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Bioresources For Oliviculture

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BeFOre (Bioresources For Oliviculture)

Reporting period: 2015-02-01 to 2017-01-31

The olive is one of the first domesticated trees in the Mediterranean, more than 5,500 years ago and is one of the few tree crop species that has preserved a significant phenotypic and genetic 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 an important source of variability and its management is hampered by the lack of common protocols for collection, identification and characterization, as well as by the restrictions on the access to resources from all countries. The genetic and phenotypic variability of these varieties has to be scanned, evaluated and preserved in a perspective of variability conservation for future applications. Furthermore, the Protected Denomination Origin for olive oils provided by the EU encourages defining the genetic and phenotypic characteristics of regional varieties. Up to now, qualified researchers, technical assistance services, local authorities and numerous other stakeholders, promoted excellent activities related to olive germplasm collection, and documentation. Many limitations are still hampering olive germplasm access, conservation, evaluation, and utilization. Within the context of climate change and the urgent need to lower chemical inputs and increase product quality, BeFOre project would give 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. In this Project, experienced and early stage research staff belonging to academic and non academic organisations are exchanged among European and Third Countries to ensure a good scientific transfer of knowledge and training in the fields of olive germplasm conservation, evaluation, and utilization.
All academic partners made available to BeFOre their olive germplasm collections to allow a thorough molecular, morphological, phenological, metabolic and agronomical characterization of as many genotypes as possible, grown under different soil and climate conditions along the Mediterranean and beyond. 265 genotypes have been chosen for molecular fingerprinting, based on the number of replicates (present in two or more collections), particular relevance for the production of olive oil or table olives and for their representativeness of peculiar areas. Molecular profiles were combined together to verify the common available markers, the correspondence of data among different sources, to provide a complete profile and all further information on their relationships, genetic distance and variability allocation. The availability of strong chloroplast and mitochondrial markers, currently under development for these genotypes, should allow for a clear discrimination between cultivated and wild olives and to define the contribution of the wild gene pool to current cultivars. A reference profile has been identified and all variations of allele lengths have been reported. A consensus set of SSR markers has been delivered. Morphological data represent an efficient tool for characterisation and discrimination of varieties: image capture and image analysis have been performed on leaves, fruits, and stones of more than one hundred varieties kept from at least three different collections/environments. A common protocol has been established for sample collection, imaging, post-processing, and analysis. A semi-automatic method for detecting morphological parameters based on image analysis tool has been developed. Discrimination efficiency of morphological data will be compared to molecular data and results will be discussed accordingly. A new international database of molecular and morphological patterns of each identified variety is under construction and will be made publicly available as a reference collection of olive germplasm. Resistance to main pathogens and pests and fruit metabolic profiles have been considered for the agronomical characterization of olive varieties. Verticillium Wilt is one of the major agronomic problems of olive growing in many Mediterranean countries. In this project, an extensive data set on the resistance-susceptibility of many olive varieties from 20 countries has been summarized and compared. Fatty acid composition is one of the key factors on the quality and the health properties of olive oil and most of the variation derive from the genetic background of varieties. 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. To exploit adaptation to arid areas, the selection of genotypes (either cultivars, rootstocks or wild plants) showing high levels of tolerance to drought or salinity, may represent the most fruitful strategy for developing new sustainable cultivation systems. On this respect, the following objectives are currently pursued by BeFOre project: providing information on cultivars and rootstocks low-resource and low-water demanding and developing molecular tools for germplasm screening and marker assisted breeding. Olive incompatibility system was recently discovered as sporophytic (SSI), with only two SSI groups. The stigma test protocol to verify the group of incompatibility for about 200 varieties is currently applied to verify to what G1 or G2 incompatibility group varieties belong. The results will allow obtaining a complete database on self-incompatibility and inter-incompatibility of a core set of Mediterranean varieties, which will be useful to ensure flower fertilization and hence olive production in new modern cropping systems. To pursuing the ethical issues arising from the Project, the Legal Research Unit, composed by jurists, economists and political scien
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 and bio-agronomical evaluation, will contribute to the characterization, conservation, rationalization and harmonization of the olive cultivar collections, thus fostering the utilization of the collected bio-resources in agriculture. Exchanges are 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 will allow to deepen important issues, also providing research expertise in other fields of knowledge.