing. In this effort ISRIC contributes to various work packages that include tasks on compilation of historical data on climate and soils, the inventory of (soil) data at the InnoVar trial sites and monitoring of selected variables, data analysis and data management.


  • The InnoVar project aims, amongst other, achieving the following results:
  • An integrated, relational database with genetic, phenotypic, phenomic and environmental data that will be the basis for a variety testing and recommendation system
  • A variety website and app that will empower growers to select crops that are best suited for their agro-climatic region, end-use, and growing scenarios.
  • Harmonised variety testing across Europe so that average yields can approach potential yields through the use of ‘fit-for-purpose’ regional varieties.


The project is a cooperation between 21 partners and is a led by the Agrifood and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) from Belfast. The list of partners can be viewed here.


EU Horizon 2020 (H2020-EU.