Vineland Research and Innovations Centre Inc

Introducing Dr. Beatrice Amyotte, Small Fruit Germplasm Development Program

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The berry breeding program at the Agriculture and AgriFood Canada (AAFC) Kentville Research and Development Centre in Kentville, Nova Scotia, is now the Small Fruit Germplasm Development Program.

The new approach to plant breeding will allow the fruit industry to be more involved in the release of new Canadian varieties of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and grapes that are developed from a bigger, hand-picked genetic pool of superior plant traits.

The Centre currently has a collection of more than a thousand different selections of the fruit and is looking to significantly expand it with new material from genebanks in Canada, the United States and Europe.

 “The objective in germplasm development is to create variation,” says Dr. Beatrice Amyotte, who joined the research centre this year as a lead researcher with the new program. “We can use that variation to not only develop plants with interesting traits that are commercially valuable but also plants that can be used for further research.

“There is going to be plant material that will be quite different from what producers have seen before. They’ll have a chance to evaluate it in their own growing conditions and decide which of these plants should become varieties.”

For more than 100 years, the berry breeding program in Kentville developed commercial plant varieties from start to finish. These included popular strawberry varieties such as the large-fruited ‘Annapolis,’ the early-fruiting ‘AC Wendy” and the easy-picking ‘AAC Lila.’
But the department has been hearing from the members of the Canadian fruit industry who have been asking for a bigger role in deciding which plant selections become commercial varieties.

A recent departmental survey of the Canadian strawberry industry found strong support for early testing of new strawberry selections by industry across the country.

AAFC will develop a new commercialization model so that interested growers and nurseries will have the opportunity to test, select and name the small fruit varieties that are best suited for their growing environments and production systems.

The Kentville Small Fruit Germplasm Development Program will continue to develop new, unnamed small fruit selections which can be tested across Canada.

National and provincial stakeholder organizations will be notified directly when new small fruit plants are available for testing.

“Industry engagement is key to the germplasm program’s success,” says Dr. Amyotte. “Input from growers and stakeholders will be used to determine trait priorities for germplasm development.”

Dr. Amyotte says she’s hoping to hear from more producers and fruit industry representatives from across the country to get their thoughts and priorities.

“That’s a priority for me,” she says. “My goal is to try and help you grow the best fruit for your customers and environment, so tell me about what you want to see in terms of plant traits. I want to hear from you.”

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