Breeding new varieties of berries is a lengthy process. The time from establishing a new cross to reaching farmers’ fields is usually about 15 years. Michael Dossett, research scientist and plant breeder with the BC Blueberry Council discussed the latest results of his time-intensive work in raspberries, blueberries and strawberries.
“A breeding program moves slowly,” Dossett explained, and although trends have seen raspberries coming out of fields in favour of blueberries or other crops, there are about 600 advanced selections of raspberries trialing in the program due to the long process.
“There’s so much already in the pipeline for raspberries,” Dossett noted. “Hopefully we’ll have some sort of impact towards that [raspberries returning to fields] in the future.”
There are about 100 blueberry advanced selections in the program at this point. Dossett explained he is in the process of gearing up more blueberry work.
In raspberries, selection BC5-11-1 (mentioned in a talk by Dossett last year) has a couple hundred plants in trial. Test plots have shown it looks good for machine harvesting and will go to grower trials next season.
“Unless it looks really bad this summer, we’ll get trial plants out for 2016,” Dossett said.
The selections coming out in the last couple of years have been very impressive for fruit quality according to Dossett, with good root rot resistance and fruit firmness.
“They are a few of the firmest raspberries I’ve ever seen,” he added.
Blueberries have a couple of selections with excellent fruit quality in propagation said Dossett.
“The fruit quality is just really excellent,” he noted. “After five weeks in cold storage they are still firmer than Draper. We are definitely making some headway on fruit quality.”
Propagation for blueberries is slower than raspberries so there may be some grower trial plots of these varieties in the fall of 2016. Disease and splitting resistance is always a part of new trials and tests of “parent stock” are underway to determine possible future crosses.
A trial in Quebec has revealed what Dossett describes as a really excellent day neutral strawberry. Known as BC10-2-1, the plants will be coming into their third season in Quebec and are the first day neutral to go through grower trials.
“We expect that if it goes well this season, grower trials may be in 2016,” Dossett noted.
Obviously berry growers have plenty to look forward to in terms of the quest for the perfect berry.
Education is a key component of the world of agriculture. Fortunately, experts are available at events like the Pacific Agriculture Show’s Horticultural Grower’s Short Course and to share information with Orchard & Vine to make that education as convenient as possible.