MELONSEED R+D project co-financed by the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) with European Union ERDF funds

AN R+D PROJECT TO DEVELOP MELON VARIETIES THAT ARE RESISTANT TO VARIOUS PATHOGENS THAT DAMAGE THEIR QUALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY GETS UNDERWAY.

MELONSEEDS will cover the three types of melon with the highest market share in Spain: Piel de Sapo, Amarillo and Blanco.

It has a budget of more than 500,000 euros, co-financed by the CDTI with EU ERDF funds.

Valencia, May 2020.- The development activities of the MELONSEEDS R+D project have already begun, the aim of which is to generate advanced melon lines that are resistant to certain diseases produced by various pathogens that have a negative influence on the quality and productivity of the harvests. Under the title “Genetic improvement programme for the introduction of pathogen resistance genes in Piel de Sapo, Amarillo and Blanco type melons”, this project aims to improve Intersemillas top lines of Piel de Sapo and Amarillo type (the result of genetic improvement programmes developed previously) by introducing new resistances. In addition, a genetic improvement programme will be carried out for the introduction of basic resistances in White type melons, in order to respond to the market demand for this type of melon.

Intersemillas S.A. is developing this project in the facilities of its R+D centre INVESEED, located in Quart de Poblet (Valencia). The project is being carried out in collaboration with Dr. María Belén Picó, who heads the Cucurbitaceae Breeding Group of the Institute for the Conservation and Improvement of Valencian Agrodiversity of the Polytechnic University of Valencia (MGC-COMAV-UPV), Dr. Ana María Pérez de Castro (MGC-COMAV-UPV) and Dr. Antonio Jose Monforte from the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology of Plants (CSIC-UPV).

The initiative has a budget of more than 500,000 €, co-financed by the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) with ERDF funds from the European Union.

From a strategic point of view, this initiative will be a great boost to place INTERSEMILLAS at the forefront in the breeding of new varieties of melon.

 

Relevance of the crop and origin of the problem

Melon cultivation is of enormous economic importance for our country, as it is one of the main producers and exporters in the world. In addition to its consequent economic interest, it is a crop of great social relevance in Spain, as it is one of the most appreciated and valued fruits by consumers for its organoleptic quality.

Due to climate change, increasing scarcity of water resources and overexploitation of soils in many regions, biotic and abiotic stress problems associated with soil conditions are increasing alarmingly. In this context, melon production is threatened by multiple pathogens and is continuously facing new challenges. On the other hand, the population is becoming aware of these changes, and the current culture is moving towards a more sustainable, environmentally friendly agriculture. Therefore, the use of phytosanitary products for the control of fungi and pests (which are vectors of many viruses) has to be controlled by the use of authorised organic products, and by the incorporation of resistances to the cultivated varieties.

The success of genetic improvement consists of obtaining resistant melon varieties where the quality of the fruit is the main thing, therefore, the introduction of resistance genes has to be done without forgetting quality.

In a breeding programme, it is very important to have a wide range of genetic resources available for introduction into the desired crops. In this respect, the species Cucumis melo (scientific name of the melon) includes both wild and cultivated types, and shows a great variability in characters related to fruit quality (climacteric character, organoleptic characteristics, sweetness…) and characters related to resistance to certain pathogens such as fungi and viruses. The diversity of melon types is an advantage in the approach to this type of programme.

In the last decade, given the scientific and economic interest in melon, a considerable number of genetic and molecular tools have been developed. Numerous sequences have also been cloned, described and annotated, and the sequencing of the melon genome has been completed. Therefore, melon breeding is now a combination of traditional breeding with molecular breeding (through early selection with molecular markers), which increases the efficiency and speed of breeding programmes. INTERSEMILLAS will use all these resources to develop its breeding programmes in the context of the MELONSEEDS project.