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What lies behind a fruit crop variety name? A case study of the barnī date palm from al-‘Ulā oasis, Saudi Arabia

Muriel Gros-Balthazard , Vincent Battesti , Jonathan M. Flowers , Sylvie Ferrand , Matthieu Breil , Sarah Ivorra , Jean-Frédéric Terral , Michael Purugganan , Rod A. Wing , Nahed Mohammed , Yann Bourgeois

- What lies behind a fruit crop variety name? A case study of the barnī date palm from al-‘Ulā oasis, Saudi Arabia
in Plants, People, Planet journal, special issue “Fruits in Focus”.
ISSN: 2572-2611
DOI: 10.1002/ppp3.10326
by Muriel Gros-Balthazard* & Vincent Battesti*, Jonathan M. Flowers, Sylvie Ferrand, Matthieu Breil, Sarah Ivorra, Jean-Frédéric Terral, Michael Purugganan, Rod Wing, Nahed Mohammed, Yann Bourgeois.
* Equal contributions from the two first corresponding authors.
- Early view online: https://doi.org/10.1002/ppp3.10326
- PDF File: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/ha...

- Call for the special issue Fruit in focus: https://www.newphytologist.org/news...

- Summary:

Understanding how farmers name and categorize their crops in relation to the way they are propagated is critical for a proper assessment of agrobiodiversity. Yet, indigenous knowledge is often overlooked in genetic studies, which may result in an underestimation of crop diversity, thereby preventing its conservation and mobilization for developing sustainable agroecosystems.

Here, we focus on the barnī date palm variety, a local elite variety of al-‘Ulā oasis, Saudi Arabia. We conducted an ethnobotanical survey on local phoeniculture practices and generated whole-genome data to determine whether or not barnī palms are exclusively clonally (vegetatively) propagated. Further, we contrasted the genomes of barnī and two other palms from al-‘Ulā with 112 Phoenix spp. to provide an initial insight into date palm diversity in this oasis.

The survey reveals that the dates of the barnī palm bear distinct names, depending on their quality. Results show that barnī is a true-to-type cultivar, indicating clonal propagation by offshoots with name maintenance, even between distinct cultivating situations in al-‘Ulā and a nearby oasis. Nonetheless, it is distinct from the prominent barnī cultivated in Oman. Its ancestry is comparable to other West Asian date palms, but another palm from this oasis shows influence from North Africa.

What lies behind the cultivar name barnī in al-‘Ulā and further afield in the Arabian Peninsula has been deciphered through the key disciplinary combination of social anthropology and genetics. Future studies will provide additional insights into the original genetic make-up of this millennia-old oasis.

In the hands of this sedentary owner in the old palm grove of al-’Ulā barnī dates of two qualities: on the right the mabrūm and on the left abū qšera (which here combines mašrūk and ’ādī), al-’Ulā, KSA, 30 August 2021, Vincent Battesti
Ou study shows that even in such a remote Bedouin palm groves found in the Balawī tribal territory (about 100 km west of the oasis of al-‘Ulā), barnī date palms are identical to those found in al-‘Ulā, Wādī al-Werd, KSA, 8 Nov. 2019, Vincent Battesti
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Muriel Gros-Balthazard , Vincent Battesti , Jonathan M. Flowers , Sylvie Ferrand , Matthieu Breil , Sarah Ivorra , Jean-Frédéric Terral , Michael Purugganan , Rod A. Wing , Nahed Mohammed , Yann Bourgeois , "What lies behind a fruit crop variety name? A case study of the barnī date palm from al-‘Ulā oasis, Saudi Arabia " (online), Anthropoasis | vbat.org, page published 10 October 2022 (consulted 9 December 2022), available on: https://vbat.org/article925
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