Plant Genetics
Cornell University’s berry breeding program is releasing two new varieties, which will be available for planting in spring 2019: a strawberry, Dickens, and a raspberry, Crimson Treasure.

Both varieties produce large fruits with vibrant colors that maintain peak flavor for longer than most heritage varieties.

The new berries are the handiwork of berry breeder Courtney Weber, associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences based at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York.

Dickens is a traditional, June-bearing strawberry with high yields and bright red fruit that continues bearing late into the season. The berries are firm, so they hold well on the plant and in the container, Weber said, but not so firm that they have no flavor.

The Dickens strawberry was first discovered in Weber’s breeding fields in 2002 and was originally noticed for the plant’s hardiness in surviving cold winters, making it especially suitable for New York and other cold-winter climates. Production trials throughout the region have shown Dickens to be an adaptable and consistent producer of high-quality fruit.

Weber has named his strawberry varieties after his favorite authors, including L’Amour, Clancy, Herriot, Walker and, most recently, Archer. Because this newest berry “yields like the dickens,” Weber decided to name it after prolific English author Charles Dickens.

The new raspberry, Crimson Treasure, is also very high-yielding, with larger fruit than traditional varieties grown in the region. The well-known Heritage raspberry produces fruit of approximately 2.5 grams, while Crimson Treasure produces berries twice as large – averaging between 4 to 6 grams. That’s typical of what you see with supermarket raspberries, Weber said.

Crimson Treasure is a fall-bearing raspberry with bright-red fruit that holds its color and texture well in storage.

The name continues another Weber tradition. This is the third raspberry in the “Crimson” series. Two previously released raspberries were named Crimson Giant and Crimson Night.

Cornell’s berry breeding program is the oldest in the country and is the only one in the Northeastern U.S. The university’s berries are grown all over the world: Crimson Treasure has been planted in trials in New York, California, Mexico and the European Union.

The berry program works with commercial partners across North America, in Morocco, Spain and Portugal. Heritage, the most commonly grown raspberry variety in Chile, was developed at Cornell, and two Cornell raspberry varieties, Crimson Night and Double Gold, are under license in Japan.
Published in Fruit
University of Florida scientists plan to use a $7.3 million, four-year grant to find the genetic traits that will make sweet corn taste even better, last longer and grow better.

Mark Settles, a professor of horticultural sciences at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will lead the project. UF/IFAS researchers will also get help from scientists at Iowa State University, the University of Wisconsin, Washington State University and the USDA to conduct the study.

“What we want to do is find those genes that make sweet corn a tasty vegetable and be able to then use those genes in traditional breeding,” Settles said.

For example, researchers hope to boost the sugar levels of sweet corn.

“It’s a really popular vegetable. But there have been few game-changing innovations that would boost the taste and yield of sweet corn.”

Fewer than 14 per cent of American adults consume the USDA recommended amount of vegetables for a healthy diet, and overall, fruit and vegetable consumption is declining in the U.S., Settles said.

“As the fifth most popular vegetable in America, sweet corn is no exception to this trend,” he said. “However, demand for fresh market and frozen corn is increasing, relative to canned corn, and breeders need to be able to provide the best sweet corn seed possible.

“Both fresh and processed sweet corn must meet consumer desires for taste, appearance and convenience,” Settles said. “Many quality traits are best addressed through the genetics of sweet corn varieties.”

Through test panels run by Sims, researchers will find out tastes, aroma and texture that consumers like. As study participants sample the corn, they’ll also tell how much they’d be willing to pay for it, which makes up the economics portion of the research, Settles said.

To get started on finding the best genetic traits, scientists will screen existing sweet corn seeds to find genes that, among other things, help corn grow right after planting, Settles said. This will be particularly helpful for organic farmers, he said.

They also hope to try to beat back any pests.

Lastly, scientists seek genetic traits that make corn last longer on grocery store shelves and requires less pesticide use, Settles said.

“We also want to make corn taste good for longer,” he said.
Published in Research
Wageningen University & Research uses computer models to develop sustainable management strategies in the control of potato late blight, caused by Phytophthora infestans.

At the moment, large amounts of fungicides are used to control the disease. Organic farmers face an additional challenge because they are not allowed to use these chemicals. From an environmental point of view, these chemicals are also very polluting and therefore sustainable late blight management strategies are needed.

In Ph.D research study, computer models have been used to investigate how the disease spreads in an agricultural landscape and to analyze the effect of growing resistant varieties.

In Francine Pacilly's Ph.D. research, computer models have been used to investigate how the disease spreads in an agricultural landscape and to analyze the effect of growing resistant varieties.

