The MARS project
Sharka, caused by the Plum Pox Virus (PPV), is the most devastating disease affecting stone fruit trees in Europe. In order to respond to this critical situation, the FP7-funded SharCo project (2008-2012) devoted a significant part of its efforts on the development of first-generation PPV resistant plant materials, guidelines for new plantings, and molecular tools for the implementation of marker assisted selection (MAS) in apricot breeding programs. The first steps in establishing MAS were achieved in SharCo but presented some limitations that hampered the EU-wide implementation of a high throughput MAS approach.
In this context, the MARS project (for Marker Assisted Resistance to Sharka), will boost the production of sharka resistant stone fruit cultivars by transferring the efficient and reliable procedures of MAS conceived in SharCo to SMEs. The SharCo molecular tools are continually being upgraded and these improvements will be transferred to SMEs as well; they will enable screening, at the seedling stage, thousands of apricot progenies in which several resistance genes where pyramided and/or sharka resistance was combined with locally adapted, high value varieties.
It is expected that the translation of MAS to SMEs fill the need for high throughput selection of PPV resistant apricot cultivars adapted for cultivation all over Europe. Such an approach will contribute significantly to building efficient and durable resistance to sharka disease at the European level.