EMR breeding project seeks new sponsors

New sponsors are needed to support East Malling Research's (EMR's) currently unfunded raspberry breeding club - which hopes to launch at least two new cultivars in the next two years.

The club has been developing cultivars for UK growers since the 1950s. But its future is uncertain without the help of new investors.

Its most recent sponsorship arrangement, which included support from Defra and HDC, expired in April as Government support for such programmes dwindles.

EMR is now funding the programme itself but needs help from new commercial partners and grower groups to help it launch Autumn Treasure and Malling Juno, and to continue its long-term research programme. The breeding club's leader, Feli Fernandez, said: "EMR's raspberry breeding programme has much to offer and we look forward to talking to prospective new investors."

She added that the new varieties. along with Octavia, which was launched in 2001, have been bred to help extend the UK cropping season.

"Improved cultivars are essential for the soft-fruit industry's continuing success - allowing growers to produce better-quality berries and to extend the cropping season," she said.

"Malling Juno is an exceptionally early summer-fruiting cultivar and Autumn Treasure a primocane fruiting type, ideal for organic and low-input production systems. Malling Juno, which ripens two weeks earlier than Glen Ample and Tulameen, is being multiplied at the moment. This cultivar breaks bud very evenly, even after mild winters, so it suggests a low chilling requirement that would make it very interesting for warm climates."

She added: "Autumn Treasure, also in propagation, is considerably earlier than most other commercial primocane fruiting cultivars and has the potential to fill the production gap after Octavia. It has been shown to be highly resistant to raspberry root rot in glasshouse tests and, unlike many primocane fruiting cultivars, it also appears to have good tolerance to Verticillium wilt."

It takes 10 to 12 years to develop a new cultivar, followed by rounds of trialling to select the best breed.

The breeding pipeline at EMR comprises material at all stages of evaluation. Currently, 13 advanced selections (eight primocane and five summer-fruiting) are being trialled by growers and more than 150 further selections are being assessed.

In addition, more than 5,500 seedlings from a total of 58 progenies are still in the early stages of evaluation.

- Interested sponsors should contact Feli Fernandez on 01732 843833.

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