These models show that an increase in the number of potato fields with resistant varieties increases the risk that aggressive strains of the pathogen emerge and spread.

This risk decreases if more than 50 per cent of the acreage of potato fields consists of resistant varieties. So, many resistant potatoes are not yet available so alertness is required. Various strategies are available to limit the consequences of a breakthrough, for example the spatial allocation of crops in combination with the use of small amounts of fungicides to limit the environmental impact.

In addition, growing resistant varieties with multiple resistance genes reduces the risk of susceptibility to the potato disease. It is expected that these type of varieties will enter the market soon.

Last year workshops with farmers were organized to increase awareness about the risk of resistance breakdown. In these workshops, the computer model was used to present several model scenarios to conventional and organic farmers. These workshops were very useful for showing farmers how the disease spreads in a landscape over time and space and for showing the effects in the long term.

After the workshop farmers agreed that resistance management is important to increase the durability of resistant varieties and that collaborative action is needed. The workshops were useful to bring farmers together and to discuss strategies in the control of late blight to reduce the impact of the disease.

In order to develop sustainable strategies it is important to consider all factors that influence late blight control such as the disease, the crop and control strategies of farmers. This research is part of the Complex Adaptive Systems program of Wageningen University where the goal is to identify these factors and to analyze how they influence each other. Potato late blight as one system brings a future without chemical control closer.
Published in Diseases
Geneva, NY – The newest offering from Cornell University’s grape breeders is a fruit that’s big, bold and comes with a towering history.

Those factors led the grape’s breeders to name the new variety Everest Seedless, a nod to the celebrated Nepalese mountain, said Bruce Reisch, professor of horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and grape breeder with Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, NY.

“We were looking to develop very flavorful grapes with large berries and large clusters, and we’ve achieved that with Everest Seedless,” Reisch said.

The new variety is a cold-tolerant, blue-coloured Concord-type, with berries that weigh up to 7 grams – roughly twice the size of the traditional Concord. It is also the first truly seedless Concord-type grape ever released. It’s intended as a table grape – meant primarily for eating fresh, rather than using for jams, juice or wine, as most American Concords are used.

“Everest is one of the largest mountains in the world, and this is one very large grape,” Reisch said. “With its formidable ancestry and big flavour, we feel this variety can live up to its name.”

The grape is tolerant of midwinter temperatures as low as 10 to 15 below zero Fahrenheit, making it suitable for most of the grape-growing regions in New York. It’s moderately resistant to downy mildew and powdery mildew, the most troublesome grape diseases in the Northeast.

Insects don’t seem to bother these grapes, according to Reisch, who said the variety has thrived in research vineyards where insecticides are not applied, but insects could be a problem at other locations.

Because the grapes are relatively easy to grow and produce large, flavourful, seedless berries, Reisch predicts they will become popular with home gardeners as well as professional growers.

Everest Seedless is being exclusively licensed in the U.S. to Double A Vineyards of Fredonia, NY, for 10 years, and vines can be purchased from them starting this fall.
Published in Fruit
Putting research in the hands of those who use it to create and innovate leads to increased competitiveness, economic growth and job creation. That’s why the Government of Canada continues to support the country’s researchers whose discoveries inspire entrepreneurs and innovators in the agriculture, health and commercial sectors.

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, recently announced $6.7 million in federal funding for seven new projects under Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP) that will match researchers with companies to develop new gene-based technologies in health care, agriculture and environmental protection.

An additional $14.3 million is being invested by provincial governments, businesses and other funding partners for a total of $21 million.

By studying genetic sequences, researchers develop technologies or processes that will improve crop growth, find a better treatment for babies born with a rare disease called cystinosis, and better protect wildlife, among other innovations. Genomics involves the study of genes, other DNA sequences and associated biological information that makes every organism different.

Minister Duncan made the announcement at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, one of the seven research institutions receiving GAPP funding.

This world-class centre for horticulture science and innovation will partner with a team of University of Toronto researchers to create new varieties of vegetables that will be more resistant to diseases.

Resilient vegetables will help increase how much Canadian farmers can grow during a season, giving them a competitive advantage in the billion-dollar agricultural industry.

This is one example of how science leads to new opportunities and good quality jobs. This investment in these projects will help businesses grow while supporting a stronger middle class.

“It all starts with science and our remarkable scientists. By investing in researchers, we are giving them the opportunity to work with each other and their counterparts in the business, health and agriculture sectors to find the ideas and innovations that power a stronger economy and a growing middle class. Congratulations to our successful recipients whose efforts will help us build a bolder, brighter future for all Canadians," said Duncan.
Published in Research
A group of Canadian apple researchers, growers and marketers have joined forces to give one of Canada’s oldest and most famous fruit crops some new crunch in the marketplace.

