Researchers from Valencia and Murcia, working together with the agrarian organization La Unió de Llauradors, are involved in a pioneering project to obtain traditional tomato and pepper varieties adapted to drought and high salinity conditions.
The study is coordinated by the pepper and chilli improvement group (Capsibreed) of the Institute of Conservation and Improvement of Valencian Agrodiversity (COMAV) and the Chemistry Department of the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV), as well as researchers from the Murcian Institute for Research and Agrarian and Food Development.
The Valencian team of researchers is focusing on the evaluation of traditional pepper varieties and the selection of those with the best performance in organic farming.
The head researcher at Capsibreed, Adrián Rodríguez, explained that the examination of some 300 varieties "is based on the idea that traditional varieties developed before the time of high inputs in agriculture, so they represent a genetic basis of enormous interest to identify materials with a good adaptive response to low input conditions, such as those of organic farming."
Thus, the COMAV is selecting traditional varieties with high yields and nutritive quality (vitamin C, phenolic compounds and carotenoids) and good organoleptic properties (flavour and volatiles responsible for aroma and flavour), with special emphasis on sweet and thick peppers and those of the Valencian type, as well as those with Designations of Origin and even exotic materials (Latin American jalapeños, chillies, and peppers) in order to diversify the organic range.
In addition to this screening, recovery, characterization and assessment of traditional pepper varieties for organic cultivation, the project relies on plant breeding strategies and genomic tools to identify varieties that adapt to low-input fertility conditions and take advantage of cross-breeding between them to improve the performance of these traditional varieties and incorporate resistance to viruses.
According to Lola Raigón, researcher of the Department of Chemistry, the project "will also make it possible to determine the genetic footprint in materials with commercial potential, to ascertain the level of genetic variation of different varieties, including Valencian peppers, and to establish phylogenetic relationships between Spanish and foreign varieties."
"The project seeks to identify and select materials that are especially suited for organic farming, as well as to develop new materials with various plant breeding strategies, combining tradition, conventional and participatory improvement and biotechnology, respectful of the principles of organic farming," he added.