I+D Project MELONSEED co-financed by the Center for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI) with EU FEDER funds. A Research and Development project begins to develop melon varieties resistant to various pathogens that affect their quality and productivity.

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

It has a budget of over 500,000 euros, co-financed by CDTI with EU FEDER funds.

Valencia, May 2020.- The development activities of the MELONSEEDS R&D project have already begun, aimed at generating advanced lines of melon that are resistant to certain diseases caused by various pathogens that negatively influence the quality and productivity of crops. Titled ‘Genetic Improvement Program for the Introduction of Pathogen Resistance Genes in Piel de Sapo, Amarillo, and Blanco Melon’, this project aims to improve Intersemillas’ elite lines of Piel de Sapo and Amarillo (resulting from previously developed genetic improvement programs) by introducing new resistances. Additionally, a genetic improvement program will be carried out to introduce basic resistances in Blanco melon to meet the market demand for this type of melon.

Intersemillas S.A. is developing this project at its INVESEED R&D center located in Quart de Poblet (Valencia). The project is being carried out in collaboration with Dr. María Belén Picó, who leads the Cucurbitaceae Genetic Improvement Group of the Valencian Institute for the Conservation and Improvement of Agrodiversity at 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 Plant Biology (CSIC-UPV).

The initiative has a budget of over 500,000 €, co-financed by the Center for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI) with EU FEDER funds.

From a strategic perspective, this initiative will be a significant boost to position INTERSEMILLAS at the forefront of obtaining new melon varieties.

Relevance of cultivation and origin of the problem:

Melon cultivation holds enormous economic importance for our country, being one of the world’s main producers and exporters. In addition to its economic significance, it is socially relevant in Spain, being one of the most appreciated and valued fruits by consumers for its organoleptic quality.

Due to climate change, increasing water resource scarcity, and soil overexploitation in many regions, biotic and abiotic stress problems associated with soil conditions are alarmingly increasing. In this context, melon production is threatened by multiple pathogens, constantly facing new challenges. Moreover, people are becoming more aware of these changes, and the current culture is moving towards more sustainable, environmentally friendly agriculture. Therefore, the use of phytosanitary products for the control of fungi and pests (which are vectors of many viruses) must be controlled through the use of authorized ecological products, on the one hand, and by incorporating resistances into cultivated varieties on the other hand.

The success of genetic improvement lies in obtaining resistant melon varieties where fruit quality is paramount; therefore, the introduction of resistance genes must be done without neglecting quality.

In a breeding program, it is crucial to have a wide range of genetic resources for introduction into desired crops. In this regard, the species Cucumis melo (scientific name of melon) includes both wild and cultivated types, showing 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 in melon types is an advantage in approaching these types of programs.

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