The consortium, which held its inaugural meeting at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee
(Scotland) this month (August 2017), has been set up, and will be managed by, the Institute’s commercial subsidiary company, James Hutton Limited. The project will be funded by its commercial partners for five years in the first instance, with the hope of extending the breeding programme beyond that date. Confirmed partners include the Netherlands’ Driesvenplant BV and Schrijnwerkers Plants BV, the Ukraine’s TzOV "Dolyna-Agro" and the UK’s James Hutton Limited.
Plant breeder Dr Susan McCallum from the James Hutton Institute is taking overall responsibility for the development of the breeding programme and delivery of the science.
At its initial meeting, she said: "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 added: "The demand for blueberries in Europe continues to increase and there is a real lack of varieties specifically suited for European conditions. 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.
"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."