Apple Germoplasm
Lead researcher: 
Pilar Errea Abad
100.000 €
The conservation of Spanish plant genetic resources is still fragmented, largely because it is still mainly based on individual programs for each collection. Traditionally, collections have operated on their own and as a consequence, differences in environment, history and cultural tradition have led the different collection to differ in their lines of specialization, and to develop know-how in different fields of expertise, and so the documentation and characterization status vary among collections. In order to enhance the synergy between the Spanish Collection Network and significantly reduce redundancy of the national effort, it is necessary and urgent to have harmonized characterizations of the accessions within collections. The harmonization should provide i) common and objective methods for the phenotypical characterization, allowing to compare results between collections, ii) protocols for molecular characterization to easily compare profiles for any source, iii) objective and easy methods to assess the interest of each accession according to its uniqueness and kinship with others, particularly with foreign or commercial ones, allowing thus focusing efforts on the truly “local Spanish” germplasm, and iv) facilitate the use of this material in breeding programs, linking the agronomically interesting characteristics with the genotype, particularly for traits related to the adaptation to our productive systems and changing environment.
This project has two main objectives, addressing the challenges of conservation and use of agricultural genetic resources (6th Challenge) and biotechnology and breeding of new plant varieties (12th Challenge), included in the priority challenges of the National Plant for R+I+i. The first objective aims to develop strategies for the conservation and evaluation of the breeding potential of the apple germplasm preserved in the national collections. We intend to stablish, for the first time in our country, a common strategy to preserve and manage efficiently the apple germplasm curated in the Network of Genebanks, so it will be possible to assess properly the interest of newly prospected accessions compared to the already preserved, and to identify the unique and relevant material on which focusing conservation and characterization efforts. The project aims also to reveal the breeding potential those unique accessions due to their quality and adaptation ability to new scenarios caused by climate change. For this, we will perform, for the first time on Spanish germplasm, genome-wide selection (GWAS) studies for those traits, using a high-density SNP array, recently developed, which has proved  highly effective for this purpose on European traditional germplasm.
The second objective aims the optimization of the management of pear genetic resources and the assessment of the variability maintained in Spanish Germplasm Banks. Pear collections have similar issues to that of apple collections, but nowadays it is still not possible to assess jointly the diversity preserved in the country or conduct and efficient management of the collections. We aim to develop an standardized protocol for the characterization of pear collections, assessing properly the real level of diversity in the Network, identify the representative core collection and develop common strategies for the conservation and management of pear collections, placing them on a par with apple ones. The project also aims to reveal the pear breeding potential identifying genes of interest related to floral biology and fruit set using sequencing resources. The application of biotechnology tools to the study of the diversity contained in the Spanish collections of both species will generate valuable scientific information that will help to improve their productivity and adapt our production systems to new scenarios.
Project members: 
Mª Teresa Espiau, Lourdes Castel, O. Bocova (CITA); Mª Belén Díaz (Univ. Santiago de Compostela); Javier Ascasíbar (INGACAL); Mercedes Fernández (SERIDA)