The Department of Horticultural Genetics & Biotechnology of CIHEAM -Chania participates in the European Union’s Horizon2020 research and innovation project “BeFOre-Establishing common protocol for conservation of the olive genetic resources” under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie framework, since February 2015.
The project aims at establishing a multi-lateral network of research and innovation staff active in olive germplasm access, conservation, evaluation and exploitation, strengthening research capacities through the exchange of knowledge and expertise on a shared research programme focused on establishing integrated common protocols to phenotype and characterize plants at molecular, morphological and physiological level and evaluating the olive oil quality of a plethora of varieties.
Particular attention is paid at establishing the international intellectual property rights for conserving and exchanging the olive genetic resources by developing a for Mutual Transfer Agreement template. The joint exchange programme involves 153 partners from Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan, Argentina, Chile that belong to academic and non-academic sectors and a series of short and long term periods of staff exchanges are performed.
It is expected with this project to improve the potential of the Olive Germplasm collections, repositories and banks as the main sources of genetic variability. Moreover, new, innovative tools are under development in order to be used to increase sustainability and olive oil quality improvement of oliviculture and to face existing and new problems, such as the climate change-related.
Within the tasks of the project, a fruitful collaboration has been established between the Department of Horticultural Genetics and Biotechnology of CIHEAM-Chania and the Institute of Biosciences and Bioresources of CNR (IBBR-CNR), under the supervision of Dr Panagiotis Kalaitzis and Dr Luciana Baldoni, respectively.
Nowadays, the olive oil that is produced in Crete has an imperative qualitative, healthy and cultural value for the economic resources of the island. Although it is of significant importance, the genetic diversity assessment of the Cretan Olive germplasm is not adequately advanced. The study of the Cretan Olive Germplasm will lead to the development of new cultivars and might contribute to the understanding of the origin and domestication of the olive tree.
Through this collaboration, more than 150 target areas of Crete were visited and samples were collected from olive tree rootstock and canopy. The samples were used to identify, assess and characterize the genetic diversity of the Cretan Olive germplasm. The two groups are currently working for the genetic characterization of the collected data by using advanced biotechnological methodologies. Moreover, the olive fruits and leaves are being morphologically analysed by using a new methodology which has been developed from CIHEAM-Chania.
For a more detailed description of the Cretan olive germplasm additional actions are being performed such as: measuring ancient olive tree’s trunk/structure, identifying tree’s age through C14 analysis, olive propagation, etc.