Orihuela is Europe’s home of pomegranates

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POMEGRANATES: Largest bank of varieties in Europe

SEVENTY-TWO varieties of pomegranates have been grown by the University Miguel Hernandez (UMH) on the Orihuela campus.
The pomegranates makes up the largest gene bank in Europe and have been grown on a 4,500 square metre block.
The gene bank project began in 1989 when the campus belonged to the Polytechnic University of Valencia.
The plantation is of great ecological, environmental and scientific value because, unlike other gene banks, UMH retains these varieties alive on a large plantation and not with extracts of each specimen preserved in a laboratory like many gene banks.
Juan Jose Martinez, responsible for the project, said: “The aim is not only to preserve the plant environment but also to ensure the future existence. There are varieties that are lost, because its fruit is not profitable, or because other plants are better adapted to the climate.”
He added: “Currently we are undergoing numerous studies concerning the fruit, and perhaps a variety to which today we have turned our backs, we can serve in the future, with genetic crosses and improve what we have.”
Amongst the collection at the plantation is the mollar pomegranate, one of the most appreciated in the world, although Martinez explained that there are “almost twenty varieties that come together in what is known as the mollar pomegranate.”
The UMH retains two to four copies of each pomegranate type to preserve them in case one of the trees dies.
The university is also working on a gene bank for the quince fruit. This is a more modest initiative which began in 2002 and the campus plantation is currently home to 24 varieties of the fruit.


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