Soft fruit breeding has been a staple output of the science at the James Hutton Institute and its legacy organisations since the 1930s. Today, raspberry, blackberry, blackcurrant and blueberry all have their own industry funded breeding programmes in place, managed by the Institute’s commercial arm, James Hutton Limited.
The Raspberry Breeding Consortium; a collaboration between marketing groups, propagators, AHDB and Scottish Government, was born in 2002 and began its 4th phase last year (still open to new membership from marketing groups and propagators in the EU) with the continuing aim of breeding new, targeted raspberry varieties, a process accelerated via the innovative science of the James Hutton Institute, making it a unique programme and a leader in deploying molecular marker technology in a breeding programme.
The James Hutton Institute is synonymous with blackcurrant breeding. It’s estimated that 95% of UK grown blackcurrants have emerged from breeding programmes at the Institute’s base, just west of the city of Dundee, Scotland, all recognisable by the ‘Ben’ prefix.
Blueberry and blackberry programmes began in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Both have hit the ground running with the combination of genetic markers, unique germplasm and breeding expertise that other programmes simply could not access and are already trialling advanced selections.
In a world where fruit has never been more fresh, more varied or more globally available, Dr Dorota Jarret, Ribes Breeder and Geneticist at James Hutton Limited, and chair of the ISHS Rubus and Ribes group, explains the necessity for more industry funded breeding programmes, “Modern breeding programmes address the problems of production in an evolving world. We have to face up to climate change; growers are dealing with poor quality and degraded soils, newly emerging pathogens, unpredictable weather, shorter and drier growing seasons plus restrictions on chemical use.”
James Hutton Limited breeding programmes are supported by a 450-strong team of researchers, scientists, field staff and breeders with unrivalled expertise in pest and disease management, genetics, diagnostic development, plant stresses, imaging, modelling, statistics and more, and are set to benefit further from investment at the James Hutton Institute when ground breaks on a £32 million Advanced Plant Growth Centre this summer.
Dr Jarret continues, “Consumer tastes are changing and production costs are increasing so we need varieties that are productive, have low picking and management costs, good pest and disease tolerance and require reduced inputs, and they must also satisfy retailer and processor requirements which would include large fruit, good flavour, extended shelf life and season. We have some very exciting new selections in trials, including a floricane raspberry that has so far shown resistance to root rot as well as two primocanes, both highly productive plants producing large, sweet, fruit. Developments like this demonstrate the major benefit of being attached to a world-leading centre of crop research. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all solution but luckily, we’re in the right place to make a real difference to the soft fruit industry and to agriculture as a whole.”
Dr Jarret is speaking at Fruit Logistica as part of the Fresh Produce Forum on February 6th between 1pm and 2pm. The overarching topic is, 'Berries - improved harvests and product quality in times of climate change'.
For more information:
James Hutton Limited
Tel: +44 (0) 1382 568800