The new consortium will fund a blueberry breeding programme which will deliver new and improved blueberry varieties, suited to European growing conditions and carrying traits desirable to growers, retailers and consumers. It has been set up and is managed by James Hutton Limited and will include three other confirmed partners: Driesvenplant BV and Schrijnwerkers Plants BV (both Netherlands), TzOV “Dolyna-Agro” (Ukraine).
The programme will build on many years’ experience of breeding other soft fruit and extensive underpinning research on blueberry genetics. Plant breeders Dr Susan McCallum from the James Hutton Institute and Dr Dorota Jarret, James Hutton Limited, will work alongside the Consortium members with Dr McCallum taking overall responsibility for the development of the breeding programme and delivery of the science.
At the initial meeting, Consortium members discussed what the group objectives will be in terms of the key desirable traits of any new varieties developed. Dr McCallum said: “As with any soft fruit, varieties that are suitable to their local environment, are large to quickly fill punnets, have a good shelf and storage life and most importantly, taste and look good to consumers, are in high demand from European blueberry growers, so these are just some of the qualities we’ll be hoping to find in new blueberry varieties.
“The demand for blueberries in Europe continues to increase and there is a real lack of varieties specifically suited for European conditions. Using conventional and advanced molecular breeding techniques, it will be approximately year three or four of the project before we see advanced material available for trialling by Consortium members.
“It is very exciting to get the ball rolling with what is sure to be a fruitful project for all concerned. We certainly have the correct people both with our commercial members and the James Hutton team to make this another successful breeding programme.”
The Blueberry Breeding Consortium will be funded by the commercial partners for five years in the first instance, with the hope of extending the breeding programme beyond that date.
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