`Olive Council Incorporates Germplasm Bank Into Global Treaty - Olive Oil Times

Olive Council Incorporates Germplasm Bank Into Global Treaty

By Ofeoritse Daibo
Jun. 24, 2024 17:18 UTC

The International Olive Council (IOC) has agreed to incor­po­rate the World Olive Germplasm Bank into the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

The treaty, also signed by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, plays an impor­tant role in pre­serv­ing agri­cul­tural bio­di­ver­sity on a global scale and ensur­ing fair and equi­table dis­tri­b­u­tion.

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture estab­lishes a mul­ti­lat­eral sys­tem to facil­i­tate access to plant genetic resources for food and agri­cul­ture and to share in a fair and equi­table way the ben­e­fits aris­ing from their use,” said Lhassane Sikaoui, the head of the IOC’s olive grow­ing, olive oil tech­nol­ogy and envi­ron­ment unit

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It pro­vides for ex situ col­lec­tions of plant genetic resources for food and agri­cul­ture held by inter­na­tional agri­cul­tural research cen­ters and other inter­na­tional insti­tu­tions,” she added.

According to Sikaoui, the treaty estab­lishes an effec­tive coop­er­a­tion strat­egy among mem­ber coun­tries with their own germplasm banks and IOC-sanc­tioned col­lec­tions to exchange genetic mate­r­ial for sci­en­tific and prac­ti­cal pur­poses and develop a global con­ser­va­tion strat­egy.

Many IOC mem­ber coun­tries have their own national col­lec­tion of olive genetic resources. The coun­cil has also cre­ated six inter­na­tional olive germplasm banks in Córdoba, Spain; Marrakech, Morocco; Izmir, Turkey; San Juan, Argentina; Israel’s Volcani Institute; and Italy’s Council for Agricultural Research and Analysis of Agricultural Economics.

The Spanish gov­ern­ment was the first to respond, express­ing inter­est in hav­ing the Olive Germplasm Bank of Spain, with its dif­fer­ent col­lec­tions of the Andalusian Institute of Agricultural and Fisheries Research and Training (IFAPA) and the University of Córdoba, rec­og­nized under the treaty,” Sikaoui said.

The first agree­ment was signed on June 14th at the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries head­quar­ters,” she added. Other coun­tries, such as Morocco, have also expressed inter­est in sign­ing an agree­ment with the treaty.”

Sikaoui said the next steps in imple­ment­ing the treaty will involve devel­op­ing a data­base of all the genetic mate­r­ial from each col­lec­tion and germplasm bank.

The data accu­mu­lated over time will con­tribute to the devel­op­ment of a data­base on the char­ac­ter­is­tics of var­i­ous early vari­eties, which are the focus of the IOC’s True Healthy Olive Cultivars project and are housed in the repos­i­tory at the University of Córdoba,” she said.

The strength­en­ing of this net­work will serve as a global resource acces­si­ble to the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity and pro­vide nurs­eries with a source of healthy and authen­tic mate­r­ial for end users,” Sikaoui added. Consequently, this will enable the sec­tor to access vari­eties bet­ter suited to the evolv­ing cli­matic con­di­tions.”

The impacts of cli­mate change on olive grow­ing remain a per­va­sive con­cern for farm­ers. Sixty-three per­cent of respon­dents to the 2023 Olive Oil Times Harvest Survey cited cli­mate change as their top con­cern.

Respondents cited exces­sive heat, drought and rain as the main fac­tors impact­ing the 2023 har­vest. While no sin­gle cli­matic event can be attrib­uted to cli­mate change, ris­ing global tem­per­a­tures increase the like­li­hood of extreme cli­matic swings.

The olive grove is at a his­toric moment in which it is fac­ing great chal­lenges,” Sikaoui said. The cli­matic con­di­tions in which this crop devel­ops are chang­ing rapidly, and we need to adapt it to these new sce­nar­ios.”

Varietal genetic improve­ment is one of the main adap­ta­tion strate­gies for fac­ing the chal­lenges posed by cli­mate change – vari­eties resis­tant to pests and dis­eases, adapted to high tem­per­a­tures dur­ing flow­er­ing and less accu­mu­la­tion of cold hours in win­ter, drought, etc.,” she added. We are also wit­ness­ing a sig­nif­i­cant process of genetic ero­sion: three out of every four hectares of new olive plan­ta­tions come from a sin­gle vari­ety.”

Along with increas­ing the abil­ity for sci­en­tists to study olive genetic mate­r­ial and farm­ers to exper­i­ment with new types of olives, the part­ner­ship would also high­light the efforts of donors, who have pro­vided funds and genetic mate­r­ial to germplasm col­lec­tions over the years.

Sikaoui said the IOC is look­ing for­ward to dis­cussing the treaty with mem­bers and begin­ning to develop a global strat­egy to con­serve olive genetic her­itage and exchange genetic mate­r­ial.

To this end, an inter­na­tional work­shop on olive plant genetic resources is sched­uled to take place in April 2025 in Marrakech,” Sikaoui said. This work­shop will address var­i­ous issues, includ­ing the net­work’s oper­a­tional frame­work and the for­mu­la­tion of a global strat­egy for pre­serv­ing, main­tain­ing, and enhanc­ing olive plant genetic resources.”


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