After the worst snowstorm in decades damaged half a million trees in Spain, the Madrid Institute for Rural, Agrarian and Food Development (Imidra) began the work of cloning of some of the most valuable centennial specimens, creating genetically identical copies.

The snow storm “Filomena” was “the biggest environmental catastrophe in recent years,” Francisco Molina, director of agroforestry at IMIDRA’s rural development institute, told Reuters international news agency.

Researchers are working on cloning several species, including, cork oak and holm oaksHowever, the Institute received more than 30 requests to replicate more than 100 species.

Regarding the most emblematic species of the Spanish interior, the researchers advance in the evergreen oaks that support the famous acorn-fed pigs in that country and that give rise to the famous “Pata negra or acorn-fed ham”, since due to their type of leaf they are very vulnerable to heavy snowfall.

Also, these oaks are unable to reproduce by simple transplantation, forcing the team to adopt a more complex approach known as somatic embryogenesis, the plant equivalent of in vitro fertilization.

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“What we are trying to do is induce the formation of acorn seeds from these leaves,” said Inmaculada Hernández, a researcher at Imidra.

It will take decades to replace the losses, but Molina believes it is worth preserving the genes of trees that have withstood a century of climate change, pests and insect attacks.

“When we suffer the tragedy of losing one, we come running,” he admitted.

The procedure for advancing the cloning It consists of several steps, but the first three are essential.

The first of these is the compilation of information on the number and type of trees classified as singular and have a special relevance for the municipalities of the region.

In a second instance, contrast the information collected with the existing germplasm bank database in Imidra.

Finally, several teams will proceed to collect the plant material necessary for the reproduction of the plant.

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