- New € 6.9 million initiative funded by the European Commission to focus on the cataloguing and characterisation of global potato, tomato, pepper and eggplant genetic resources
- Phenome Networks participates in global research alliance of major European and International germplasm repositories
Rehovot, Israel, March 21 – Potato, tomato, pepper and eggplant together make up 66% of the horticultural crop production in Europe, and potato alone is the staple food for over 800 million people worldwide. These four crops belong to the Solanaceae family, and their centres of biodiversity are in South America (tomato and potato), Central America (pepper), Africa and South-East Asia (eggplant). Their transfer to Europe in historical times has considerably narrowed down their genetic diversity, making them more susceptible to climate change and emerging pests. The “great potato famine” which occurred in Ireland in the 19th century due to the appearance of the pathogen Phytophthora infestans is a tragic example of the possible consequences of such susceptibility.
G2P-SOL is a global research alliance grouping 19 full and 20 associated partners from 4 continents. The project is funded by the EC Horizon 2020 programme with a total budget of €6.9 million and will run from March 2016 to February 2021. It aims at bringing into full fruition the seeds from tens of thousands of genetic accessions of these four crops that are stored in “genebanks” worldwide. Understanding and utilizing this genetic diversity is key to the sustainability of agriculture in the face of changing environment and the appearance of new pests. This is presently hampered by the scarce information which is publicly available on the accessions and on the extent of the duplications between different collections.
“Genetic diversity is most efficiently preserved when the germplasm is well-characterized, widely available and employed in agricultural practice. Thus, scientists, breeders and farmers need to become familiar with the tools used to preserve, catalogue and assess the germplasm, using publicly accessible information on its diversity and associating it with phenotypes and agronomic traits”, Prof. Giovanni Giuliano from ENEA and coordinator of G2P-SOL explains the underpinning concept of the project.
G2P-SOL will first generate a “genetic blueprint” of the accessions stored in genebanks worldwide and catalogue the available genetic diversity and the extent of the duplication. Based on this catalogue, G2P-SOL will generate “core collections”, composed of a manageable number of representative accessions for each species, which will be extensively characterized in order to understand the characters and genes stored in the global gene pools. This information will be made accessible, through an open access platform to end-users (breeders, farmers associations), enabling them to focus their work on the most promising groups of accessions. The exchange of genetic materials within and outside the project will adhere to the provisions of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing.
Within the frame of G2P-SOL, Phenome Networks will develop and deploy the core platform that stores all data generated in the project. “The system will allow users to host, manage, analyze and share results of phenotypes and genotypes collected on tens of thousands accessions from various gene banks of the four species. The data mining and statistical methods that will be implemented will help identify the genes that affect plant characteristics.”, explains Dr. Yaniv Semel, CEO of Phenome Networks Ltd. “Breeding companies will have access to this public resource, the biggest of its kind, so they can select the most suitable accessions for their breeding programs, effectively accelerating development of new crop varieties.”
In summary, G2P-SOL will advance science and education in the following areas: 1) defining and maintaining genetic pools for crop improvement; 2) generation and analysis of phenomic and genomic data and their linkage with genebanks; 3) pre-breeding and germplasm enhancement; 4) training, workshops and public outreach. By setting up a unified information platform, the G2P-SOL gateway, and the characterization of a large subset of worldwide germplasm, the value of such germplasm collections will tremendously increase.
The partners in G2P-SOL at a glance:
Maritsa Vegetable Crops Research Institute
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique
European Research and Project Office GmbH
Leibniz Institut fuer Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung
The Agricultural Research Organisation of Israel – The Volcani Centre
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Phenome Networks Ltd.
Agenzia Nazionale Per Le Nuove Tecnologie, L’Energia e lo Sviluppo Economico Sostenibile
Blumen Group Spa
Consiglio per la ricerca e la sperimentazione in agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia agraria
Università degli Studi di Torino
Wageningen University – Stichting Dienst Landbouwkundig Onderzoek
Centro Internacional de la Papa
Instytut Hodowli i Aklimatyzacji Roślin – Państwowy Instytut Badawczy
Universidad Politécnica de Valencia
AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center