New general objectives in breeding of berries and fruits and how they comply with societal targets

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1 Questions to be discussed in the working groups and answered: On behalf of MTT Horitcultural production; Saila Karhu, Tuuli Haikonen, Hilma Kinnanen ) How can the Nordic bio-economy transformation be strengthened through plant breeding? How can the environmental policy targets, targets on climate change challenges, targets on sustainable growth, and targets concerning competitiveness be met by increased focus on plant breeding? Rank possible breeding goals and traits and provide examples for selected crops/crop groups. New general objectives in breeding of berries and fruits and how they comply with societal targets 1. Transfer to integrated pest management (IPM) practices and the aim to increase organic production in Nordic countries is a challenge for crop protection. A new tool pack of measures against diseases and pests is needed, which is problematic due to the limited repertoire of chemical and alternative crop protection, in particular in the horticultural sector. Genetic resistance is the most environment-friendly and cost-efficient crop protection measure. 2. Food security in climate change is vulnerable due to perennial nature of the berry and fruit crop plants. 3. Sustainable agricultural communities need resistant, hardy crops that improve the well-being of family-based farms and small-scale production. Those include the old species and their adaptation to changed climate and to new growing regions in a more Northern day-length, as well as enhancing the availability of novel fruit species in their new Northern extremes. 4. Competitiveness in food products can be met by enhancing the quality attributes, including nutritional quality and storage viability of the harvest. The varieties suitable for IPM and organic production methods can be grown with less chemical exposure, which is a well-known competitive benefit for the Nordic fruits and berries. Adaptation to mechanical harvest methods requires varieties with specific growth types. These general objectives can be met in horticultural production by development of varieties with increased resistance and better quality of the crop: a) Resistance breeding, and breeding for a higher tolerance against biotic and abiotic factors contributes to the crop protection. Varieties with higher tolerance in their genetic background are also more suited to IPM or organic plant protection as they are better equipped to respond to IPM-compatible new crop protection methods such as those that induce plant s own resistance. Also the

2 architecture of the plant can increase tolerance against certain fungal diseases, e.g. strawberry and grey mould, apple and apple scab. a. Several diseases and pests invade the Nordic environment together with milder climate and/or more extreme range of weather conditions. The invasive pests also enhance the transmission of diseases, including the viral ones. In many cases, the extent of resistance in the Nordic gene pool and the genetic nature of it are poorly known. Such cases include resistances to apple canker in apple. b. Limited possibilities for chemical plant protection, e.g. black and red currants (Ribes sp.) traditional Scandinavian old varieties very susceptible to diseases. Even newest varieties have been shown to be susceptible under present plant protection possibilities. b) Climate change hardiness: instead of winter hardiness, altered winter temperatures creates new kinds of stresses to plants. Development of flower meristems, cold acclimation and its timing and regulation of bud dormancy are crucial aspects in the winter survival and productiveness of the perennial plants. c) Sustainability and small farms: a. e.g. berries are suitable to be grown in limited-sized family-owned farms, typical for Nordic countries. If resistant varieties are available, markets for organic production are good. Several berry species are suitable for rather northern regions where cereal production is not profitable. The northern growing area also gives advantages for late-season production on European level, providing opportunities for export when productive cultivars are available b. The North-South range: arctic regions already now require their own set of varieties, which are not competitive in South (e.g. currants (Ribes spp.)). c. New fruits not traditionally grown in Nordic countries in economically profitable scale, or those that could be adapted to Nordic countries in a more rapid but directed manner by breeding: pear, plum, sweet cherry. d) Competitiveness a. Nutritional and health benefits as a new breeding goals: in addition to long-term goals of yield and taste, the newly discovered secondary metabolites and aims for domestic superfood (with proven health benefits) can be included in the breeding programs. Availability of berry or fruit varieties with known health-promoting chemical compositions can create new markets. b. Response to changed markets by breeding for extended harvest seasons and longer storage life of fresh products, including quality and resistance to storage diseases. Increased awareness of chemical exposure has created demand for domestic seasonal products also outside growing season. E.g. breeding for resistance to apple storage rots, breeding for strawberry with very early or late harvest. Breeding berries for suitability for new types of growing environments, like tunnel production. c. Plant architecture suitable for mechanical harvest increases profitability in a larger scale.

