Scientists in Spain Identify Olive Genes Resistant to Common Pathogen

Researchers at IFAPA have identified several genes that provide resistance to the fungi that cause Verticillium wilt.
Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org
Dec. 15, 2020
Paolo DeAndreis

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A team of Spanish sci­en­tists have iden­ti­fied genetic vari­a­tions that allow some olive tree vari­eties to resist Verticillium wilt, a dis­ease for which there is no cure.

Their find­ings could pave the way for the intro­duc­tion of new olive cul­ti­vars that are able to resist the fun­gus that causes the dis­ease while pre­serv­ing their pro­duc­tive capac­ity.

The high per­sis­tence of this fun­gus in the soil and the reduced num­ber of resis­tant (olive tree) vari­eties make it nec­es­sary to develop new vari­eties that meet the char­ac­ter­is­tics of response and pro­duc­tiv­ity desir­able for the sus­tain­abil­ity of the crop.- Alicia Serrano Gómez, researcher, IFAPA

Frantoio, Changlot Real and Empeltre are among the vari­eties that dis­play resis­tance to the dis­ease.

Verticillium wilt causes the dete­ri­o­ra­tion of the vas­cu­lar sys­tem in a tree, with severe con­se­quences such as fruit and leaf drops. Over time, many of the affected trees die as a result of the infec­tion.

Researchers at the Andalusian Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (IFAPA) have found a set of genes that seem to act together as a response to the pathogen.

In their study, which was pub­lished in Scientia Horticolturae, researchers ana­lyzed 77 dif­fer­ent geno­types from cul­ti­vated and wild sub­species of the olive, includ­ing Olea europaea, guanchica and cerasi­foris.

They found that genes such as TLP1 and PFN2 have shown genetic vari­a­tions that could be vital to develop future cul­ti­vars that are able to resist the pathogen.

As stated in the research paper, they are con­sid­ered the first mark­ers asso­ci­ated with Verticillium wilt resis­tance genes in olives and can con­tribute to estab­lish a set of valu­able mark­ers for the man­age­ment of germplasm col­lec­tions and selec­tion process in breed­ing pro­grams.”

See Also: Researchers Test New Olive Varieties to Improve Sustainability

Alicia Serrano Gómez, one of the authors of the study and researcher at IFAPA, told the Andalusian Desqbre Foundation that the results hint at the need to give birth to a wide col­lec­tion of geno­types, from mul­ti­ple sources and with well-evi­denced reac­tions to the Verticillium wilt, with which to con­firm the use­ful­ness of the [observed] genetic vari­a­tions.”

Those responses might include phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers such as lignin, which pre­vents the fun­gus from invad­ing the cells of the plant, or bioac­tive com­pounds such as phe­nols that inhibit the growth of the pathogen.

The prob­lem is that most of the grown cul­ti­vars nowa­days are very vul­ner­a­ble to this dis­ease,” Serrano told Olive Oil Times in a January 2020 inter­view. And those that are a lit­tle more resis­tant are not inter­est­ing from an agro­nomic point of view.”

No treat­ment is cur­rently avail­able to pre­vent the fungi that causes the dis­ease from attack­ing the roots and the tis­sues, which are respon­si­ble for trans­port­ing nutri­ents through­out the olive tree.

The fungi can eas­ily be found on cul­ti­vated lands and are eas­ily spread fur­ther by means of irri­ga­tion or crop resid­u­als. That is why sci­en­tists believe that farm­ers will have to adapt to the new prac­tices that are being inves­ti­gated by the researchers.

The high per­sis­tence of this fun­gus in the soil and the reduced num­ber of resis­tant [olive tree] vari­eties make it nec­es­sary to develop new vari­eties that meet the char­ac­ter­is­tics of repli­ca­tion and pro­duc­tiv­ity desir­able for the sus­tain­abil­ity of the crop,” Serrano said.





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