This project aims to test a grafting technology for vegetable plants, while emphasizing the effect of the root zone. This grafting technology is in widespread use in trees, and is less developed in vegetable plants. The project will focus on morphological - metabolic – molecular – and physiological markers of the root zone, and on optimal stock and scion relationships in general, and specifically in response to extreme temperatures, drought, salinity and combinations between such stress conditions.
The research will be conducted on tomato and curcurbit plants, and will include four stages:
(1) Creating research infrastructures (collecting genetic material and performing genetic manipulations);
(2) Multidisciplinary characterization of stock-scion combinations and of non-grafted plants in the soil and on detached bedding, whilst exposing the plants to the various stress conditions and combinations between them;
(3) Understanding the resistance mechanisms of the root stocks to combined abiotic stress conditions;
(4) Developing and applying the information gathered on the characteristics, the mechanisms and the genetic basis for use as a quantitative tool in roots in general, according to the needs of the global and Israeli markets.
During its first few years the research will be focused at three locations: Newe Yaar, the Faculty of Agriculture in Rechovot, and the Institutes for Desert Research in Sede Boqer. Later on the research will expand to the Ramat Negev and Arava R&D centers. The scientific, applicative and business development potential of research on grafted vegetables is huge, mainly due to the consistent growth in grafting crops worldwide, and the ability to shorten the melioration cycle and to create alternative water sources suitable for irrigation, without compromising the quality of the fruit. An advanced, multidisciplinary research on stock-scion relationships conducted in cooperation with the industry will build a strong foundation and provide Israeli companies with a significant competitive advantage in the fast-growing global vegetable market.