A blueberry programme created to deliver new varieties suitable for European production has been formed in a bid to keep pace with growing demand for the soft fruit.
A Blueberry Breeding Consortium includes members from three European countries and funds the varietal project geared towards improved blueberry varieties that carry desirable traits for growers, retailers and consumers.
It consists of four partners; Netherlands-based Driesvenplant BV and Schrijnwerkers Plants BV, as well as TzOV “Dolyna-Agro” from the Ukraine and James Hutton Ltd, the latter being the commercial subsidiary company of the James Hutton Institute, which will also manage the consortium.
Members attended an inaugural meeting yesterday (August 8) at the Dundee-based research institute to lay down the group’s objectives and highlight the types of traits they are searching for in new blueberry varietal development.
Plant breeders Dr Susan McCallum, from the James Hutton Institute, and Dr Dorota Jarret, James Hutton Limited, will work alongside Consortium members with Dr McCallum taking overall responsibility for the development of the breeding programme and delivery of the science.
“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,” she says.
Emphasising the lack of varieties suited for European conditions, Dr McCallum explains how using long-term research techniques, the consortium aims to pioneer blueberry genetics.
“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,” she adds.
“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.”
James Hutton Limited currently manages a UK Raspberry Breeding Consortium, a commercial collaboration with the UK soft fruit industry, including more than 22 growers and propagators, which has successfully launched several varieties of raspberry including the UK’s most recent variety, Glen Dee.
The Blueberry Breeding Consortium will be funded by the commercial partners for five years.