Members of the National Apple Breeding Consortium say advances in the science of apple breeding and more efficient orchard designs are making it possible to bring new varieties more quickly to market to capitalize on consumer interest in apples with unique tastes and textures, while giving growers varieties that are more resistant to disease and insects.

Premium varieties like Gala, Honeycrisp and Ambrosia and high-density orchards helped the Canadian apple industry post its first increase in acreage in decades in 2016.

Taking a page from wine grapes, the consortium believes more regions of Canada could become renowned for their own unique apple varieties.

"It’s not necessarily about creating a new apple that can be grown across the country. It’s about finding that variety and that local growing environment that together produce a quality that you won’t find anywhere else," says Joyce Boye, science director for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s research centres in Agassiz and Summerland in British Columbia.

The consortium was created late last year to streamline apple development in Canada and boost returns to the industry and increase consumer satisfaction.

"The consortium allows key players in Canadian apple breeding to work more closely together and that’s a win-win for all involved," says Brian Gilroy, president of the Canadian Horticultural Council and an apple grower himself.

Genome Atlantic, Genome BC and Ontario Genomics also helped drive the creation of the consortium. The associations encourage the combination of biology, genetics and computer science to create economic opportunities in the resource and health sectors.

"Over the last three years, Genome Atlantic has been working hard with all the stakeholders to develop this consortium, and we are very pleased that it is now in place," says Richard Donald, a business development associate with Genome Atlantic. "With everyone pulling together, research will be shared across Canada, accelerating the development of new apple varieties suited to different regions of the country."

In the past, it took up to 25 years to develop a new apple variety and orchards were dominated by large trees that were difficult to pick. Today, gene sequencing is allowing apple breeders to find and select the traits they want much more quickly.

At the same time, growers are increasingly turning to high-density orchards featuring dwarf trees that are much easier to harvest.

Consortium members include Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Dalhousie University, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, Summerland Varieties Corporation, Réseau d’essais de cultivars et porte-greffes de pommiers du Quebec, and the Canadian Horticultural Council. Also represented are a number of major grower associations, including the Ontario Apple Growers Association, the BC Fruit Growers Association, Les Producteurs de pommes du Quebec and Scotian Gold Cooperative Ltd.
Published in Fruit
When it comes to food production, three letters can cause panic: GMO. Yet, genetically modified organisms have become an integral part of the food supply chain, and it appears they will remain there for years to come as new techniques to alter the genetics of foods become more prevalent.

Case in point: the J.R. Simplot Co. entered a joint intellectual property licensing agreement for CRISPR-Cas9 and related gene editing tools with DowDuPont and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

The technology allows scientists to make precise changes to the genome of living organisms, which Simplot estimates will bring desirable traits forward in certain fruits and vegetables and advance products to the market in the U.S. | READ MORE 
Published in Research
Research at the James Hutton Institute has led to the discovery of genetic variations which can help protect potato crop yields at high temperature, potentially providing potato breeders with a valuable tool in their quest to create varieties resilient to heat stress and suited to the requirements of growers, industry and retailers.
Published in Vegetables
The PEI Analytical Laboratories (PEIAL) plant diagnostic section has re-opened for the 2018 season and is currently accepting samples.
Published in Vegetables
A potato variety genetically engineered to resist potato blight can help reduce the use of chemical fungicides by up to 90 per cent, according to a new study - drastically reducing the environmental impact of potato farming.

Potato blight, caused by a water mould called Phytophthora infestans, can rapidly obliterate potato crops, and is one of the biggest problems in potato farming. 

Working together, scientists from Wageningen University & Research and Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority, have developed a two-pronged approach: a genetically modified potato, along with a new pest management strategy, that combine for healthy crops with minimal fungicide use. | READ MORE
Published in Insects

Potato is the third most important crop in human nutrition, after wheat and rice. Knowing and improving its agronomic, nutritional and industrial aspects is essential and in this task a group of researchers specialized in biotechnology of the INTA Balcarce is focused.

Recently, with a trajectory more than 7 years in gene editing technologies, they were able to confirm that the DNA sequence had been modified, while they hope to corroborate the shutdown of the gene that causes enzymatic browning in potatoes ( Solanum tuberosum L. ).

When applying this technique, the team led by Feingold focused on a polyphenol oxidase gene, whose enzyme causes browning in tubers when they are cut and exposed to air. | For the full story, CLICK HERE.

