Argentina created a strawberry’s gene bank that holds over 200 genotypes. The goal is to develop new varieties and study their resistance to different pests.
Argentina created the only Strawberry Active Gene Bank (BGAF, for its acronym in Spanish) of Latin America. It houses genes of different cultivated and wild species from different regions of Argentina and the world.
Over 200 genotypes in approximately 1000 plants are preserved at BGAF. Between 80 and 90 percent of its genome has been typified from the botanical, genetic and agronomic aspects.
The gene bank has been created in the ’90, and since then it has been directed by Marta Arias. The center “was conceived under two premises: to preserve genetic material of different cultivated and related wild species and to provide a genetic basis to obtain new Argentine cultivars”.
Investigators from the National University of Tucumán and the Institute of Plant Physiology at INTA working side by side with the BGAF obtained a series of hybrids that are currently at the last stage of agronomic evaluation. These hybrids are characterized using descriptors form the National Seed Institute (INASE) and the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV).
They also detected new wild species related to cultivated strawberry varieties, one of which (P. tucumanensis) is endemic to Argentina. In addition, the team discovered two new albino genetic varieties from two different species, that until now were not cited for this country.
The INTA Famaillá Fine Fruits Group, directed by Sergio Salazar, evaluates and selects the clones by taking into consideration the increasingly higher standards required to export strawberries, which “require producers to follow strict quality standards, good agricultural practices and food security regulations”, he says.
“This gene bank is key to assess resistance, pests, diseases and fruit quality” and that the information it holds “is essential to create cross species”, explains Daniel Kirschbaum, specialist in fine fruits at INTA Famaillá.
This initiative not only helps preserve wild species and cultivars, but also allows to identify new genotypes, some of them not yet described by science, that may be used in future as parents to obtain a new varieties of Argentine strawberries, improved and competitive in the market.
The strawberry business
According to Arias, “the commercial strawberry is the most important species of berries, both considering acreage and trading volumes worldwide. Main export markets are China, the United States, Canada and Brazil”.
Only in the province of Tucumán, producers cultivate about 450 hectares and produce 12 tons per year that contribute with up to 15 million dollars to the economy of the province. 70 percent of production is exported to Europe, America, Asia and Oceania. Since this crop heavily relies on manual work, this activity has a strong socioeconomic impact that contributes to the development of small and middle-sized family companies. BGAF also helps develop a model of sustainable and competitive agriculture that takes into account the “extinction of phytogenetic resources due to increasing population pressure, environmental degradation and modern agriculture”, says Arias.
Investigations at BGAF are part of programs and projects subsidized by CIUNT, FONCYT, CONICET. The project “Study of important pathologies and physiological aspects for the sustainable cultivation of strawberry” is concluded and was developed in cooperation with the INFIVE, from the province of Córdoba, with funds granted from FONCYT. The project “Consolidation, maintenance and evaluation of plant material from the Strawberry Active Gene Bank”, directed by Arias, was subsidized by CIUNT. This latest project is part of the program “Development of biotechnological strategies for sustainable management of pathologies in strawberries” directed by Juan Carlos Diaz Ricci and Atilio Castagnaro.
Marta Arias – email@example.com