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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

Wild tomatoes for climate change

During the last week (11-12th May), we presented the results of the Gap Analysis applied to wild tomatoes (a genepool from South America!) to a group of plant genetic resources experts, plant breeders, genomics experts and students  in INIA – Quilamapu, located in Chillán – Chile.

Solanum chilense growing in a sand dune. Source: TGRC

A wealth of knowledge related with these genetic resources and their use to adapt tomato to climate change was shown during the meeting, including the very impressive characterization of salt and drought tolerant materials that our colleagues from Chile (specifically, INIA Chile and Universidad de Talca) have developed around this group of plants, the collecting trips that our colleagues from Fundación Proinpa (Bolivia) have done during the last two years in search of wild tomatoes in Bolivia (including their anecdotes with wild snakes sharing habitat with wild tomatoes!), the climate change modelling used in the Universidad de Chile to understand the impact on agricultural yields, and the in-depth work of the IBMCP to understand the genome of tomato.

During the workshop, students and professors from other chilean universities were present,  asking and debating about the importance of protecting these wild relatives (whether it is ex situ or in situ), the techniques required to breed the cropped species with its wild relatives, the current conservation status of some of these species in northern Chile (few and small populations close to important mining facilities) and if any legal issue (patents and intelectual property) may rise if a variety is produced using any of the tomatoes wild relatives.

Below is our presentation:

Highlights: during the meeting and workshop, access and distribution of plant genetic resources (PGR) was an issue frequently raised. Local policy of each of the countries where tomatoes wild relatives are located, is felt among researchers as an obstacle for making a real use of PGR (i. e. producing new varieties, characterizing accessions). Alternatives for accessing and transferring these materials should be studied and proposed during the coming years.

Last, but not least I would like to share with you a picture taken in the marketplace of Chillán (seven in the morning, foggy atmosphere with reggaeton and cumbia as background music). It is a nice example of the very high quality of chilean agriculture and its warm people (even during the almost-winter season!)

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