Tree Fruit: Breeding Your Future Success

Let’s say you have the opportunity to introduce a new technology into your farming business that slashes costs for a key management practice by around 90%. Instead of spending $25,000, you spend $2,500.

Furthermore, this new technology is robust and field-tested, ready-to-go, with expert and accessible service after sale. Even better, it’s more accurate than current technologies and can be implemented at your convenience, rather than waiting for favorable weather conditions or hiring a specialized applicator.

Sound like one of those miracle products you’ve been hearing about at winter meetings?

This technology is not a miracle, but it does deliver on what it promises. It’s not a typical ag product or service, but it has indeed been showcased in a number of winter meetings, the most recent involving participants in a large research project called RosBREED (www.rosbreed.org) in San Diego, CA. This project focuses on improving the development and delivery of superior cultivars for rosaceous crops and is funded through the USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI).

The technology itself is called Marker-Assisted Breeding (MAB). In some ways, it’s a very simple process, using our current knowledge of DNA sequences in crop plants to improve selection efficiency in breeding programs. It does so by identifying bits of DNA acting as “markers” — useful because they are inherited together with DNA controlling important traits like fruit sugar levels, plant habit, or disease resistance. Such markers are already employed intensively for field crops like corn and soybeans, as well as many specialty crops (mostly vegetables), but not for many rosaceous crops. RosBREED is changing that, building a genetic knowledge base, developing DNA-based predictive tools, and adapting the approach to crops like almond, apple, cherry, peach, raspberry, rose, and strawberry.

There’s tremendously interesting science in this “simple process.” RosBREED researchers spent a full day in San Diego in January discussing technical details: DNA extraction, genetic validation, statistical functionalities, bioinformatics platforms — not easy stuff for industry stakeholders around the table, but every single one agreed we’re headed in the right direction, with industry input a vital part of the process.

They also agreed those technical details are in very good hands. More than 40 scientists from research institutions worldwide are involved, led by Drs. Amy Iezzoni at Michigan State University and Cameron Peace at Washington State University (WSU). A year into the project, these outstanding scientists and their graduate students are right on target: enabling the efficient development of cultivars that are both grower-friendly and consumer-preferred. (for an example of this, see “RosBREED In Action”)

A Matter Of Science

Of course, DNA-informed tools, the promised outcome of RosBREED, complement, rather than replace, other breeding program activities, and exemplify how the SCRI is transforming the way science is being advanced in specialty crops. Furthermore, that includes social sciences.

Participating in the San Diego meeting were diverse industry stakeholders representing California, Michigan, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, and Washington. They and their organizations will soon participate in a nationwide survey developed by RosBREED’s socio-economics team, a survey that systematically evaluates crop traits of most economic value to producers, processors, packers-shippers, and consumers.

This information will be funneled into breeding programs to help ensure MAB technology focuses on the right crop traits, another way of enhancing program efficiency and effectiveness. As in MAB, this socio-economics approach doesn’t replace other necessary activities, like careful market planning, one-on-one interactions with producers, rapid dissemination of quality information on breeding selections, etc., but it does enhance the likelihood breeding programs produce more successes than failures.

You will be hearing much more about RosBREED (and other SCRI projects) at winter meetings and thereafter. To maintain a competitive edge, our specialty crop industries require this kind of research and Extension activities. Each project may not turn a $25,000 operation into one that costs $2,500, but together they will have lasting impacts across the country for our industries. It is my hope the next round of SCRI projects will have similar impact. It is also my hope the next Farm Bill will not just protect, but will expand funding for this extraordinarily successful program. Stay updated on SCRI projects and relevant news by going to www.growingproduce.com. And, yes, enjoy those winter meetings. Spring is not far off!

