Crop: Lactuca sativa L. (Lettuce)

The ‘Morada de Morella’ lettuce belongs to the botanic variey longifolia Lam. The plants that belong to this variety are characterized by a tight, erect and columnar head of long elliptical or elliptical widened leaves of about 30 cm in length. These leaves are usually entire, obtuse and with the central nerve very marked. The 'Cos' or 'Roman' lettuces, characterized by its large and compact columnar heads and the 'Latin' type characterized by having shorter leaves with less defined heads are also included in the longifolia variety. The lettuce ‘Romana de Morella’ belongs to the 'Latin' type and develops stiff and crispy leaves, so tight that it is not necessary to tying the plants to allow the whitening of the youngest leaves. Likewise, it is characterized by the anthocyanin coloration in leaves, punctually or more widely distributed (Roselló, 2011; Figás et al., 2017).

The ‘Morada de Morella’ lettuce is generally grown during winter season. It is well adapted to low temperatures and exhibits a nice intense red color.  Contrarily, it is not adapted to high temperatures showing a quick bolting. The red color, almost violet, is due to the synthesis of anthocyanins as an adaptative response to cold.  The plant is big and rustic, easy to grow and reaching often one kilogram weight, with large brilliant green leaves with more than half of their surface with intense red color, wrinkled and with undulating border. Seeds are black in color, harvested to the end of spring season and kept by growers to be used in the following growing season (Roselló et al., 2011).

Cultivation System: ND.

Geographical Information

Country: Spain

The traditional variety 'Morada de Morella' is very popular in the northern regions of Castelló. Formerly it was very cultivated in the region of ‘Els Ports’, whose capital (Morella) gives its name. Although it comes from this region, at present it can be found cultivated by all the central and northern regions of the Valencian Community.

Farmer(s) description:

The different varieties of 'Morada de Morella' were very common in the Valencian orchards in the middle of the 20th century. However, many of them disappear as consequence of the introduction of modern cultivars resistant to diseases and with more tendency to form head (Vera y Perdomo, 2014). Currently, this variety subsists in small family gardens. Although it is still possible to collect this type of lettuce in different areas around the city of Morella, their cultivation is disappearing. The activities carried out by the Universitat Politècnica de València, as well as the Autonomous Administration are devoted to its recovery and to enhance its cultivation.

Propagation system: Seed, self-pollination

Multiplication procedures and consequences on landrace diversity:

The lettuce is a strict autogamous plant, being easy to collect seeds from each individual plant. This facilitate to carry out individual selection breeding programmes (Mou, 2008) and make easy to growers to maintain the desired phenotypes by simply harvesting seeds of individual plants. However, some degree of variation for leaf color is observed within a population and also among populations. This fact can be due to the different selection criterium applied by growers and to the seed exchange among them.

Management plan existence:

Characterization of lettuce accessions collected in expeditions has allowed to verify the existing variation within varietal types (Perdomo, 2010; Pérez y Perdomo, 2012; Figás et al., 2017). This variation allows the selection of materials with higher yield and/or quality. As in other crops, selection based on agronomic and nutritional quality criteria, can lead to the identification of outstanding varieties as quality products with added value for growers (Escrivá et al., 2010; Vera y Perdomo, 2014). In some of these works, accessions of 'Morada de Morella' type coming from northern areas of Valencia have been characterized.

However, the ‘Morada de Morella’ lettuce is very interesting for its high Fe, Ca, Mg and K content. Besides, these varieties of open attitude, have high content of chlorophyll and antioxidants. it seems that the greater exposure to sunlight of the leaves of these lettuces results in a greater accumulation of nutritionally healthy substances (Figás et al., 2017). This variety has also been cited as very promising for its organoleptic characteristics (Raigón et al 2012; Vera y Perdomo, 2014). Thus, the lettuce 'Morada de Morella' is a very interesting product to work in the enhancement of its cultivation in Valencia based on its organoleptic and nutritional characteristics.

Added Values

Market - existing and novel:

The ‘Morada de Morella’ lettuce is marketed in fresh by growers in local markets. In this sense it can be difficult to find it in large supermarkets. Old growers often grown this variety for self-consumption. Recently, different research groups have carried out collection expeditions of this varietal type, as well as its characterization to determine the properties that can contribute to an enhancement of their crop and therefore its conservation 'on farm' (Figás et al., 2017)

Others (e.g. commercial/geographical brands or special traits):

The Universitat Politècnica de València has been extensively working during the last five years on the collection of traditional lettuce varieties and, more specifically, on the 'Morada de Morella' type. These works have been done in collaboration with the team of the Experimental Agrària de Carcaixent Station of the Generalitat Valenciana, led by D. Josep Roselló Oltra. Likewise, work is being done on the chemical characterization of this variety in order to determine which qualities can contribute to valorize this varietal type and therefore to enhance its conservation and cultivation.

The selection and conservation of seeds carried out by farmers of the northernmost Valencian counties have made it possible to have a very valuable germplasm. A Good representation of these germplasm is holded in the genebank of the Universitat Politècnica de València (FAO ESP026).

The conservation of the variety 'Morada de Morella' 'on farm' is not guaranteed taking into account that it is cultivated by a very small number of farmers who sell it in local markets. It is necessary to diseminate its quality characteristics, as well as its very good behavior in an organic farming system to try to valorize this varietal type of lettuce and enhance its cultivation. In this sense, the present and future works by research teams of the Universitat Politècnica de València can contribute to guarantee the conservation of this type of lettuce (Nuez et al., 2000; Figás et al., 2017)

The genebanks of the Universitat Politècnica de València ( holds a collection of accessions of this landrace available upon request.

Case study provided by Departamento de Biotecnología de la Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), València, Spain.

To the members of the Estació Experimental Agrària de Carcaixent in particular Mr. Josep Roselló Oltra, who provided seeds and lots of information on this landrace through the last five years.

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