Published in Research
I had just settled comfortably into my office chair to wax poetic about the Red Delicious apple when disaster struck – someone beat me to it.
Published in Fruit
For the first time, scientists have improved how a crop uses water by 25 per cent without compromising yield by altering the expression of one gene that is found in all plants, as reported in Nature Communications.

The international team increased the levels of a photosynthetic protein (PsbS) to conserve water by tricking plants into partially closing their stomata, the microscopic pores in the leaf that allow water to escape. Stomata are the gatekeepers to plants: When open, carbon dioxide enters the plant to fuel photosynthesis, but water is allowed to escape through the process of transpiration. | READ MORE
Published in Research
February 15, 2018 – Potatoes used for crisps and chips are usually stored at eight degrees – a temperature high enough to prevent starch from breaking down into glucose and fructose. To slow sprouting, potato producers often use a suppressant like chlorpropham, a chemical the European Union (EU) is looking to phase out due to health concerns.

Hoping to find an alternative to chemical sprout suppressors, the EU-funded GENSPI (Genomic Selection for Potato Improvement) project has developed a genetic marker system to identify plants that display a resistance to glucose and fructose formation. Their tubers can be stored at three or four degrees, low enough to keep sprout growth at bay for very long periods.

“Glucose and fructose formed during cold storage can cause very dark fry colours, leaving potato crisps and chips with an unacceptably bitter taste. The sugars can also cause a build-up of acrylamide, a potential carcinogen,” says Dan Milbourne, GENSPI project coordinator.

GENSPI developed new genomic selection breeding methodologies that will allow potato breeders to select the varieties of potato that seem to be resistant to sweetening at low temperatures.

To do this, researchers gathered a large collection of potato plants and fried thousands of tubers – the equivalent to 10,000 bags of potato crisps – that had been held in different storage conditions. They then measured their colour once fried and drew the links between fry colour and the genetic variation of the plant.

“Because the fry colour is controlled by many genes the best approach was to scan the genome for variation at many sites to find correlations between colour and genetic variation,” explains Milbourne.

Researchers then used the latest techniques in genome sequences – known as next generation sequencing – to identify over 100,000 regions across the genome where the DNA sequence varied among the plants. They combined data on variation on the potato phenotype and genome to build statistical models that could predict fry colour from DNA sequencing information.

“From the 100,000 regions showing genetic variation between the breeding lines, we were able to identify a smaller number of DNA markers that gave us a good ability to predict fry colour,” says Stephen Byrne, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow who carried out the research. “This means we can develop an inexpensive DNA-based test to predict fry colour that can be applied to tens of thousands of plants in a potato breeding program.”

Traditionally, potato breeders inter-cross plant varieties to produce up to 100,000 seedlings, and then eliminate poorly performing plant types over a period of 10 years. Varieties that are resistant to glucose and fructose formation can only be identified at the end of this time, meaning that many potential varieties have already been eliminated from the breeding process. 

GENSPI carried out its research in collaboration with a commercial potato breeding program led by Denis Griffin. Its newly-developed technique allows resistant plants to be identified early in the 10-year breeding program. The team hopes the project will lead to the release of one or more varieties that give an excellent fry colour even at low-temperature storage, avoiding chemical sprout suppressants.

“We hope to see these varieties released in the next five years,” concludes Griffin.
Published in Research
February 15, 2018, Fredericton, NB – After years of research and development, 15 of the newest varieties of potatoes were displayed in Fredericton to give growers a starchy taste of the future.

Each year, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Research and Development Centre in Fredericton hosts a fair of sorts, where researchers get to show off new varieties to farmers and companies. READ MORE

 
Published in Research
Efforts to develop sweet potatoes into a commercial crop for Manitoba farmers are showing good progress at two locations in the province.
Published in Vegetables
February 2, 2018, Summerland, BC – Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc.’s third non-browning Arctic apple variety, Arctic Fuji, has been approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada (HC).

The CFIA and HC announced recently that the Arctic Fuji variety “did not pose a greater risk to human health than apples currently available on the Canadian market. In addition, Health Canada also concluded that the Arctic Fuji apple would have no impact on allergies, and that there are no differences in the nutritional value of the Arctic Fuji apple compared to other traditional apple varieties available for consumption."

Arctic Fuji trees will join the growing commercial orchards of Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny apples in spring 2018.

“Canadian approval of the non-browning Arctic Fuji is great news for our company and even more exciting for families looking to add another favorite apple variety to their healthy diets and lifestyles,” said Neal Carter, president of OSF. “There has been very strong interest from retailers as we launched our first product – fresh, preservative-free Arctic Golden slices – and we look forward to introducing additional Arctic non-browning varieties into Canada and U.S. markets soon.”

