Chile developing its own strawberries, raspberries
Chile has fallen behind when it comes to fruit variety development, but the Universidad de Chile's 'Fruit Improvement' program aims to change all that.
Undertaken by the university's Faculty of Agronomy and Forestry Engineering (FIAF), the program is developing several new species of fruits from gene pools of raspberries, strawberries, peaches, plums, grapes, mandarins and lemons.
The program's head for berry improvement Marina Gambardella, told www.freshfruitportal.com after two years work on the project she is confident it will yield positive results for the long term.
"The conditions of every country are important and for that I believe genetic improvement is a qualitative jump that has to be made by the Chilean fruit industry," she says.
"I bet my variety will have a better agronomic and commercial result if I’ve selected it under national conditions.
She says strawberries were chosen in the berry category as they have a high consumption internationally, high internal variability and a short life span.
Raspberries on the other hand need alternatives to the Heritage variety which often has problems with trade and is a small-sized fruit. The program is developing new alternatives with the help of the Institute of Agricultural Studies (INIA), Innova-Corfo, the Fruit Technology Consortium and the Fruit Development Foundation.
"Both in strawberries and raspberries we have seen selections that could be interesting."
Using gene pools that go back to various sources such as Spain, Italy and Florida, Gambardella is looking for good levels of firmness, soluble solids, taste, productivity and ability to be sent fresh; not too big, not too small, whole but not hollow and red on the inside.
She says raspberry results are more promising due to the fact there is only one variety available, while on the biotechnological side the development has been quite basic - in vitro to generate more material, driving germoplasm banks and then assessing the material.
"We are not using any type of genetic engineering, not because it's not believed in - I believe in it - it’s because the markets have closed these possibilities, so I believe it still doesn’t make much sense."
"Chile is very limited. I believe that there are various reasons, probably because our country is very generous in its environmental conditions - it can do bad things but Chile will still give us good fruit.
"The truth is that Chile is super behind with genetic improvement - I think Chile has had technological development in fruit which has been based mainly in the short term."
Gambardella points to a lack of consciousness about breeding in the country's fruit sector, which has spurred researchers like herself to call for industry recognition to help improve Chile's agricultural future.