9. Application of the Crocus germplasm information and banked accessions (WP-06)

The deliverables from WP01 to WP05 will have applications at applied and fundamental levels. WP06 aims to provide some demonstrator results using the accessions and information, and by including some preliminary application-oriented work, to assist with focussing aspects of the other work packages. We have selected diverse but representative target applications of the germplasm and markers, where relatively little work can give significant and fast results. Firstly, what proportion of the germplasm collection consists of duplicates? Secondly, how much diversity is present in Saffron, is the CROCUSBANK collection likely to represent most of the diversity and how does Saffron diversity relate to Crocus diversity? Are there ecologically rare but important species/genotypes in the natural environment (results that have consequences for tourism industry and development; for genetic resources; sustainable land use and biodiversity; treaty commitments eg Rio Convention on Biodiversity). Thirdly, do the molecular markers confirm the postulated origin and closest diploid relative(s) of Saffron, and how can genes from Saffon and Crocus species be used in comparative genomics with other model species? Finally, do the data from WP1 to 5 allow selection of the most valuable germplasm for saffron selection, identification of valuable species, cultivars and hybrids for the horticultural industry, and help with searching for valuable agronomic genes? These are the specific goals:

1- Identification of accessions of Saffron within the collection that are genetically identical. Duplicates within germplasm collections are costly to curate, but it is undesirable to discard unique accessions. Some molecular markers from WP04 will show the frequency of duplicates within the collection, allowing them to be discarded. Passport data combined with duplicate frequency will estimate how representative the collection is of the complete range of Saffron.
2- Quantification of diversity in Saffron and Crocus. It is essential to measure levels of biodiversity of plants throughout Europe . We will measure the level of molecular diversity of the Crocus species in the collection, and compare this with other wild plants. The results will also allow us to recommend optimal in situ conservation strategies to complement the germplasm bank.
3- Genomics in Saffron. The origin of saffron from wild Crocus species is not fully proven, and we will check that the molecular markers are consistent with published suggestions. We will also investigate the structure of genes which are conserved across all plant species, and define how the Crocus/Saffron genome is related to other species.
4- Identification of germplasm for exploitation by breeders and growers. Based on the morphological markers, agronomic characters, cytogenetics and molecular studies, we will identify accessions and species which are suggested for consideration for commercial exploitation and making of hybrids.

This task is responsibility of the Application Group (AG; Partners 0, 1, 3 and 9 ), leaded by partner 9.