Raquel Sánchez Pérez
Section for Plant Biochemistry
1871 Frederiksberg C
The majority of the temperate fruit tree species belongs to the Rosaceae family, which encompasses about 100 different genera with more than 2000 species. Within this family, Prunus is one of the most important genera from an agronomical point of view producing in 2012 more than 30 million metric tons worldwide of peaches and nectarines, apricots, almonds and sweet and sour cherries.
My research topic is the study of important agronomic traits within Prunus species, which are non-model plants with an important practical output both with respect to food production and farmer economy. The main disadvantage of these species is their long juvenile period of three to four years, as occurs in almond, apricot, or even more in cherry etc.. These species only bloom once a year. Therefore, we have to wait two to three years to have statistical results when experiments are performed in reproductive organs such as flowers and fruits. Due to these factors, the time necessary to obtain a new Prunus variety, e.g. almond, is approximately 10 years.
It is known how important is the application of MAS in breeding programs as i.e. almond. In general, the global objective of a Prunus breeding program is obtaining new cultivars, self-compatible, of extra-late or extra-early blooming, productive, of high quality fruit / kernels (i.e. sweet, firmness, low acidity etc.) with a chemical composition resulting in an excellent quality from the points of view sensorial, commercial, industrial and healthy. The knowledge of easy and suitable biotechnological tools is crucial for the development of molecular markers.
Climate change is forcing not only fruit tree breeders to improve their efforts in developing new varieties that can be adapted and be economically competent in the new climate conditions, but also scientists to develop new and natural treatments that can compensate for the loss of chilling units that plants need to make an effective and yearly even fruit production.
On the other hand, these plant species contain cyanogenic glucosides as prunasin and amygdalin that when cells are disrupted results in the release of hydrogen cyanide. I am elucidating the molecular mechanisms behind breaking dormancy with special focus on the role of hydrogen cyanide in cherry and almond.
The final objective is to ameliorate fruit trees to optimize the dormancy period with regard to flowering time and seed germination. These are important traits that need to be understood and adapted to counteract negative effects of global climate changes. This is one of my main research line in my actual position at Plant Plasticity Center (PLEN Department, University of Copenhagen), funded by the Villum Foundation under “Young Investigator Program”, to work in the project “The molecular mechanisms to break flower bud dormancy in fruit trees” for three years (1-10-2013 / 30-09-2016) as Principal Investigator.