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The beautiful hills: Half a century of vanilla (Vanilla planifolia Jacks. ex Andrews) breeding in Madagascar

Grisoni M., Nany F.. 2021. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution : 18 p..

DOI: 10.1007/s10722-021-01119-2

An ambitious vanilla (Vanilla planifolia Jacks. ex Andrews) breeding program was started in Madagascar in the early 1950s to control Fusariosis, a serious crop disease caused by the soil fungus Fusarium oxysporum. The breeding program has produced tens of thousands of new vanilla genotypes of which a small number have been selected and conserved. This article examines the history of the Malagasy breeding work during the second half of the twentieth century, and outlines a possible strategy to exploit the data and exceptional genetic resources it has produced. The National Center for Research Applied to Rural Development has preserved 19 of the very diverse and original hybrids at the vanilla station in Ambohitsara (Antalaha, Madagascar). Two of them are particularly remarkable, namely Manitra ampotony for its exceptionally high vanillin content and Tsy taitra for its strong resistance to Fusariosis and its aromatic profile, which is similar to that of Bourbon vanilla. However, the global vanilla industry remains fragile because varietal diversity now available cannot overcome current and foreseeable constraints. The hybrids formed from multiple crosses between V. planifolia and three aromatic species, (V. pompona Schiede, V. tahitensis J.W. Moore and V. phaeantha Rchb.f.), constitute a preferred resource for further vanilla breeding. Facilitating its wide use by current research and extension teams is, in our opinion, essential to meet the growing need of producers for better-adapted varieties to supply the market of one of the most highly prized natural flavors in the world.

Mots-clés : amélioration des plantes; amélioration génétique; vanilla planifolia; fusarium oxysporum; fusariose; hybride; hybridation interspécifique; madagascar; vanilla pompona; vanilla tahitensis; vanilla phaeantha

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