Cathy Isom tells us about the research happening right now to keep some of our favorite fruit and juice nutritious, delicious, and safe! That’s coming up on This Land of Ours.
FasTrack Breeding Initiative
The American tree fruit industry is facing challenges of climate change, reductions in available labor, global competition, the need for reduced chemical inputs, the spread of exotic pests and pathogens, and consumer demands for enhanced fruit quality. To meet these challenges the development of improved varieties is more vital than ever. Yet, fruit tree breeding remains a slow, arduous process that has changed little over the centuries. Fruit tree breeding limitations include: a) protracted generation cycles, that is, the time between seed planting and fruiting which can last from 3 to 20 years depending on the fruit crop; b) the large land areas necessary for planting seedling fruit tree populations and the associated expenses of field operations; and c) the fact that flowering occurs only once each year and is dependent upon sufficient chill in the winter and warmth in the spring.
Genomics research aimed at improving tree fruit breeding has focused on marker-assisted selection (MAS); that is the association of pieces of DNA with fruit characteristics of interest. In this case selection for certain characteristics can be made at the DNA level. However, as with classical fruit breeding, the improvement to fruit tree breeding offered by this biotech strategy is still limited by the inherently slow generation cycles of fruit trees. To address this need, a technology to shorten the breeding cycle is required.