Leave a Reply

Fruits Stories
Mobile technology farming
Citrus
January 17, 2017
The Future of Agriculture is in Your Hands — Literally [Opinion]
Can farmers actually reach the point of having too much information? Read More
Case IH autonomus tractor
Equipment
January 17, 2017
Agricultural Robots No Longer Science Fiction
New automated technologies could help specialty crop growers deal with labor crisis. Read More
Citrus
January 16, 2017
First Bee in Continental U.S. Listed as Endangered Species
Rusty patched bumble bee receives protection from activities that could cause it to go extinct. Read More
Fruits
January 16, 2017
Pollination Experts Host Webinar Series
Fruit and vegetable growers can prepare for spring by hearing about recent pollination research. Read More
Example of how farmers can use iPads to track data around his operation
Citrus
January 16, 2017
Precision Agriculture and Big Data Gaining Traction Fast
Specialty crop adoption of hort tech to usher in new efficiencies and transparency. Read More
Crop Protection
January 16, 2017
Monsanto, NRGene Enter Agreement for Big Data Genomic Analysis Technology
Technology platform is designed to help Monsanto analyze, store, and mine its genomic data sets to enhance breeding and R&D opportunities. Read More
a firm handshake signifies a done deal
Apples & Pears
January 16, 2017
Earl Brown & Sons Sold to Washington Fruit Grower
Foreman family purchases Oregon’s largest grower, packer of fresh apples. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
January 18, 2017
NASA, NOAA Concur 2016 Was World’s Warme…
For the third time in three years, the bar is raised on surface temperature statistics. Read More
Fruits
January 18, 2017
Spotted Wing Drosophila Control the Topi…
Research updates, recommendations to be presented on devastating pest. Read More
Farm Management
January 17, 2017
Will Big Data Yield Big Returns for Farm…
Modern tools of hort tech are ripe to inspire the next generation of productivity and profitability. Read More
Citrus
January 17, 2017
The Future of Agriculture is in Your Han…
Can farmers actually reach the point of having too much information? Read More
Equipment
January 17, 2017
Agricultural Robots No Longer Science Fi…
New automated technologies could help specialty crop growers deal with labor crisis. Read More
Citrus
January 16, 2017
First Bee in Continental U.S. Listed as …
Rusty patched bumble bee receives protection from activities that could cause it to go extinct. Read More
Fruits
January 16, 2017
Pollination Experts Host Webinar Series
Fruit and vegetable growers can prepare for spring by hearing about recent pollination research. Read More
Citrus
January 16, 2017
Precision Agriculture and Big Data Gaini…
Specialty crop adoption of hort tech to usher in new efficiencies and transparency. Read More
Crop Protection
January 16, 2017
Monsanto, NRGene Enter Agreement for Big…
Technology platform is designed to help Monsanto analyze, store, and mine its genomic data sets to enhance breeding and R&D opportunities. Read More
Citrus
January 15, 2017
New Transitional Certification Program t…
The program will be based on standards developed by the Organic Trade Association. Read More
Citrus
January 13, 2017
Vilsack Bids Fond Farewell in Early Exit…
With no clear-cut replacement in sight, U.S. agriculture secretary leaves one week before his term officially ends. Read More
Citrus
January 10, 2017
Was 2016 the Worst Weather Year Ever?
Near all-time records in average temperature and costly climate-related disasters make a strong case for dubious distinction. Read More
Farm Management
January 10, 2017
FSMA Training Available in Colorado
To be in compliance with the FDA’s Preventive Controls for Human Food rule, be sure farm personnel completes the required training. Read More
Farm Management
January 9, 2017
Fruit and Vegetable Sector Scores Winter…
15th annual Southeast Fruit & Vegetable Conference serves as port in the storm for growers, researchers, and industry vendors seeking to buy, sell, and learn. Read More
Apples & Pears
January 5, 2017
Traditional Varieties Still the Focus of…
Moneymakers — that’s what traditional apple varieties such as ‘Fuji,’ ‘Gala,’ and ‘Honeycrisp’ are often referred to in the industry. Read More
Farm Management
January 4, 2017
California Snowpack Below Average –…
The January 3 measurement was disheartening, but a big, fat blanket of snow fell during the following week, and the state’s biggest reservoirs have levels well above average. Read More
Berries
January 4, 2017
Input Needed from Strawberry Growers, In…
National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative moves into new phase as growers, managers, nursery operators, consultants, and Extension educators are asked to take an online survey. Read More
Fruits
January 3, 2017
West’s Largest Organic Farming Event Com…
Ecological Farm Association will host the 37th annual EcoFarm Conference Jan. 25–28 in Pacific Grove, CA. Read More