Martins, J.; Monteiro, P.; Pinto, G.; Canhoto, J. Hybridization Assays in Strawberry Tree toward the Identification of Plants Displaying Increased Drought Tolerance. Forests2021, 12, 148.
Martins, J.; Monteiro, P.; Pinto, G.; Canhoto, J. Hybridization Assays in Strawberry Tree toward the Identification of Plants Displaying Increased Drought Tolerance. Forests 2021, 12, 148.
Arbutus unedo L. is a small Ericaceae tree with a circum-Mediterranean distribution. It has a huge ecological impact on southern Europe forests and a great economic importance, as a source of phytochemicals with bioactive properties and for fruit production. On the foreseen climate change context, breeding towards drought tolerance is necessary in order to ameliorate plant performance. The aim of this work was therefore to study the reproduction mechanisms of strawberry tree, obtain new genetic combinations by hybridization and select genotypes more tolerant to drought stress. A morphological analysis of flowers and pollen was carried out, and controlled pollinations performed both in vitro and ex vitro. The very first approach on strawberry tree breeding by means of hybridization is also presented. Several physiological parameters were evaluated on 26 genotypes submitted to a water deficit regime. Plant behavior under drought greatly varied among genotypes, which showed a high phenotype plasticity. Three genotypes that were able to cope with water restriction without compromising net CO2 assimilation were identified as highly tolerant to drought stress. The results obtained elucidate the reproduction mechanisms of strawberry tree and open the way for a long-term breeding program based on the selection of drought tolerant plants.
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