Arctic apples have a unique trait that prevents enzymatic browning even when apples are bitten, sliced, or bruised. Through biotechnology, the enzyme in apples responsible for browning has been turned off. The resulting non-browning advantage benefits every sector of the supply chain, reducing food waste and boosting product appeal.

“It’s an exciting time at OSF,” said Carter. “This latest announcement allows us to continue looking ahead toward providing new non-browning varieties and additional value-added fruits and vegetables. Arctic apples are just the beginning for OSF.”

The announcement follows approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) of the Arctic Fuji variety, granted September 23, 2016. Arctic apples will be available commercially in select U.S. cities this fall and in additional areas of North America over the coming years as fruit availability increases.
Published in Companies
Love for asparagus is growing in the U.S., Canada and Europe, which is music to the ears of those at Asparagus Farmers of Ontario (AFO) and its offshoot seed firm, Fox Seeds.
Published in Marketing
December 27, 2017, Fredericton, NB – Two Canadian potato companies are celebrating Canada 150 by giving newly licensed potato varieties developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) a link to Canada.

The new potatoes – called AAC Confederation and AAC Canada Gold-Dorée – were recently named by Progest 2001 Inc. based out of Sainte-Croix, Quebec, and Canadian Eastern Seed Growers Inc. based out of New Brunswick, respectively. The “AAC” in both names is a nod to their AAFC origins!

Both company presidents are really excited about the commercial potential these potatoes possess and feel they could rival Yukon Gold. AAFC potato breeder Dr. Benoit Bizimungu couldn’t agree more and describes both potatoes as having good yield and disease resistance profiles that makes them more profitable to produce and can be considered an improvement on Yukon Gold.

“Taste and texture are important,” said André Gagnon, president of Progest 2001 Inc. “We need tasty special potatoes that fit customer needs. We feel that AAC Confederation has the potential to become a popular yellow variety for consumers.”

When naming AAC Canada Gold Dorée, André Côté – co-owner of the Eastern Seed Growers Inc. with his brother, Eric Côté – said they were inspired by this potato’s golden colour when choosing its name.

“We chose AAC Canada Gold-Dorée for its golden flesh and its golden potential as a winner in the markets.”

Both AAC Confederation and AAC Canada Gold-Dorée are graduates of the AAFC potato breeding program, based in Fredericton, NB.

“A lot of work goes into developing a new potato variety,” said Dr. Benoit Bizimungu, a research scientist with AAFC. “For instance, the AAC Canada Gold-Dorée was six years in development before being released in 2015 to the potato industry to be evaluated of commercial potential. It is no surprise that the potato was taken up so quickly by the industry because it has great attributes.”

Dr. Bizimungu believes this latest licensing demonstrates the breeding program is making progress in identifying the kind of potatoes the industry needs and shows the value of the department’s national breeding program.

Each year under the Accelerated Release Program, AAFC releases 10 to 15 potato selections during a special Potato Release Open House for industry to consider.

These potatoes provide options to best meet the needs of Canadian consumers and producers. If industry likes what they see, they can conduct field trials of the selections and eventually bid for sole evaluation rights.

As for AAC Confederation and AAC Canada Gold-Dorée, the two companies expect to begin selling seed for the two new varieties by 2020.
Published in Vegetables
December 19, 2017, Israel – NRGene, a company involved in genomic assembly and analysis, is working with a team of researchers from Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in the Netherlands plus commercial partners to create multi-genome mapping of commercial food potatoes.

Potatoes are the fourth most consumed food crop in the world and its genome is complex. It’s an auto-tetraploid, which means that each potato cell contains four nearly identical copies of each chromosome and gene, making the assembly and phasing of the four copies extremely difficult for traditional technologies.

NRGene has completed the phased assembly of three commercial potato varieties.

It’s hoped the potato pangenome will synergize the assembly information to contribute a comprehensive genomics view of the potato genome. The group, led by potato researcher Dr. Richard Finkers and Dr. Richard Visser from WUR, is seeking other researchers from academia and industry to join the project to enrich the pan-genome analysis and thus better characterize the natural genetic diversity of the species.

“Potato research and breeding faced significant difficulties during the last 100 years,” says Dr. Finkers of WUR. “NRGene’s genomes and pan-genome analysis will allow us to map traits on the level of haplotypes, which was previously almost impossible.”

Dr. Finkers will present the potato genome research at the PAG XXVI conference, Jan. 16, 2018, in San Diego, Calif.
Published in Research
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