Citrus rootstock breeding: response of four allotetraploid somatic hybrids to Citrus tristeza virus induced infections

Abstract

Four allotetraploid somatic hybrids of citrus, with potential for rootstock improvement, have been evaluated for their response to Citrus tristeza virus (CTV) infection. CTV is the most important viral pathogen affecting citrus production worldwide. Somatic combinations of ‘Milam’ lemon (Citrus jambhiri Lush.) + Sour orange (C. aurantium L Osb.), Calamondin (C. madurensis Lour.) + ‘Keen’ sour orange (C. aurantium L.), Calamondin + ‘Femminello‘ lemon (C. limon L. Burm. F.) and Cleopatra mandarin (C. reshni Hort. ex Tan.) + ‘Femminello’ lemon, were studied. Plants were grafted with CTV-infected “Valencia” sweet orange budwood. Two different CTV strains collected in Sicily, considered as “mild” and “severe”, were used to inoculate candidate rootstocks. The goal of this work is to select a rootstock alternative to CTV susceptible Sour orange, still the prevalent rootstock in the Mediterranean basin. DAS-ELISA and real-time PCR assays confirmed a decreased level of viral replication in tested somatic hybrids, as compared to the susceptible genotypes sour orange and Citrus alemow. The Calamondin+‘Keen’ sour orange genotype did not support any replication in either CTV strain. Somatic hybridization is confirmed to be an effective tool to obtain functionally new rootstocks. Our results can be considered a starting point to open new approaches for the Mediterranean citrus industry. Indeed, the four somatic hybrids have been propagated for agronomical multisite evaluation trials to further assess if their horticultural performance, fruit holding capacity, and soil adaptation are adequate to replace sour orange.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank Mr. Antonio Motisi (IBBR-CNR, Palermo) for skillful technical assistance.

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All the authors conceived and designed the experiments. LA and SP carried out the experiments. LA developed the plant materials. SP performed the molecular analysis. LA, FM, SD and SFDB commented the results. FM and SFDB drafted the manuscript. All the authors critically read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Francesco Mercati.

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The experiments were performed in compliance with the European current laws.

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Abbate, L., Panno, S., Mercati, F. et al. Citrus rootstock breeding: response of four allotetraploid somatic hybrids to Citrus tristeza virus induced infections. Eur J Plant Pathol 153, 837–847 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10658-018-1599-0

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Keywords

  • CTV
  • Protoplast fusion
  • Rootstocks
  • DAS-ELISA
  • RT-PCR
  • Real-time qRT-PCR