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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 13 April 2019
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 13 APRIL 2019 13 FOOD FOR THOUGHT It takes 150,000 flowers to deliver one kilogram of dried crocus stigmata, thus making it the most expensive spice in the world. The Greek origins of Saffron and research, as this knowledge would enable breeders to introduce genetic diversity into the otherwise genetically uniform plant species. Two new studies conducted by the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research and TU Dresden, however, have shown that the saffron crocus originated from a Greek ancestor. Since ancient times, saffron has been giving dishes a golden-yellow hue and an aromatic flavour. The use of the stigmas of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) is depicted in frescos from Crete and Santorini, which are as old as 3,600 years. Nowadays, the valuable plant is mainly cultivated in Iran accounting for more than 90 per cent of saffron production. Due to its hardiness, small batches of the saffron crocus are even grown and harvested in more T he origin of C. sativus has long been the subject of speculation unlikely countries such as Switzerland and Germany. Possibly, partially due to its widespread agricultural adoption, the origin of saffron has until recently been a subject of speculation. Now, two independent studies have been able to trace the roots of C. sativus back to Greece. The saffron crocus is a is that there is no room for improving saffron quality by crossing different cultivars. Thus all modern saffron plants are genetically nearly identical. Knowing the origin, in particular the originating plant species, would enable saffron breeders to use new genotypes to broaden the diversity of the saffron crocus. obtained through samplecollecting excursions from native stands of all relevant species. Through the analyses of genome-wide singlenucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and the investigation of the chloroplast genomes of the different crocus species, the researchers were able to pinpoint the species already been postulated as a possible progenitor of C. sativus, however the high intra-specific genetic diversity present in C. cartwrightianus had led to unclear results during previous investigations. Now, in the IPK-study, an unambiguous total of 99.3 per cent of the alleles of C. Saffron, the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), is the most expensive spice worldwide. The male-sterile triploid plant has been propagated vegetatively for at least 3,600 years, but the origin of the saffron crocus have long been the subject of speculation. triploid and male-sterile plant. This means that the plant can only be propagated vegetatively. In this case, parts of the corms (bulb-like structures of the stem) of the saffron plants are broken off and then these daughtercorms are used to grow new adult plants. A consequence of this form of reproduction Researchers of the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research decided to tackle the mystery of saffron's origin, by comparing molecular markers of wild crocus species with those of our cultivated saffron crocus. In the research group of Frank Blattner, plant material was with the highest genetic similarity to C. sativus. As such, the wild crocus species C. cartwrightianus from Greece was identified as the sole progenitor of the modern saffron plant, and the area in the vicinity of the Greek capital Athens as the region where it evolved. C. cartwrightianus had sativus could be recovered in C. cartwrightianus. These results were confirmed by an independent complementary study performed by researchers at TU Dresden. The Dresden scientists in Thomas Schmidt's group performed comparative chromosome analysis with fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) of different crocus species, and could also demonstrate that C. sativus resulted from the fusion of the genomes of two C. cartwrightianus plants, an event called "autopolyploidisation". A slight surprise for all of the involved researchers was that the main growing regions for saffron are clearly located outside the distribution area of its progenitor C. cartwrightianus, with C. sativus prospering in drier regions and at higher elevations. They suspect that the explanation to this also lies within the origin story of saffron - it was probably the genome-fusing autopolyploidisation event that led to the ecological shift of saffron, away from the habitats in the Mediterranean vegetation zone of Greece. The clarification of the parent species of Saffron will now enable plant breeders to overcome the low genetic diversity of the saffron crocus by creating new saffron genotypes.
06 April 2019
20 April 2019