PriyaDavidar (Retired Professor, Pondicherry University), Chadapatti, Mavinhalla PO, Nilgiris, TN 643223, India
Dr. Priya Davidar is a retired Professor of Ecology from Pondicherry University. She has a Ph.D. in Zoology from Bombay University and a S.M. in public health from Harvard University. She was a Post Doctoral fellow and later a Senior fellow at the Smithsonian Institution, USA. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has carried out research in the areas of biogeography, pollination biology and conservation biology.
Pollinator mediated gene flow between crops and their wild relatives: the case of the brinjal
Pollinators play diverse roles in agro-ecosystems from enhancing fruit production to enabling gene flow between varieties. Wild relatives of crop plants are valued for their use in crop breeding as well as their historical and cultural connections with modern cultivars. Natural hybridization between crop plants and their wild relatives is ubiquitous in nature, and has been estimated to be 88% in 25 major crop plants if they co-occur. Brinjal (SolanummelongenaL.) is an ancient and popular fruit vegetable of Asian origin which is cultivated worldwide, and SolanuminsanumL. (or S. melongenavar. insanum), common across India, may be the nearest ancestor of cropbrinjal. Both wild and crop brinjal are andromonoecious, and commonly buzz pollinated by solitary bees. We studied the potential for gene flow between crop and wild brinjal in several regions in the Western Ghats, southern India, as part of assessing risk of introducing transgenic brinjal. We found that the wild brinjal tended to co-occur alongside brinjal crops, overlapped in flowering times, shared pollinators, and formed fertile F1 hybrids. We used molecular tools to demonstrate gene flow between crop and nearby wild populations, and conclude that there is considerable risk of the transgene escaping into the wild populations. There is therefore an urgent need to take in situ conservation measures to protect these valuable wild germplasmresources.