Tomato is one of the most important vegetable species in the world. In Spain, it has an annual production of around 2.5 million tones and is the most widespread horticultural crop.
Domestication of tomato, like other species of agricultural value, has involved the progressive reduction of original genetic variability, which limits the ability of commercial varieties to respond to the emergence of new diseases. This problem is particularly acute today, in a horticultural industry characterized by intensive production techniques and a global commercial network, both of which create an ideal breeding ground for the emergence and dissemination of new diseases throughout the world.
The main risk for tomato agriculture in Spain is two viral diseases: the tomato spotted wilt virus and tomato yellow leaf roll. Both may incur losses of more than 50% of the production in the affected fields.
The most efficient strategy to combat these diseases is the development of resistant hybrids. The procedure which yields best results to get these hybrids is identifying sources of resistance in tomato and related species and to introduce them into commercial varieties through genetic improvement techniques.
Researchers at the Center for the Conservation and Improvement of Agro-biodiversity manage one of the most important gene banks of vegetable species in the world. The bank currently has over 10,000 entries. Working with this material, researchers of the COMAV have obtained tomato lines resistant to these two viruses for the Catalan company Semillas Fito S.A. These lines are used by Semillas Fitó to produce commercial hybrids.
In addition, COMAV is currently working with the Cooperative Surinver from Pilar de la Horadada, a municipality of the Vega Baja, Alicante, specialized in the production of pepper. The objective of this cooperation is producing California type pepper varieties resistant to wilt disease of tomato and sweet cucumber mosaic, and adapted to the agro-ecological conditions of the Camp of the Vega Baja.