Molecular barcodes for Turkish olive

Molecular barcodes for Turkish olive

The bar coding work on Turkish olive species at DNA level being conducted in the laboratories of the İzmir High Technology Institute (IHTI) in Turkey has been completed. The molecular identification cards of olive trees were created as a resulted of the three-year project.

Olives, with a growing significance in recent years based on information about olive oil having a positive effect on human health, are no doubt gaining economic importance.

Olive farming is done on approximately 708 thousand hectares of land in Turkey and nearly 1.3 million tons of olives are produced per year. IHTI Molecular and Genetic Department Teaching Staff Member Prof. Dr. Sami Doğanlar and doctorate student Ali Tevfik Uncu, who have been conducting studies to enable Turkey to derive more economic benefit from olive and olive oil production, have completed the bar coding work on Turkish olive species at DNA level.

Prof. Dr. Sami Doğanlar said: “Species of olives with outstanding quality properties need to be cultivated in suitable regions. In order to do this we must be able to correctly identify the species when the plant is still a sapling. This is why we solved the DNA of olive trees in this project we have been working on for three years”. Prof. Dr. Sami Doğanlar, who added that the project, which was also supported by the Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology Teknoloji in the scope of San-Tez, has been completed successfully continued as follows: “There are many types of olives in our country. Olives are grown for a number of different purposes. In order to get the best productivity from dinner olives and olives grown for olive oil, the dinner olive species and olive oil species need to be planted in suitable regions. It is for this reason that being able to identify the species when the plant is still a sapling is essential. This is why we solved the DNA of olive trees in this project we have been working on for three years”.

Prof. Doğanlar, who pointed out that despite olives being a Mediterranean plant, the expansion of irrigation resources and the ever growing economic value have resulted in the area where olives are planted to become more widespread, added “It is an indispensible fact of the food sector that in order to achieve a good quality end product the quality of the initial product must be good. It is a reality accepted by everyone that the olive species of our country, known to have superior quality properties, should be cultivated in suitable regions. The period of time that is necessary for an olive tree bought as a sapling to reach harvesting stage is about 5-6 years. So if it is known what species of olive the sapling is, farmers can cultivate olives that are certified to be suitable for their region. Otherwise when the farmer realizes years later that the sapling they have purchased is not the suitable species, this will be a loss to the farmer both financially and in terms of labor and an economical loss to the country. This is why certified saplings and seeds will protect both the producer and the farmer. Also relevant ministries provide premiums for using certified products to encourage their use in our country”.

IHTI Doctorate Student Ali Tevfik Uncu said: “Thanks to the method we have developed it will be possible to identify the species of a plant while it is still in sapling form. This will protect both producers and farmers from bad surprises they may encounter years down the road. Emphasizing that certified agriculture is a requirement to become a brand at an international level, Ali Uncu said, “The success of Spain, Italy and Greece is dependent on this. In various geographical locations of these countries, species that are suitable to the climate and soil of that region are cultivated, processed in the traditional way and become a brand. For example, on the island of Crete they cultivate the koroneiki species with the best yield. In Italy they write what region the olives have been harvested from on the product’s label. This achieves brandization, which in turn increases the value of the product on the international market”. Ali Uncu, who pointed out that they had mapped out the DNA sequence of olive species so that a single species of olive suitable to the conditions of a certain region could be cultivated to produce more olives, added: “In the scope of the project, the types of olives in our country were identified, put into sequence according to gene regions coding proteins and their SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) markers were developed. Then a test method was created to genotype these SNP markers. By virtue of these SNP markers the DNA barcodes of the different olives species in our country were identified. This method can be used safely in the certification of olive saplings. Thus the method we developed can be used when the olive is just a sapling to correctly identify the species. This will protect both the producer and the farmer from encountering any unfortunate surprises in later years.”