Original genetic research, from the team of Dr Rami Arafah at the Biotechnology Research Center of the PPU, is expected to pave the way for regeneration of melon production in Jenin district with savings of not less than 1 million shekels.
The key to Dr Rami's success lies in a BRC program to preserve the genetic heritage of Palestinian crop species by generating a gene-bank of genetic fingerprints from local plant cultivars. Using this BRC gene-bank, Dr Rami has compared the genetic fingerprint of a local crop, originating from Beit Sahour in the South of Palestine, to show that is most closely related (99%) to a crop of great importance to the North of Palestine, which has suffered devastating losses in recent years due to its susceptibility to a fungal pest in the soil.
The genetic fingerprint of "faqous sahouri" (originating from Beit Sahour), was shown by Dr Rami to be almost identical to that of the cantelope melon, which was a great surprise because the fruits of faqous sahouri appear to resemble cucumbers more than melons. This new knowledge, which is the basis for Dr Rami's reclassification of faqous as a type of melon, has enormous beneficial consequences for Palestinian farming.
The faqous grows well in hot areas of Palestine, including Jenin district, because first, it does not require irrigation water, and second, it is resistant to a soil fungus that has devastated melon crops in Jenin.
The benefit of Dr Rami's new genetic data for faqous lies in the prospect of faqous being used as "root stock" for generating melon plants, which should be resistant to the killer fungus in the soil. Currently, expensive imports of fungal resistant melons are being relied upon to try and overcome the problem.
In addition, the ability of Palestinian faqous to thrive without irrigation make it an ideal candidate for making root stocks. Dr Rami also hypothesizes that the two species may be able to interbreed leading to the generation of novel hybrid fruits for the Palestinian market.