Berry good news: disease-resistant soft fruit is on the way

30th Jul 2013

Fruit breeders at the James Hutton Institute have revealed they are making progress towards the development of disease-resistant raspberry varieties for both the fresh and processing markets. They were sharing their latest research with soft fruit industry representatives at the Fruit for the Future 2013 event at the Institute’s site in Dundee on 18 July. 

In particular two projects, supported by the UK Raspberry Breeding Consortium and the Scottish Government, have enabled researchers to identify genetic markers linked to resistance to Phytophtora root rot and these markers are now being used in the breeding programme to identify resistant varieties.

Visitors had the opportunity to see plots of recent raspberry releases Glen Fyne and Phytophthora-tolerant Glen Ericht, as well as trials of new selections and advanced genotypes. The development programme at the James Hutton Institute has also moved into breeding primocane raspberries and the first selections of early season types with high quality fruit were also shown.

Fruit breeder Nikki Jennings of Mylnefield Research Services, the Institute’s commercial subsidiary, said: “Support from the underpinning science at the James Hutton Institute makes our raspberry breeding programme distinct from other programmes, since it is the first to fully integrate molecular technology with conventional breeding, creating a new contemporary approach to identify desirable types much earlier in the breeding process. This enables us to reduce the timescale of releasing new varieties to industry.”

Also at the event Stuart Stubbins, chairman of the UK Raspberry Breeding Consortium, spoke about the future needs of the raspberry industry and the role breeding can now play in addressing them, while James Hutton Institute researcher Alexandre Foito gave a presentation about the Climafruit project, which aims to assess the impact of climate on the biochemical composition of raspberry and blackcurrant varieties across northern Europe.

“These fruits are highly regarded for their levels of health promoting compounds, which tend to respond to environmental conditions. It is expected that with increased understanding of the biochemical responses to environment, we could predict how these cultivars will cope under projected climate scenarios. This information will be used to help breeders and growers select cultivars which show more potential under climate change scenarios while maintaining a high level of fruit quality,” Foito explained.

Fruit for the Future is an annual event hosted by the James Hutton Institute and the Scottish Society for Crop Research. It is for farmers, agronomists, representatives of the food and drink industries, scientists and others interested in soft fruit. It consists of a seminar programme followed by a tour of the breeding plots, with fruit tasting and current field experiments.

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