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Gocitrus webinar reveals potential of markers for varietal identification of citrus

Gocitrus webinar reveals potential of markers for varietal identification of citrus © Gocitrus

© Gocitrus

 

A webinar organised by the Gocitrus project concluded that marker technology is benefiting all links in the citrus plant breeding industry and that it will soon do so with other crops as well. The project presented results of a pilot test using an app with all the updated varietal and agronomic information to provide the citrus grower with the best variety-rootstock combination

The first mandarin to use markers as the basis for its varietal certification system is Tang Gold (Tango), from Eurosemillas. Gocitrus will facilitate the expansion of this technology: in 2021 it will obtain the differential DNA sequence of more than 25% of mandarins and 10% of oranges. 

The term PCR that is in common use today and refers to the most reliable diagnostic method to detect Covid-19 is based on the same technology that is turning the world of the exploitation of vegetable varieties of citrus. Indeed, molecular markers can serve to define the genetic sequence of a particular coronavirus (or any pathogen) as soon as they can provide the specific genetic traits of a variety. “Molecular markers are not the future, they are already the present,” said Francisco Llatser, the decades-long former director of AVASA (Agrupación de Viveristas de Agrios, S.A, whose member nurseries account for around 80% of Spanish plant production). His contribution “against varietal piracy is having and will have an incalculable economic impact,” he added immediately. This is how forceful Llatser was during a webinar organized by the Gocitrus project, which also served to prove how this technological revolution is benefiting all the links in this chain: it is accelerating the varietal improvement processes, technology is beginning to be introduced In order to reduce the time and tests necessary to obtain the registration (the ‘patent’ of a variety), it has improved the control of nursery production and is being used in an emerging way in the certification and varietal identification systems to avoid fraud.

© Gocitrus
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Gocitrus will use DNA markers in 2021 to identify 25% of mandarin varieties without possible error

Gocitrus will use DNA markers in 2021 to identify 25% of mandarin varieties without possible error

 

The differentiation between a certain mandarin or orange and another from the same group is still a problem that hinders the development of the Spanish breeding industry, dedicated to the research and exploitation of new, more adapted varieties , more profitable for the citrus grower. The authentication of a variety, until very recently and still today in most cases, is based on an expert opinion on the known agronomic characteristics of the fruit in question (Brix degrees, acidity, leaf shape, fruit morphology). It is thus a non-arbitrary system, based on highly objective criteria, but expensive, slow and certainly not unequivocal, since it leaves a considerable margin for the expert’s interpretation. The Gocitrus project – an operating group that integrates the main Spanish entities dedicated to the development of varieties, research centres and large exporters – will solve this serious problem by applying new techniques of varietal identification based on genomics, which are cheap and quick to execute and 100% reliable. 

The project, which is scheduled to end in 2021 and which is the most advanced in the world in this field, will provide a second solution to another delicate matter: choosing the best variety. Today there are more than 324 registered but only a few, in each case, meet the producer’s needs. Gocitrus works on an APP that can be downloaded from any mobile or tablet, which will contain and process all the data, agronomic and some commercial, necessary to assist the farmer and identify the best varietal option and its best combination with a specific rootstock (the 3 or 4 best combinations, it is understood).

This was explained in an informative webinar held last week, at which almost 200 producers, exporters and researchers were connected and which was inaugurated by Isabel Bombal, general director of Rural Development, Innovation and Agri-Food Training of the Ministry of Agriculture. “Spain was the country with the most initiatives programmed and effectively granted in the previous call – there are 67 projects with European funding of 42.4 million euros – and Gocitrus is a good example of how the companies in this sector themselves are capable of giving innovative solutions to complex problems, ”said Bombal, who also wanted to highlight the“ integrating ”role of the biotechnology platform that has been able to connect all the members of this consortium, Biovegen, and the role of Anecoop, which coordinates it.

Photo: Gocitrus, Victoria Ibáñez – ANECOOP