PhD Achievement for Dorota Jarret, Blackcurrant Breeder

At the end of January, James Hutton Limited’s, Dorota Jarret, celebrated the achievement of her PhD which followed six years of academic and practical research into, ‘the genetic control of processing quality traits in blackcurrants’.  

Despite growing up in a busy city centre, Dorota, who hails from Poland, has always had a keen interest in horticulture and particularly enjoyed biology at school.  This led to her studying horticulture at the Agricultural University of Szczecin graduating with an MSc in 2006 with her thesis focussed on strawberry quality and soft fruit cultivation.

Following university, Dorota worked in Scotland with a farm growing for Angus Soft Fruits during the summer months, assisting and managing trial sites before becoming Farm Agronomist responsible for managing and developing crop protection for 80 acres of soft fruit production, as well as advising on plant nutrition and trialling new varieties.

It was Dorota’s trialling responsibilities that sparked an interest in the art of science behind plant breeding and so it was serendipitous indeed that the post of Field Geneticist (Plant Breeder) came up at SCRI in 2009.  Jointly funded by the predecessors of James Hutton Limited and Ribena producer, LR Suntory (Mylnefield Research Services and GlaxoSmithKline respectively), the role was created as part of an initiative to secure the future of UK plant breeding, a career which offers a lack of formal training and courses for career progression.  It’s estimated that over 90% of the UK’s blackcurrant crop goes into Ribena and it is essential to continually develop varieties in order to keep up with changes in climate, agriculture and product development.  Dorota was delighted to accept the post.

Dorota’s work with James Hutton Limited has focussed on breeding new varieties of blackcurrant and improving breeding techniques for doing so.  While doing this, she has also worked towards her recently completed PhD.  Working closely with highly respected blackcurrant breeder, Dr Rex Brennan, of the James Hutton Institute, Dorota says it was challenging to do a day job and keep on top of PhD work, but adds that one definitely benefited the other.  Learning on the job contributed to the development of techniques and tools for Dorota’s PhD while the discoveries made during her research could be put straight into practice on a daily basis.

Thinking about the future, Dorota says she is looking forward to the ‘new’, “New plant varieties, breeding programmes, technologies, collaborations, scientific projects and commercial work.  I hope my role will develop along with time and technology, especially as fruit quality becomes increasingly important to consumers and supermarkets.  With more free time I want to travel more to make closer links with industry, understand growers, retailers and consumers, and also have a greater participation in the trials of the varieties, as this is pivotal for a successful breeding programme.

I also expect to participate in more quality related research, including flavour and nutrient profiling for blackcurrant and other crops.” 

As James Hutton Limited’s resident Ribes researcher, Dorota is also working closely with James Hutton Institute’s blueberry breeding programmes and researching the lesser known, but tipped to be the next soft fruit sensation, Honeyberry. 

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Dorota Cropped

Dorota at Fruit Logistica, February 2017

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