Problems related to biodiversity loss are seriously affecting the olive sector, one of the most important cultivars from a cultural and economic point of view. Emerging diseases and climate change effects daily threaten this sector. The last dry seasons have caused the decrease of olive oil production up to 57 %. The genetic erosion risk is present: there are more than 1,200 olive varieties worldwide, but just a 5 % represents the total harvested area.
Olive Genetic Resources (GenRes) could be the key to solve these problems, but they remain largely unexplored. Big handicaps still hinder their exploitation, such as poor characterisation of olive varieties, scarce development of pre-breeding activities and lack of collaboration between the Germplasm Banks and breeders/farmers.
Within this context, GEN4OLIVE encompasses a wide, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary consortium, which aims to leverage olive GenRes by bringing them to a higher level closer to breeders and markets. The overall goal of GEN4OLIVE is to accelerate the mobilization of olive GenRes and to foster pre-breeding activities by (1) developing a smart and user-friendly interface that will implement Artificial Intelligence utilities to leverage the olive GenRes resources; and (2) enhancing breeders and growers’ participation through the implementation of two open calls for supporting pre-breeding activities and breeding plans.
GEN4OLIVE will develop collective pre-breeding activities aiming to in-depth characterise more than 500 worldwide varieties and 1000 wild and ancient genotypes around 5 challenging topics: climate change, pests and diseases, production and quality, consumers demand and modern planting systems. After integrating all these results in the GEN4OLIVE interface, breeders and other end-users will have an effective tool for speeding up all kind of breeding programs. The combination of pre-breeding results with modern ICTs will enable the access of end-users to this valuable information.