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Bioresources For Oliviculture

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - BeFOre (Bioresources For Oliviculture)

Reporting period: 2017-02-01 to 2019-01-31

The olive is one of the first domesticated trees in the Mediterranean, more than 5,500 years BP and is one of the few tree crop species that has preserved a significant genetic and phenotypic variability. More than 2,000 varieties are known, excluding the cases of minor ecotypes, pollinators, ancient trees, and other forms, which would increase the number to more than 4,000 genotypes. Olive germplasm is particularly rich and represents an invaluable source of variation to be used directly or for new breeding programs. Up to now, qualified researchers, technical assistance services, local authorities and numerous other stakeholders, promoted excellent activities related to olive germplasm collection, and documentation. But germplasm management is hampered by the lack of common protocols for prospection, sample collection, identification and phenotypic characterization, as well as by the restrictions on the access to resources from all countries. The genetic and phenotypic variability of the olive varieties has to be scanned, evaluated and preserved, in a perspective of variability conservation for future applications. Furthermore, the Protected Denomination of Origin for extravirgin olive oils provided by the EU, encourages defining the genetic and phenotypic characteristics of regional varieties. Within the context of climate change and the urgent need to reduce the environmental impact of olive cultivation, lower chemical inputs and increase product quality, BeFOre project has given an important contribution to mobilizing capacities to participate in, and benefit from, global efforts to manage and use olive genetic resources for a sustainable oliviculture and olive oil production. Experienced and early stage research staff, belonging to academic and non academic organisations, has actively been exchanged among European and Third Countries, ensuring a good scientific transfer of knowledge and training for a fruitful common effort on olive germplasm conservation, evaluation, and utilization.
265 genotypes have been genotyped through the use of a very effective panel of 10 SSR markers and previous data have been made available to the BeFOre consortium, in order to allow for a thorough comparison among laboratories. Molecular profiles were combined together to verify the common available markers, the correspondence of data among different sources, providing a complete profile and all further information on their relationships, genetic distance and variability allocation. The availability of strong chloroplast and SNP markers, has allowed for a clear discrimination among cultivars, between cultivated and wild olives and to define the contribution of the wild gene pool to current cultivars. A consensus set of SSR markers has been delivered. All profiles have been loaded on a public database and made available to the olive community.
A subset of 105 cultivars, selected based on the number of replicates (present in two or more collections and seasons), their particular relevance for the production of olive oil or table olives and for their representativeness of peculiar areas. Common protocols have been established for sample collection, imaging, post-processing, sample storage and biochemical analysis. Morphological data have represented an efficient tool for characterization and discrimination of varieties: image capture and image analysis have been performed on leaves, fruits and stones from samples of at least three different collections/environments. A semi-automatic method for detecting morphological parameters based on image analysis tool has been developed.Fatty acid composition, as a key factor of the quality and health properties of olive oil has been evaluated. An easy and accurate protocol to determine olive oil fatty acid composition directly on fruits has been agreed, and genotype-environment interactions were also taken under consideration. All data have been loaded on a database of molecular, morphological and biochemical patterns for each variety and it has been made publicly available as a reference olive database.
Resistance to main pathogens and pests and fruit metabolic profiles have been considered for the agronomical characterization of olive varieties. An extensive data set on the resistance-susceptibility to Verticillium wilt of many olive varieties from 20 countries has been summarized and compared. Furthermore, the following objectives were pursued by BeFOre project: providing information on low-resource and low-water demanding cultivars and rootstocks . A complete picture on self- and inter-incompatibility of a core set of Mediterranean varieties has been obtained, verifying the G1 or G2 group of incompatibility for about 200 varieties. To pursuing the ethical issues arising from the Project, the Legal Research Unit, performed many activities. In relation to the entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol, how the member countries have or are in the course of placing in act their national ABS measures taking into consideration the provisions of the CBD and the ITPGRFA has been analyzed. The analysis of the olive plant production market and its potential developments has allowed to determine if such structures may incentive efficient production, distribution and commercialization in the nursery field in the countries involved.
All information derived by the BeFOre project has been disseminated to the scientific community through the publication of more than 20 scientific articles on international ISI journals and many others still under preparation or submitted for publication and through the public opinion, using the website of the project ( social media and organizing seminars and conferences.
BeFOre project has represented a breaking point for what concerns the organization of genotypic data of a wide set of olive cultivars, providing either the consensus profile and the original profiles previously made available for each genotype. From now on, this output will allow to refer to these unique profiles as a reference, not subject to misinterpretation, heterozygosity reduction or allele errors. Imaging and image analysis have allowed to develop fast, simple and effective methods, complementary or synergic to the molecular profiling, for the thorough characterization of olive cultivars. Oil content, fatty acid composition, phenolic profile and fruit content in minor compounds have been analysed on ten different environments, making it possible the evaluation of the genetic and environmental component of variability for each of the trait and evaluate the level of cultivar plasticity. The involvement in the Project of a large number of international AC and NA Organizations, as well as the participation of outstanding researchers in the fields of molecular, morphological, biochemical and bio-agronomical evaluation, has contributed to the harmonization of current protocols of analysis, characterization and evaluation of the olive cultivars, based on the information made available by all olive tree germplasm collections of the Before partners, thus fostering the utilization of the collected bio-resources in agriculture. Exchanges were tailored to avoid duplication of efforts in strategic sectors of studies on olive and to develop a common set of data. The Legal Research Unit has allowed to deepen important issues, also providing research expertise in other fields of knowledge.