Considering the Cynara cardunculus germplasm there is a miss of information: most populations have not been characterised and many of them, taking their name from the cultivation area, are synonymous. In the frame of the European project CYNARES, sponsored by the AGRGENRES programme, European C. cardunculus accessions have been characterized at the morphological, biochemical and molecular level. Moreover, disease resistance, post-harvest behaviour and industrial-food processes are studied with regard to quality and safety objectives. Morphological characterisation was carried out in different fields/countries since C. cardunculus germplasm, belonging to different typologies, has different environmental requirements. The descriptors developed by IPGRI and UPOV were used with a view to identifying and validating the most useful field descriptors. The most promising material is also being tested for fresh handling and minimal processing. The ready-to-eat artichoke products, with high organoleptic quality of raw material, must be accompanied by a long-enough postharvest shelf-life of the fresh and ready-to-eat commodity. In the core collection, biochemical characterization of the different artichoke/cardoon genotypes is being undertaken by evaluating the flowerhead content of polyphenols (mono- and di-caffeoylquinic acids and flavonoids), sugars (glucose, fructose, sucrose) and fructans (inulin). Molecular characterization was conducted on a European core collection constituted by 556 genotypes, utilizing markers of different typologies (AFLP, ISSR, SSR). Molecular data fingerprinting of single lines have made it easier to register/patent socio-economically important varieties. This characterization is fundamental for rationalizing the European germplasm. Further cluster analysis obtained with different characterization data will be utilized to define an European core collection for artichoke.
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