Molecular markers are not only used to define the genetic sequence of a coronavirus, but also to bring absolute reliability to a variety’s genetic features.
Gocitrus, the operating project that covers a number of Spanish regions, is responsible for this new technological revolution that will benefit all the links in the chain and will speed up the variety improvement processes.
“Francisco Llatser, ex manager of AVASA (Agrupación de Viveristas de Agrios, which represents 80% of the Spanish plant production) explains that “this technique against variety piracy is having, and is going to have an incalculable economic impact.”
The new technology offers a reduction in the trial times to obtain the patent for a variety, which guarantees the control of the production in nurseries to prevent fraud. “It is going to help us avoid the illegal multiplication of protected varieties that are sold under another name.”
On the other hand, the development of markers can also have other uses, such as the one being carried out by the IVIA (Valencian Institute for Agrarian Research) to detect the sensitivity to the fungus Alternaria, which has allowed hundreds of possible parent varieties for hybrids to be discarded and has speeded up the improvement process in mandarins.
José Antonio Sobrino, Manager of the Spanish Vegetable Varieties Office, comments that “until recently the registration processes were exclusively based on the analysis of the differential morphological and phenotypic characteristics, but now, with the marker technology, the process of comparing the candidate variety with just those that are genetically most similar to it has been speeded up, rationalising the reference collections, which in citrus fruit and in general all fruit trees, are enormous.”
From the legal point of view, the markers also add many advantages according to Maribel Montero from AM Legal Group: “they are tools that are used more and more in the courts, but also as legal evidence and in trials linked to variety piracy. Their implementation for the unmistakable identification of varieties in citrus fruits already has an essential dissuasive value because we are not only dependent on the reports by experts based on the study of morphological characteristics, which are more complicated analyses and that are prone to interpretation.”
The first successful case of the use of these genetic sequences occurred with the citrus fruit Tang Gold (known as Tango).
José Pellicer, Development Manager at Eurosemillas, a company that develops this mandarin and a member of Gocitrus, indicates how this process system is carried out: “Leaf samples are taken in the licensed fields; as well as from fruit in the warehouses of operators registered on the system; produce is acquired in the supermarkets all over Europe and even in exceptional cases, samples can be taken at the Customs Posts. All of them are sent, using an independent company, respecting the chain of custody, to a third party specialised laboratory that carries out the marker tests and in this way, following the mandarin’s traceability, any possible offences such as sales using fraudulent labels may be controlled.
The usefulness of the APP for farmers
“Today making the right choice of a variety and the most suitable rootstock is a very complicated decision,” indicates Carlos Baixauli, Manager of the Experiences Centre at the Fundacion Cajamar, another member of Gocitrus.
Baixauli explains the simple operating procedure of the first APP that will help citrus fruit growers in this process. The application contains the information from the variety data sheets from the IVIA and the harvesting calendar that groups them together as ultra-early, early, mid-season, late and ultra-late. It also integrates a price history, the weather conditions over the last few years and it allows the interested party to qualify whether their land is prone to frosts or not.
The App can send out alerts to users of any nearby presence of hybrid mandarins that could cause cross-pollination and the presence of seeds in the fruit. And just as important or more so than the choice of the variety, the application will also help in the choice of the rootstock that is best adapted to the weather conditions of the land, the soil characteristics (salinity of the water, chalk, water stress) or it will propose up-dated alternatives with rootstocks that are resistant or tolerant of certain viruses or fungal diseases.