Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Use Wild Relatives to Breed Eggplants with New and Improved Traits

February 2, 2022

A team at the Universitat Politècnica de València in Spain led by Jaime Prohens is set to produce eggplant varieties that are resilient to climate change stresses, including drought and the outbreaks of new pests and diseases.

Through the Eggplant Pre-Breeding Project, the team used wild relatives of eggplant, the weedy cousins of the domesticated crop, to add new and useful traits to domesticated varieties so they can withstand hotter, drier climates in Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Mediterranean Basin. The offspring of these crosses are now conserved in genebanks and available to eggplant breeders around the world.

The work was conducted as part of the Crop Wild Relatives Project supported by the Government of Norway and the Crop Trust. According to Prohens, the results exceeded their expectations as they did not expect to be able to generate so many different eggplant crosses. The research team was able to cross domesticated eggplants with a wild relative that diverged from their common ancestor almost 7 million years ago, an extraordinary feat because these plants are so distantly related.

For more details about this project, read the Crop Trust interview with Prohens.

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