Solanum is a genus of nearly 1 400 species and only a small portion of them are cultivated. This genus is important from an agricultural perspective as well as from an evolutionary standpoint, consisting of valuable crops like eggplant, tomato, and especially potato all important in European agriculture. Very little is known about the biology of European native species despite the fact that they offer unexploited genetic resources right here in Europe. The most important European native species include Solanum dulcamara and S. nigrum belonging to the Dulcamaroid and Morelloid clades of Solanum. Both European species are reported to be alternative hosts for many agriculturally important diseases. Both European species are highly resistant to late blight (Phytophthora infestans), the most dangerous disease of potato production. Interestingly the phylogeny and population biology of these two species, or their higher level relatives, has not yet been investigated in detail using molecular level characters. The project will consist of various studies on phylogeny and population biology of the Morelloid and Dulcamaroid species. The main goal is to study naturally occurring genetic diversity of these economically potentially important native European species of Solanum and reconstruct their phylogeny related to their closest relatives.
As a first study of this kind in the Solanaceae the historical genetic diversity using herbarium specimens from the 18th century will also be implicated. The project will be hosted by the University of Helsinki, Finland including an intra-European mobility. This project will help to enhance the integration of the ERA and of European scientific experience by initiating a competitive phylogenetic work in certain species and groups in the genus Solanum. In line with the 2020 Vision for ERA we aim to provide competitive knowledge about European Solanum species biology, reproduction, origin and evolution for conservation and ecological purposes.