Conservation of dragon fruit genetic resources using seeds as well as clonal material
To face the future, farmers and breeders need access to a large genetic diversity. This diversity helps them to adapt to new circumstances, such as droughts by developing and planting drought tolerant varieties. This diversity has to be stored somewhere and while in situ conservation is essential, it is in general more difficult to access and if unprotected at risk of disappearing. Gene banks therefore play an important role, providing ex situ conservation approaches such as field or seed banks. However, these gene banks face their own challenges. Field banks, on the one hand, are vulnerable to different external factors, such as storms, pests, and diseases. Seed banks, on the other hand, are not feasible for all crops because some plants, such as the coconut palm, have recalcitrant seeds, are clonally propagated, such as sweet potato and dragon fruit, or have seedless forms, such as banana. To provide a solution for these crops the Lab of Tropical Crop Improvement, Department of Biosystems, KU Leuven (Belgium) develops different conservation methods to safeguard these crops for the future. As a PhD researcher, Hannes Wilms works on the development of novel cryopreservation and micropropagation protocols for multiple tropical crops, including but not limited to cacao, coconut, dragon fruit and sweet potato. His work led to a novel, user-friendly, droplet vitrification method for sweet potato and a patented micropropagations system for coconut palms.
Hannes Wilms won the ISHS Young Minds Award for the best oral presentation at the International Symposium on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Horticultural Genetic Resources at IHC2022 in France in August 2022.
Hannes Wilms, Laboratory for Tropical Crop Improvement, Department of Biosystems, KU Leuven, Willem de Croylaan 42, 3001 Leuven, Belgium, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The article is available in Chronica Horticulturae