Groups from the U.K., the Netherlands and the Ukraine have joined forces to deliver new blueberry varieties that are suitable for European production with desirable traits for growers, retailers and consumers.
The blueberry breeding consortium consists of four partners; Netherlands-based Driesvenplant BV and Schrijnwerkers Plants BV, as well as TzOV “Dolyna-Agro” from the Ukraine and the U.K.'s James Hutton Ltd.
The latter is the commercial subsidiary company of the James Hutton Institute, which will also manage the consortium.
Members attended an inaugural meeting on Tuesday (August 8) at the Dundee-based research institute to lay down the group’s objectives and highlight the types of traits they were looking 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 McCallum taking overall responsibility for the development of the breeding program 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," McCallum said.
Emphasizing the lack of varieties suited for European conditions, McCallum explained how the consortium aimed to pioneer blueberry genetics through the use of long-term research techniques.
"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 trialing by consortium members,” she added.
“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 program.”
James Hutton Limited currently manages a U.K. raspberry breeding consortium, a commercial collaboration with the U.K. soft fruit industry including more than 22 growers and propagators, which has successfully launched several varieties of raspberry including Glen Dee.
The blueberry breeding consortium will be funded by the commercial partners for five years.