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TThe International Society for Horticultural Science  have published the Proceedings of the 2nd InternationalSymposium on Edible Alliaceae. c



 Tunceli Garlic Project Gathers Pace

Allium longicuspis and A. tuncelianum have long been regarded as the wild ancestors of modern garlic. Both are widely distributed throughout Turkey but A. tuncelianum is of particular interest as it is a fully fertile species. Both A. tuncelianum and A. longicuspis smell of garlic when crushed and are used locally as a substitute for the modern cultivated forms of A. sativum. Recent genetic research by Meryem Ipek and Philipp Simon has suggested that A. sativum and A. longicuspis should no longer be considered as genetically distinct and Brian Mathew, in his book A Review of Allium section Allium, puts forward the possibility that A. tuncelianum is the wild ancestor of both A. longicuspis and A. sativum.
A. tuncelianum is endemic to the region of Tunceli in central Turkey and is collected and consumed locally. The continued collection from the wild has led to concerns about its survival as a wild species and in 2002 the United Nations Development Programme awarded a small grant to the Accessible Life Association (UYD) to enable them to determine the feasibility of the commercial cultivation of the plant.
The project was launched in 2003 and brought together some of the poorest farmers in the most underdeveloped region of Turkey with the aim of making them aware of the global importance of the plant and the need to protect it. It was hoped that small-scale cultivation would not only help to preserve the plant in the wild but might also lead to the development of a new cash crop for the region’s farmers.

The first phase of the project, lasting fifteen months, ended in November 2004 and from that a five year production plan was developed and initiated in February 2005. The plan involves using ten ‘pioneer’ farmers who will progressively expand the productive area and who, by 2009 will have a significant crop for sale on the open market.
In July this year the 10 pioneer farmers will harvest around 160,000 seeds from the 3200 bulbs planted last year. Each farmer planted between 100 and 150 sq m of land in 2004 and in October this year they will plant a further 500 kg of seedstock taken from the wild. In 2006 the farmers will each increase their planted area to 200 – 250 sq m and between them will plant 64,000 cell-grown seedlings raised from seed harvested the previous year. It is anticipated that in August 2006 some 2.5 million seeds will be harvested from the 500 kg planted this year together with a small number of saleable bulbs. 2007 will see a significant expansion of the project with the 10 farmers increasing the overall production area to about 22 hectares and planting about 1 million cell-grown seedlings in the spring. Again it is hoped to have some stock for sale in October. The number of growers will increase to 16 in 2008 and 2009 and again in each year it is anticipated that 1 million seedlings will be planted. An annual crop of 10 tons of Tunceli garlic is expected by 2009.

Running parallel to this system of raising seedlings is a project to make micropropagation a viable alternative and early in the life of the project researchers looked to the methods employed in the production of virus-free garlic bulbs (A. sativum) for use in commercial production.
Cultivated garlic is a sterile crop, and to produce virus-free garlic seedstock micropropagation techniques based upon shoot tip culture have been widely adopted (e.g. Kahn et al). In recent years however, because of the greater abundance of suitable biological tissue, root tip culture has been advocated. Root tip culture offers up to forty times more suitable material than shoot tip culture and was the method adopted by the UYC who saw it as an opportunity for the rapid production of virus-free plants. During this first phase of the project the micropropagation laboratories were unable to overcome the problems of contamination and so abandoned the technique in favour of conventional shoot tip culture. It is anticipated that micropropagation will play an increasingly important role in the project over the next 3 – 5 years.

Thanks to Yekbun Uzun, Project Co-ordinator at the Accessible Life Association (UYD)



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