The Currant and Gooseberry action across nine Member States in Northern Europe contributed to European small fruit germplasm collections, found the germplasm's most valuable characteristics that may be useful for breeding purposes, established the core collection, and discovered means of conserving and protecting the collections for future use by developing in vitro culture and cryopreservation. More information regarding the results can be found in the executive summary.
The objectives of the action are:
- To improve the level of characterisation and conservation of the northern pool European Ribes (currants and gooseberry) genetic diversity
- To improve the information and safety level of the collections of Ribes genetic resource
- To establish a decentralised core collection of the Northern EC Ribes gene banks; this core collection shall be the most important part of the national collections and preserved with special intensity
- To create a trans-national network
- To achieve a modern genotypic characterisation of the plant samples
- To combine the data of characterisation with the professional knowledge of the persons responsible for the conservation of national Ribes germplasm collections
- To promote the transfer and use of Ribes genetic material on a European scale
Actions and means involved
The project is designed to progress according to following topics:
Description of qualities of collected plants
The Ribes plants conserved in national collections are subjected to the description of morphological as well as quality characteristics with agronomic value. The descriptors are revised and harmonised by all the partners. Information obtained is used to define the part of plant material that will be identified using molecular marker technology and it is also utilised when selecting material to the Ribes core collection. Documentation of collections is improved and the previously designed Ribes database is completed.
To give a reliable estimate of the genetic relationships among the candidate plants for the North-European Ribes core collection, micro satellite marker technology is used. The molecular data provides a suggestion for an optimal core collection, which would represent the maximum amount of genetic variation. In addition, the trueness-to-type of cultivars to be selected to the core collection is assured, and duplicated accessions are uncovered.
Core collection definition
The most valuable part of Ribes genetic resource is selected to the core collection. Selection is partly based on values defined by morphological characterisation as well as agronomic, historical or other important cultural values. In addition, plant material containing a high level of genetic variability revealed by molecular identification is selected to the collection. Unnecessary replications within a collection as well as between gene banks are eliminated and safety back-up collections are defined. The definition improves the direction of resources to the most valuable part, taking advantage of trans-national sharing of expenses and other investments, and avoiding waste of capacity.
Core collection establishment
The Ribes core collection is established to assure the preservation of selected plant samples, each to be conserved as duplicates. For conservation, both field collections and micro propagated slow-growth medium-term collections, as well as cryopreserved long-term collections are established. Commonly approved acts for the maintenance of the Ribes core collection with trans-national responsibility will secure the conservation of the most valuable genetic resources of Ribes in the northern region of the EC.
Relevance to the objectives
It is important to assure adaptational flexibility in European agricultural plants to be able to continue production even when environmental conditions will change in ways still unforeseen for us. Northern Europe is the leading producer of Ribes species fruit, black currant, red/white currant and gooseberry. Currants are partly endemic and grow wild in Northern Europe and there is a rich gene pool of them. Thus, there is responsibility even on an international level of this Community area to secure the availability of the genetic resources of Ribes.
The Ribes species are of significant value to the production areas that are characterised by small farm size and environmental limitations, especially hard climatic conditions. Ribes fruit production can thus ensure the use of land and the opportunities for production and living on those agricultural regions with otherwise restricted opportunities. This is possible if gene pool with sufficiently high diversity is conserved, which is the goal of this project.
Due to the especially high nutritive value of the Ribes fruit and vegetation, an increasing variety of functional products will be developed. The supply of genotypes with divergent quality, and those with already known exceptionally high level of advantageous compounds shall be assured, to be prepared for further demands in the future. Not only breeders and farmers, but also end-users, food-consumers, will benefit from this.
The assured high level of conservation of genetic variability of Ribes is especially important to be available, when varieties used in sustainable cultivation are bred. Organic and integrated production systems thus also benefit from assured genetic diversity to the needs of breeding programs.