In the framework of the EggpreBreed-II project, the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) is developing new eggplant seeds with improved resistance to extreme dry weather conditions and the crop's two most serious diseases: the Fusarium fungus and nematodes (worms), as the impact of these is expected to worsen as a result of climate change.
For the development of the new, more resistant varieties, the COMAV team is working on new crosses between cultivated eggplants and related wild species. For example, the Solanum incanum and the Solanum elaeagnifolium have been crossed; varieties that stand out for their high resistance to water scarcity conditions, according to the project's head researcher and director of the COMAV-UPV, Jaime Prohens.
"By introducing genes from these wild species we can improve the tolerance to dry weather and obtain more kilos of eggplants with the same amount of water," he says, adding that it is also possible to take advantage of other characteristics of these species, such as their high content of phenolic compounds, "which are considered very healthy."
This project follows on the research that the COMAV-UPV team has been carrying out since 2013; a few years in which some results have been achieved with introgression (obtaining eggplant genetic material that includes a fragment of the genome of other donor species; in this case, the wild species). "The objective now is to refine these materials, improving them to eliminate the unfavorable characteristics of wild species, such as the presence of thorns or the fruit's greater bitterness," he says.
The project is part of the global initiative "Adapting agriculture to climate change: collecting, protecting and preparing wild relatives", led by the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanic Garden (Great Britain), and funded by the Norwegian Government.
Source: Efe / agrodiario.com