Best Research Is Industry Driven [Opinion]

Like many of you, I’m not crazy about a lot of government programs.

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It’s not that their genesis isn’t noble; God knows our society doesn’t lack for problems. But in their execution, too many of these programs end up as money pits.

It’s as if the procedure becomes the goal. Those involved become inured, they get so used to playing the game they lose sight of finishing it.

Years ago I worked as a newspaper reporter, looking for government waste.

I learned of one woman who worked in county government who answered phone calls for about two hours a day. For the other six, she actually read novels — and made no effort to conceal the fact.

I talked to one man who headed up finance for a city. He spent most of his time working on the city budget. When I commented that it didn’t seem like a lot of projects were actually executed, he said that he and his staff had to find satisfaction not in the results, but in the process. I thought he was joking, but unfortunately, he was quite serious.

So when I first heard of the RosBREED project, which is the subject of this month’s cover story beginning on page 10, I was skeptical. But I knew many of the people involved — some of whom are our columnists — and I knew they wouldn’t be inclined to waste their time.

Also, I liked that the work was wide out in the open for all to see. Perhaps even better, I was keen on the fact that the scientists/breeders sought feedback from others involved in the business, from Extension farm advisors to industry association representatives to — most importantly — the fruit growers themselves.

In addition, I can’t imagine goals that could be more crucial to the industry. First, by developing fruits that resisted disease, growers could cut down on inputs. When I write about a new crop protection product, I often hear from growers that that’s all well and good, but how much does it cost?

Long term, cutting inputs not only helps growers reduce costs, but let’s face it, a lot of older chemistries are no longer going to be available at some point. I’ll leave aside the reasons for this because I don’t have the space here, but we all know the changes will come eventually.

But the other fist in RosBREED’s one-two punch might be even more important in the long term. That is the development of great-tasting fruit. This truly moves the needle on the future of the fruit industry.

I know this first-hand. My own son, as early as the age of six, preferred a ripe pluot to a cookie. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the developer of the pluot, Floyd Zaiger, lives in the same town we do. My son has actually toured the great fruit breeder’s orchards.

Anyway, could you imagine if all the kids in our country felt that way? Not only would our industry benefit, but so would our country at large in terms of obesity and all its attendant health problems.

By the same token, I’ve written about this before, but my daughter, at about the same age, didn’t want red apples any more. Too many lousy ‘Red Delicious’ at school.

Today, recently married and buying her own groceries, she shops at a store specifically because it’s known for the quality of its fruits and vegetables.

In sum, the effects of RosBREED could well be enduring. For the sake of our industry, let’s hope so. ●