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
Cannabis plant closeup
Citrus
July 28, 2016
Florida’s Medicinal Cannabis Venture Officially Open For Business
The state’s first dispensary of product comes online in Tallahassee, others waiting for the green light. Read More
IFTA Summer Tour New York 34
Apples & Pears
July 28, 2016
Seeing The Real Big Apple On The Nation’s Most Prominent Fruit Tour
Hot temperatures, lack of precipitation, mechanization, and high density production systems were among the highlights of the International Fruit Tree Association’s annual study tour. Read More
Andrew (left) and Steve Beilstein use an air dancer, pictured in the background, as a bird-scaring device at The Blueberry Patch in Lexington, OH.  (Photo credit: Gary Gao)
Berries
July 27, 2016
Bird Damage Plagues Most Fruit Growers
There’s no silver bullet, but here are several techniques to annoy and deter birds. Read More
precision ag vision conference
Citrus
July 27, 2016
Ag Tech Is Hot On Horticulture; Get A Handle On What This Means For You
As evidenced by the recent AgTech Summit hosted by Forbes magazine in Salinas, CA, action in precision farming and the Read More
cash money in hand
Citrus
July 27, 2016
Stockholders OK Dow, DuPont Merger
Companies intend to separate into three, independent companies. Read More
Tall Spindle Axe featured
Stone Fruit
July 26, 2016
Take A Closer Look At The Tall Spindle Axe Training System
One of the more traditional three-dimensional canopies, Tall Spindle Axe data shows consistent early and sustained yields. Read More
Workers picking in a Florida strawberry field
Berries
July 26, 2016
Wish Farms Commits $100K To Food Safety Cause
Central Florida berry operation will donate $20,000 annually over the next five years to fund various research projects backed by the Center for Produce Safety. Read More
The Latest
Fruits
July 30, 2016
Don’t Worry About What You Can’t Control…
Wacky weather has kept you on your toes this year, but there’s no sense in trying to prevent the unpreventable. Read More
Fruits
July 30, 2016
Drought Parches Eastern Parts Of U.S.
Conditions worsen in Massachusetts and New York. Read More
Farm Management
July 29, 2016
Obama Signs GMO Labeling Law
The law is praised by major grower groups because it avoids a patchwork of state laws and provides clarity going forward. Read More
Citrus
July 28, 2016
Florida’s Medicinal Cannabis Venture Off…
The state’s first dispensary of product comes online in Tallahassee, others waiting for the green light. Read More
Citrus
July 27, 2016
Ag Tech Is Hot On Horticulture; Get A Ha…
As evidenced by the recent AgTech Summit hosted by Forbes magazine in Salinas, CA, action in precision farming and the Read More
Citrus
July 27, 2016
Stockholders OK Dow, DuPont Merger
Companies intend to separate into three, independent companies. Read More
Fruits
July 26, 2016
Popular Spanish-Speaking Fruit Summer To…
Second-annual tour designed to educate Spanish-speaking employees or farmworkers on fruit growing practices. Read More
Crop Protection
July 25, 2016
Study: GMO Ban Would Hurt Economy And En…
Food prices and greenhouse gas emissions would rise, according to paper by Purdue University agricultural economist. Read More
Farm Management
July 25, 2016
Seven Reasons You Need To Attend The Uni…
Education sessions and Capitol Hill visits will focus on key issues, such as labor, facing the fresh produce industry. Read More
Crop Protection
July 25, 2016
Organic Insect Control Product Available…
The mycoinsecticide is EPA registered and controls a variety of insect pests. Read More
Citrus
July 21, 2016
Farm Labor Delays Taking Toll On Crops […
When it comes down to it, we have a choice to make. We either have to import our labor, or we'll have to import our food. Read More
Citrus
July 20, 2016
My First Trip To Cuba Proves Fruitful
The five-day journey was enlightening, providing participants with a better perspective of the state of agriculture in this country 90 miles off Florida’s coast. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2016
Funds Allocated To Address Impact Of Cli…
NIFA announces $8.4 for study and development of new approaches to mitigate effects of climate change. Read More
Citrus
July 18, 2016
USDA Awards More Than $26 Million For Af…
The funding is to support more than 400 rental units in four states. Read More
Business Planning
July 18, 2016
Financial Fortitude Key For Small Farm S…
Local threats like citrus greening create additional challenges for many of Florida's more modest enterprises. Read More
Citrus
July 18, 2016
Bayer Ups Bid To Buy Monsanto
Reports indicate new offer at nearly $65 billion. Read More
Farm Management
July 14, 2016
House Passes GMO Labeling Legislation
The measure will be sent to President Obama, who is expected to sign the bill into law. Read More
Citrus
July 14, 2016
Look Up! Farming’s Future Is Comin…
FAA's recent ruling regarding unmanned aircraft systems is good news for business. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]