Almond is an important fruit crop species worldwide cultivated for its appreciate kernel for both processed food industry and as a functional food with and medical (nutraceutical) properties including nutrients, vitamins, healthy blood lipids or anti-inflamatory and hypocholesterolemic properties. This fruit tree species, compared to other nut crops grown in Mediterranean climates, is relatively drought resistant.
Nut4Drought is a research and technology transfer project inside the Topic “Valorising local products through food value chains improvement”.
Climatic conditions, in particular climate variability and water availability, require the development of production systems able to cope with risk and uncertainty. Therefore, rusticity and flexibility of the different components of the production systems (including varieties) should be improved together with a suitable kernel quality including nutraceutical values. In this sense, the plantation and management of almond orchards has to be designed to last long periods of time, and therefore it is crucial to analyse the impact of climatic conditions, especially drought, when selecting new varieties in the designing of new sustainable agrosystems for the almond production of high quality in the Mediterranean basin.
The overall objective of this “Selection and characterization of drought resistant almond cultivars from the Mediterranean basin with high nutraceutical values” project is to benefit from previous research and investments (translating know-how, tools and protocols) to investigate the behaviour under the Mediterranean specific climatic and socioeconomic conditions, of a highly relevant crop – almond – with high nutraceutical properties. Almond cultivation in this region is mostly non-irrigated.
At present, drought is one of the biggest problems for non-irrigated culture across the Mediterranean countries. Studies about drought resistance have been conducted, but these were restricted to the evaluation of their ability to access water. Previous studies conducted by the different research groups of this consortium in Morocco, Tunisia and Spain allowed the preliminary identification of several drought-resistant varieties. However, an integrated approach evaluating varieties/clones/biotypes which are more drought resistant but are also productive and giving good yield and nutraceutical quality has not been developed as far as we know. Our proposal is focussed on the selection and characterization of these drought resistant almond varieties including nutraceutical properties (lipid and fatty acid contents, vitamins, phytosterol content, minerals, protein and aminoacids, phenols and fibre). From the point of view of the plant material, the investigation will allow deepening the genetic and molecular basis of drought resistance and nutraceutical properties in almond. Considering the importance of the studied crop and the unpredictable impacts of climate changes on almond physiological behaviour, this project represents a good opportunity to get possible and positive answers to growers and scientists in the future for a better management of this crop. The strategic plan is organized in four pillars: i) Project management; ii) Field selection of varieties and standardized evaluation for drought resistance of this material under field and controlled greenhouse; iii) Molecular and nutraceutical characterization; and iv) Technology transfer and dissemination.
The project involves three research laboratories from Morocco, Spain and Tunisia. This consortium will be an excellent opportunity to strengthen collaboration in the Mediterranean region. It is also a good opportunity for students and young scientists to establish networks of collaboration.
Additional advantages consist in the creation of an observatory for monitoring almond production and the effect of climatic change and drought in field orchard and the development of website.