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"Almost all the varieties currently grown in the world originate in one of these two regions"

Italian and Spanish farmers have been key in the history of today's tomato

A study carried out within the framework of the European Traditom project, led by the Institute of Molecular Biology (IBMCP), a joint center of the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) and the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), which includes the participation of the UPV COMAV Institute, has shed light on how European farmers managed to generate a great diversity of varieties based on a very small genetic diversity.

The study analyzed 1,254 traditional and modern European varieties by genotyping-by-sequencing and was published in the Journal of Experimental Botany. The study made it possible to corroborate the existence of two large groups of varieties, Spanish and Italian, as well as another group, which is probably more recent, and that consists mainly of the result of hybridizations of plants from both regions.

Thus, according to the authors of the work, despite the limited genetic diversity that came from America, the Mediterranean became a secondary center of diversity that generated numerous varieties that they subsequently exported to the rest of the world.

"Numerous varieties were developed in Spain and Italy adapted to local preferences. Most of these varieties are no longer cultivated today or are produced for very local markets, but their legacy is still present: almost all the varieties currently cultivated in the world have their origin in one of these two regions or in some crossing between them," stated Antonio Monforte, scientific researcher at the CSIC at the IBMCP and author of the study.

In the analysis of the sequences of the European varieties, researchers found 298 highly variable positions, many of which are associated with morphological characters selected by farmers.

The Traditom project has also found that 25% of the traditional plants studied contain the modern genes of resistance to diseases introduced by professional breeders.

"To face the future, we should learn from what has worked in the past. Farmers and breeders have always been looking for the best varieties and they have used the knowledge and materials available in each era to obtain them. Agriculture is currently facing major challenges: feeding a growing population amid increasing climate change in a sustainable way. Faced with these challenges there are only two paths, technological improvement or hunger, and environmental destruction," concluded Jose Blanca and Joaquin Cañizares, COMAV researchers and two of the authors of the study.



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