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
Grapes
March 28, 2017
Understanding the Economics Of Red Blotch in Grapes
An economist and a plant pathologist team up to help growers understand the threshold for action when a vine is diagnosed with the virus. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 28, 2017
Washington State University Offers Powdery Mildew Management Tips
Opening buds may be exposed to overwintering inoculum as temperatures begin to rise. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 27, 2017
It’s a Family Reunion at IFTA
Some of my fondest memories on the road are at IFTA conferences. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 27, 2017
Out of this World Expectations for ‘Cosmic Crisp’ Apple
With millions of trees going into PNW orchards, Washington State growers are betting big on ‘Cosmic Crisp'. The shift in varieties planted and more took center stage when the International Fruit Tree’s Annual Conference met in Wenatchee, WA. Read More
SWD On Raspberry
Berries
March 26, 2017
Outsmarting SWD with Social Media
Entomologist in Kentucky uses social media for pest updates, trap catches. Read More
honeybees
Citrus
March 25, 2017
New Videos Offer Tips on Planting Pollinator Habitats
A new video series on planting flowering habitats is designed to help growers support crop pollinators. Read More
Freeze protected blueberry bushes in Florida
Berries
March 25, 2017
Florida Blueberry Crop Escapes Slap from Late-Season Cold Snap
Freeze protection tactics prove fruitful as local producers look to gain from Georgia’s loss. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 25, 2017
Two MAIA Releases Available for Growers, Hobbyists
‘Crunch-A-Bunch’ is an early ‘GoldRush’ and ‘Bakers Delight’ is a secret ingredient for baking. Read More
Citrus
March 24, 2017
Marrone Bio Introduces Biostimulant to Reduce Sun Stress
Haven Anti-transpirant helps to reduce transpiration of fruit, nut, and vegetable crops. Read More
Campus of Massey University in New Zealand
Citrus
March 23, 2017
Count Down the World’s Top 30 Agriculture Colleges
Familiar names and several new faces among annual ranking’s elite. Read More
Business Planning
March 22, 2017
How HortTech Is Solving Grower Challenges
Dozens of tech companies are looking for solutions to real-world problems vegetable growers face. We take a look at what it could really mean for you and your business. Read More
Citrus
March 21, 2017
Industry Groups, Ag Leaders React to Proposed USDA, EPA Budget Cuts
New plan would slash USDA spending by 21%. Read More
Freeze protected peach trees in Florida
Cold Protection
March 21, 2017
Freezing Temperatures Hit South Carolina Crops Hard
Peaches, blueberries, and strawberries among crops damaged. Read More
fork digging into a plate full of salad
Citrus
March 21, 2017
Since When Did Eating Get So Complicated? [Opinion]
The bottom line to all this is the way we eat is undergoing massive disruption. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 21, 2017
Two More Lost Apple Varieties Found In Steptoe Butte
Amateur apple detective strikes again with two more finds in abandoned orchards near state park. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
March 30, 2017
EPA Denies Order to Ban Pesticide
Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide that controls foliage and soilborne pests. Read More
Fruits
March 29, 2017
Water Allocations in California Deemed U…
Tom Nassif of Western Growers objects to a recent announcement that some in California’s Central Valley received only a 65% initial water allocation, while other growers in the region received 100%. Read More
Citrus
March 25, 2017
New Videos Offer Tips on Planting Pollin…
A new video series on planting flowering habitats is designed to help growers support crop pollinators. Read More
Citrus
March 24, 2017
Marrone Bio Introduces Biostimulant to R…
Haven Anti-transpirant helps to reduce transpiration of fruit, nut, and vegetable crops. Read More
Citrus
March 23, 2017
Count Down the World’s Top 30 Agricultur…
Familiar names and several new faces among annual ranking’s elite. Read More
Business Planning
March 22, 2017
How HortTech Is Solving Grower Challenge…
Dozens of tech companies are looking for solutions to real-world problems vegetable growers face. We take a look at what it could really mean for you and your business. Read More
Citrus
March 21, 2017
Industry Groups, Ag Leaders React to Pro…
New plan would slash USDA spending by 21%. Read More
Cold Protection
March 21, 2017
Freezing Temperatures Hit South Carolina…
Peaches, blueberries, and strawberries among crops damaged. Read More
Citrus
March 21, 2017
Since When Did Eating Get So Complicated…
The bottom line to all this is the way we eat is undergoing massive disruption. Read More
Crop Protection
March 20, 2017
Biologicals Gaining Acceptance Among Mor…
Driven by new innovation and consumer demand, growers look to the biocontrol sector for new solutions. Read More
Citrus
March 16, 2017
UCF Stepping up to Be Farming’s Kn…
Hopes are high that the school's new agriculture research center will help growers solve production issues and feed the globe. Read More
Berries
March 15, 2017
Arctic Blast Gives Southern Fruit Grower…
Peaches and berries in bloom most at risk from freezing temperatures. Read More
Citrus
March 15, 2017
Group Wants To Streamline Food Safety Re…
There are 15 federal agencies implement more than 30 different food safety statutes. A team of experts believe they have a solution. Read More
Citrus
March 14, 2017
Can Your Farm Survive If the Grid Goes D…
Even in a plugged-in world, the basics are needed now more than ever. Read More
Citrus
March 14, 2017
Concerns Mount in the Sunshine State Ove…
Water conservation efforts called for as the dry season rolls on. Read More
Fruits
March 14, 2017
Some Fruit Bud Damage Seen In Northeast;…
Researchers say fluctuating temperatures have confused trees, but perhaps any damage occurred will help thin out crops. Read More
Food Safety
March 10, 2017
Strawberries, Spinach Top Latest ‘…
Industry groups dispute annual report, noting any report that has the effect of decreasing Americans’ fruit and vegetable intake is injurious to their health. Read More
Citrus
March 7, 2017
The Andersons Divests Florida Farm Cente…
Local, family owned custom blend fertilizer company taking over assets and product distribution responsibilities. Read More