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​Characterisation of plant genetic resources

​Characterisation of plant genetic resources

​Our research focuses on the genetic characterisation of plant genetic resources, mainly in cereals and grain legumes, the evaluation of relevant characters for crop breeding, and the optimization of the genetic conservation of the germplasm collections.​

Grupo de investigación dependiente del

​​Department of Environment and Agronomy​

Performs its work at the Plant Genetic Resources Centre (CRF)

​The germplasm collections of cereals and legumes maintained at the National Plant Genetic Resources Centre (CRF, INIA-CSIC) are a very valuable plant heritage due to their great genetic diversity. These collections comprise mainly traditional varieties, which were cultivated in different localities of Spain before they were replaced by improved varieties during the 20th century.

Local varieties are well adapted to the agro-climatic conditions of their areas of origin, giving rise to a wide genetic and phenotypic diversity. However, most of these landraces have disappeared from the cultivated fields, so these germplasm collections constitute unique materials, which also represent a great geographical diversity.

This plant material is conserved for use in breeding programs or directly by professionals who want to recover some of these traditional varieties (farmers, bakers, etc.), so the study and characterization of plant genetic resources is of great interest to ensure present and future food safety.


The characterisation and genetic conservation of plant genetic resources is essential to increase the biodiversity of the food chain. Our group includes research teams for the characterisation of winter cereals and grain legumes and the improvement of the conservation of the collections. We carry out our work at the Plant Genetic Resources Center (CRF, INIA-CSIC) and our research lines are:

Molecular characterisation

We have launched a new research line based on the molecular characterization of plant genetic resources. The wheat collections have been characterized with high-throughput genotyping techniques in the framework of different research projects. These analyses have shown that traditional varieties have greater genetic diversity than modern varieties for some genes related to important agronomic traits. Traditional varieties can be also divided into different genetic groups. This information is very useful to select germplasm for pre-breeding to obtain more adapted varieties to different stresses such as drought or warm temperature.

For the forage legume Vicia sativa, we have used transcriptomic studies to identify molecular mechanisms involved in the response and tolerance to drought. Besides, polymorphic variants have been identified to design molecular markers associated with tolerance to this stress. The molecular markers used in the genotyping of the vetch collection can also be used in 16 species of Vicia genus.

Creation of core collections

Both the cereal and legume collections have hundreds of varieties, making their study to find interesting characters expensive and difficult. The development of subsets of varieties, so-called core collections, which represent the variability of the collection in a smaller number of varieties facilitates the evaluation of the collections.

In collaboration with other research teams, we have created the durum and common wheat core collections (durum wheat) (common wheat) using high-throughput genotyping data. Each collection has 94 genotypes, which represent the geographic, agronomic and genetic variability of the complete collection conserved at CRF-INIA. We have also created a precision collection of pure lines from 500 common wheat landraces which is being genotyped and evaluated for several traits.

The core collection of bean, established in a collaboration between different institutions, has allowed the selection of 202 accessions that include a very important part of the agro-morphological diversity of this species (amd).

The vetch core collection, created using passport data and agro-morphological characters, is being validated with molecular markers (vetch core collection​).

Evaluation of the collections

In collaboration with other groups, the wheat core collections have been evaluated for:

  • Quality
  • Quality-related gluten proteins
  • Architecture of the root system
  • Disease resistance
  • Genes related to nitrogen assimilation

These evaluations have shown that traditional Spanish varieties have a great variability for important characters for pre-breeding, highlighting some varieties for their good values. The relationships between some agronomic characters and the eco-geographical variables of the origin site of the varieties allow us to detect areas with the highest probability of finding varieties possessing the desired value for this character.

The vetch core collection has been evaluated for parameters associated with drought behaviour.

Conservation of collections

The CRF-INIA collections are maintained as seeds, at low humidity and low temperature. The research lines in development aim to optimize the conservation procedures of the genebank, focusing on various aspects:Storage conditions: humidity,

  • Storage conditions: humidity, temperature, oxygen. An experience has recently been completed to evaluate the influence of different gaseous environments, with and without oxygen, on seed aging and associated processes of oxidative stress.
  • Determination of the germination conditions in different species (especially in wild ones) for an adequate determination of the seed viability.
  • ​Analysis of the results of conservation in the CRF genebank: determination of species with short-lived or long-lived seeds.


​Characterisation of plant genetic resources Members

Coordinador de Grupo

  • Mario Fernández González
    Trabajo fin de Master Oficial Interuniversitario en Mejora Genética Vegetal por la Universidad Politécnica de Valencia “Selección y validación de la colección nuclear de variedades tradicionales españolas de Trigo blando”.
    Dirección: Magdalena Ruiz |

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