In response to demand from partners in developing countries, CIRAD is improving its expertise in terms of genetics and innovative citrus varietal improvement strategies. Having realized that they have common objectives, the IVIA "Plant Protection and Biotechnology" and "Genomics" centres and the CIRAD "Genetic Improvement of Vegetatively Propagated Crops" Internal Research Unit have joined forces to boost the efficacy of their research.
The two Spanish and French organizations have been working together for more than 20 years, and as of this summer, two CIRAD researchers, Patrick Ollitrault and Raphäel Morillon* have been assigned for three years to work with IVIA (Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Agrarias) teams in Moncada (Spain).
The stakes are high, given that citrus fruits make up the world's largest fruit production sector, with more than 100 million tonnes produced each season, and that the sector is under increasing pressure from emerging and invasive crop diseases, the depletion of water resources and increased salinity. Moreover, consumers are becoming more demanding: they now want small fruits (mandarins, clementines) that are easy to peel and seedless, with good colour.
In view of those constraints, varietal improvement is proving to be a major factor for sustainable citrus fruit growing in both the North and South. French and Spanish teams are working to optimize the existing synergies in the research sector. On the one hand, the aim is to gain a clearer understanding of the existing diversity and the physiological, molecular and genetic factors that determine worthwhile characters, and on the other, to develop innovative varietal creation methods based on biotechnologies.
The IVIA-CIRAD technical platform created in Spain will provide a global role for a European citrus improvement pole open to new Euro-Mediterranean partnerships.
* researchers with the CIRAD Genetic Improvement of Vegetatively Propagated Crops Internal Research Unit (UPR)
Helen Burford | alfa
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