`Designing Better Olive Oil through Genetic Mapping - Olive Oil Times

Designing Better Olive Oil through Genetic Mapping

Mar. 21, 2011
Julie Butler

Recent News

Spanish sci­en­tists say they have pio­neered a genetic map of the olive and iso­lated genes piv­otal to the pro­duc­tion of more prof­itable, higher qual­ity and even health­ier olive oil.

Among the achieve­ments of the €3m ($4.24m) Oleagen project – which began in 1998 and will con­clude this June – are the pro­fil­ing of genes respon­si­ble for fatty acid accu­mu­la­tion in olives, antiox­i­dant prop­er­ties and aroma.

The researchers also iden­ti­fied olive genes that could be key to more effi­cient olive grow­ing, par­tic­u­larly in the con­text of increas­ingly dense inten­sive cul­ti­va­tion, where small-sized trees that mature fast are highly val­ued.

The pro­jec­t’s find­ings could be used by man­u­fac­tur­ers to give Spain’s olive oil sec­tor a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage in the inter­na­tional mar­ket for olive oil, table olives and olive vari­eties,” the researchers said in a recent state­ment.

Among their world-firsts, they said, was the devel­op­ment of a proven method of genetic trans­for­ma­tion of olives, which was a crit­i­cal tool for the study of the func­tion­al­ity of olive genes.

Oleagen is jointly coor­di­nated by Genoma España (a gov­ern­ment R&D foun­da­tion); the Andalusian Institute for Training and Research in the Agricultural, Fishing and Food Sectors (IFAPA); and the Technological Corporation of Andalusia (CTA). It encom­passes 59 sci­en­tists and 12 research groups, nine of which are Andalusian.

It has the aim of gain­ing infor­ma­tion key to obtain­ing olive vari­eties that promise more pro­duc­tive and prof­itable olive farms and olive oils of higher qual­ity or with char­ac­ter­is­tics more ben­e­fi­cial for the health, among other pos­si­bil­i­ties.”

The project has devel­oped a genetic map of the olive, with bio­mark­ers impor­tant to the devel­op­ment of new vari­eties of olives pro­duc­ing more oil than exist­ing ones, and/or with a wide range of sen­so­r­ial and func­tional qual­i­ties, adjusted to con­sumer pref­er­ences (for exam­ple, the taste of the oil) and address­ing some of the chal­lenges for olive-grow­ers (such as eco­log­i­cal fac­tors and inten­sive cul­ti­va­tion),” they said.

Among other high­lights, they listed the gen­er­a­tion of a data base of genomic and agri­cul­tural resources and their use of the wide range of cul­ti­vars in the Worldwide Olive Germplasm Bank in Córdoba, Spain.

Oleagen uses advanced DNA analy­sis tech­niques to iden­tify genes respon­si­ble for the accu­mu­la­tion of fatty acids within the olive and their qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive prop­er­ties, polyphe­nols (mol­e­cules with strong antiox­i­dant prop­er­ties) and volatile com­po­nents (respon­si­ble for the aroma) in the oil, in order to know pre­cisely which genes influ­ence the pro­duc­tion and qual­ity of olive oil.”



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