EMR will build on breeding club

East Malling Research (EMR) hopes to follow up on a successful revamp of its strawberry breeding club, with the creation of a similar scheme for the cherry sector.

Other plans for this year include the rolling out of a company offering genetic fingerprinting of fruit, said chief executive officer Dr Colin Gutteridge at the official launch of the new strawberry club at last week's show.

Announcing that EMR has secured £1.5m in funding for the new club, over five years, from 12 members of the industry and Defra, Gutteridge said the project will address environmental issues - including climate change threats, consumer and retailer pressure for pesticide reduction and the need to reduce the environmental footprint of strawberry production.

Industry backers include CPM Retail, HDC, KG Growers, Marks & Spencer, Mack Multiples, Meiosis (representing a consortium of UK propagators), Tesco, the Summerfruit Company, Well-Pict European, Fragaria Holland (representing a consortium of Continental propagators) and Graminor.

EMR has through its trading company also invested in the club, which will trial new varieties - a first for the research institute. Gutteridge said: "I believe one of the mistakes the institute has made has been not to invest commercially in its own programmes so when we've bred a successful variety we don't have a commercial interest."

EMR's venture company, which is investing in the club, will also be backing the roll-out of a company later this year that will offer genetic fingerprinting of fruit and hence the ability to trace it through nurseries.

More immediately, Gutteridge will be pursuing plans for a cherry breeding club. "There is a lot of interest in this right now," he said. He will be meeting with potential partners and backers over the next three or four months.

By contrast, raspberry breeding at EMR "could be at an end", he said. Gutteridge is in the process of evaluating options in this area.

The formation of the breeding club follows EMR's announcement in March that it had cut short its contract with Meiosis - the company that had trialled and introduced its new strawberry varieties to the commercial market for some 18 years.

- See Fruit Focus news, pp30-33.

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