In Piedmont, the hazelnut cultivation is a rapidly growing agricultural sector characterized by: i) a constant and significant increase in the total area planted with hazelnut (from 12,142 ha in 2010 to 20,332 ha in 2017, + 67%); ii) a high quality profile of its production, traditionally based on the cultivar ‘Tonda Gentile Trilobata’ (TGT), which covers more than 95% of the orchards and can be marketed with the PGI European trademark. However, this favorable situation is contrasted by the rapid spread of this culture in other geographical areas, with potential competition effects, and by the negative impact of climate change on agriculture. In particular, water is a precious resource and it is now necessary to optimize its use in a more sustainable manner, not only by improving irrigation techniques, but also by powering the selection of rootstocks and new genotype accessions better adapted to the ongoing climatic scenario. At the same time, the improvement of TGT (a cultivar particularly sensitive to biotic and abiotic stresses) in terms of environmental adaptation, maintaining intact its renowned qualitative traits, represents one of the most important issues of hazelnut breeding.
The aims of BreedInCore are: i) to study the behavior of the TGT and ‘Tonda di Giffoni’ cultivars and of the ‘Dundee’ non-suckering rootstock in conditions of water stress, in order to acquire valuable information to optimize the irrigation plan management; ii) to analyze, from a physiological and molecular point of view, the effect of non-suckering rootstocks on TGT and ‘Tonda di Giffoni’, in order to introduce the use of grafted plants also in hazelnut cultivation; iii) to achieve and select new accessions that, besides maintaining the organoleptic and technological characteristics of TGT as far as possible, are more tolerant/resistant to local pathogens (e.g. Phytoptus avellanae), and/or eastern filbert blight (EFB), and/or suitable for less cold weather conditions (evergreen plants).