3 2) Is the genetic base, presently used for breeding, sufficient to meet these challenges? Propose measures to be taken. The current knowledge on the genetics and the genetic basis of resistance or internal quality in horticultural crops are usually insufficient. Hence, amongst the first priorities in breeding for disease resistance and for internal quality includes characterization of available variability in the available gene pool, particularly in the case of the new diseases and the newly understood health-promoting quality attributes. Improving the efficiency of breeding programs requires tools to evaluate the level of resistance both in the parental material and in the breeding material. In the perennial material efficient selection for target traits is important to execute at an early stage. Propagation of the bred (hybrid) material of the mainly vegetatively propagated horticultural species is slow and vulnerable to accumulation of diseases and harmful agents. Slow propagation is a bottleneck both during a breeding program and in release of a variety for market. 3) Which resources, facilities and new technologies will be of high importance for future development of plant breeding and plant production? How do they contribute to efficient, facilitated use of genetic resources? Facilities and resources for enhancing breeding program efficiency: - development of evaluation tools for screening for resistance or internal quality for selection of parental material o including those tools in the breeding program for selection of promising material at an early phase or at young age o application of molecular genetics tools when available o application of heritability information of these characteristics in the design of breeding program, e.g. hybrid breeding (selection at F1) or second generation (selection at F2) - speeding the propagation of plant material by vegetative measures (e.g. in vitro propagation, hormonal treatments, day-length treatments) o earlier testing with destructive measures (e.g. for disease resistance, quality) o potentiates division of individual genotypes to replicates and to different locations (which is important also for screening for the varieties suitable to more extreme north)

4 o promotes the availability of the new varieties for growers and farmers 4) To what extent are plant breeding entities prepared to share access to a joint pool of adapted germplasm and technology platforms for plant breeding? In several countries there are national, phenotyped germplasm collections available, Cooperation agreement of fruit and berry breeders between Finland, Norway and Sweden Availability of healthy plants of several fruit and berry species. 5) What are the expectations from governmental bodies, stakeholders and NGO s on deliveries from plant breeding? How can identified needs and expectations be met? How can academia and research contribute? Propose measures to be taken. Professional farmers are looking for varietal information on disease resistance, especially in the case of diseases that are difficult to control (apple tree canker, fungal diseases in Ribes, viral diseases in berries) and for climate hardiness. IPM and especially organic production are lacking resistant varieties and information of their disease resistance. In the economical sense, also the introduction of high-bush blueberry as a new hybrid species for cultivation has contributed to better economics and more diverse production of berry farmers. More of such openings and breeding for new products would be important for competitiveness. Expectations and interest for new varieties with new traits is in general high amongst the home-gardeners. Academia often contributes at the level of individual traits, and possibilities of collaboration for genetic markers for screening for specific traits exist. However, direct applicability requires breeding-oriented development of screening methods. 6) How can we meet needs on development of minor crops, i.e. crops or breeding goals presently not addressed for the Nordic - Baltic markets? Propose measures. Breeding program for a thornless gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa); introduction of a cranberry hybrid species (American cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon and V. microcarpum)

5 7) In which time perspective can the different measures deliver tangible results, given appropriate resources available? Provide best estimates. - Evaluation of genetic basis for resistance and quality attributes, other prebreeding research; during 2-4 years span, depending on species and availability of plant material - Breeding programs in perennial hybrid breeding: e.g. strawberry, 8 years; Ribes spp., 15 years; apple, 25 years; pear, 30 years 8) What is the societal value of such tangible result, in economical value and in added value for other societal agendas, i.e. health, gastronomy, local food, food diversity, protein supply /environmental footprint in food production, global food security, etc.? Which policy areas benefit from these results? Provide examples and estimates. (table)

6 Societal value of plant breeding results / breeding goals Examples of plant breeding results/goals Bioeconomy Sustainable growth Climate change adaptation Added value for societal agendas Reduced environment footprint Competi tiveness Protein supply Food security Improved health Gastronomy & local food production Others? Economical value - estimates Winter hardiness Season extension (e.g. early, late, everbearing berries) Nutritional value, Superfood (high phenolics & vitamin C in currants, sea buckthorn) New species for cultivation (high-bush blueberry) new production branch

7 Disease and pest resistance (e.g. mildew resistance, reversion virus in currants) Environmental adaptation (climate change, northern growing areas, dormancyrelated characters in perennial plants) Plant architecture for modern cultivation systems (e.g tunnels, mechanical harvest, dwarfing growth habit))

8 Storage and shelf life (longer marketing period of fresh products)

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