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Safj Sa Fruit Journal Sati Molecular Markers Featured
October / November 2023


SA Fruit Journal: October / November 2023

How do we make critical genetic improvements to grapevine? By Justin Lashbrooke (Stellenbosch University)

While grapevine is an economically valuable fruit crop, thanks to its wide range of derived products, the sustainability of traditional viticultural systems is being compromised by both established pathogens and emerging threats linked to climate change. To overcome these challenges and meet new market demands and regulatory requirements, it is crucial to make genetic improvements to grapevine.

By enhancing the genetic makeup of grapevine through breeding programmes, we can ensure that they are more resilient against environmental stressors and have traits that align with consumer preferences. The use of molecular markers in grapevine breeding has emerged as a promising tool for achieving these goals. Molecular markers are short DNA sequences that can be used to identify and track specific genes or traits of interest within a population. In grapevine breeding, molecular markers offer several advantages over traditional methods.

Firstly, molecular markers allow breeders to select more accurately and efficiently for desired traits. Instead of relying solely on observable phenotypic characteristics, breeders can now target specific genes or genetic regions associated with traits such as disease resistance, yield potential, or fruit quality.

This targeted approach enables breeders to make informed decisions and to prioritise traits that are most relevant to market demands. Furthermore, molecular markers can also speed up the breeding process by reducing the time required for trait selection. For example, instead of waiting for several growing seasons to determine the presence or absence of a specific trait (such as seedlessness) in a newly bred grapevine, breeders can use molecular markers to identify grapevines quickly and accurately at the seedling stage, that will eventually generate grapes with a desired trait, like seedless grapes.

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