The European hazelnut (Corylus avellana L.) is the species that includes the most important cultivated varieties of the genus Corylus. Many efforts were put in the past years for obtaining new cultivars with improved yield and quality, and disease tolerance/resistance. The long life and productive cycles of the plant, the delayed appearance of many traits, and the exhibition of sporophytic incompatibility (a genetic system that prevents self- and genetically close individuals fertilization, limiting therefore the possibility of crossing between individuals) has made this work difficult and time consuming, thus limiting the obtention of valuable cultivars. The development of genetic linkage maps and the application of omics tecnologies could dramatically improve the efficiency of hazelnut breeding, allowing the location and isolation of genes and QTLs (Quantitative Trait Loci) for agronomic traits and the development of MAS (marker-assisted selection). One of the objective of the projects of the University of Torino is the improvement of ‘Tonda Gentile delle Langhe’ (TGdL), a dominant hazelnut cultivar in Piedmont. In 2009 TGdL was crossed with the cultivar ‘Hall’s Giant’ (HG); a progeny of 295 plants was obtained, segregating for big bud mite and nut weevil tolerance, tree vigour, flowering and ripening time, and nut characteristics. By now 142 plants of the progeny have been analyzed at 92 SSR loci and the data elaborated with JoinMap4 software obtaining 10 linkage groups. At the same time tree vigour, suckering habit, budbreak and flowering time were observed for 2 years and a large variability of the traits was shown. Molecular data and field observations are being statistically analyzed to obtain a first linkage map displaying putative QTL regions while further analyses of functional SSR markers, retrieved from transcriptome sequences, are in progress. S alleles of each plant will be determined as soon as they will flower in order to map the S locus.
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