NIAB and JHI are funded by Defra to develop a business case for establishing a soft fruit Genetic Improvement Network (GIN) by 28th Feb 2022. Defra has supported GINs in a range of crops (https://ahdb.org.uk/genetic-improvement-networks) to aid collaborative pre-breeding and research. These have facilitated the introduction of key favourable traits from collections into breeding programmes and enhanced breeders’ knowledge. As part of the business case for a GIN for soft fruit crops, we will develop summaries for key areas within the industry to map UK capability, support and expertise in soft fruit genetics and their improvement.
For this purpose, we are carrying out assessments of public and private sector expertise and capabilities and international standing and capabilities. In addition to individual and group discussions, we are conducting a voluntary industry survey (approximately 15-20 minutes to complete) to determine:
a) interest and possible obstacles to participation in a future GIN;
b) key current cultivars, their relative market/production share and main shortfalls;
c) suggestions of current or future challenges and desirable crop specific traits to focus Horizon Scanning Workshops and;
d) novel berry crops of most interest to industry and key traits needed to increase their commercial viability.
Soft fruit breeders in the UK are continually striving to improve flavour, texture, machine harvestability, and increase yields, provide pest and disease resistance, improve storage and processing properties, and optimize fruits and plants for different production and harvest systems. Breeders face numerous challenges, such as polyploidy, the lack of genetic diversity in many of the elite cultivars, and lack of knowledge on the genetic control of key traits. In addition, currently there is a lack of co-ordinated research effort among public and private organisations on soft fruit genetics. Through this project, we aim to produce a compelling case for establishing a soft fruit GIN.
Establishing a soft fruit GIN would benefit all stake holders involved in soft fruit production in the UK. It would provide a much-improved co-ordinated research approach on pre-breeding genetics of key soft fruit traits as well as new breeding tools, including molecular markers for pest and disease resistance, high throughput phenotyping and genotyping, accurate predictive models for gene function (and epistasis), and enable the adoption of gene editing technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9. This co-ordinated approach in pre-breeding research and tool development would benefit private and public breeding programmes generating new knowledge and tools to speed up breeding without affecting IP. Growers would be able to grow cultivars that have better fruit quality traits, and more importantly, be grown more sustainably than current cultivars.
Both NIAB and JHI have implemented effective internal procedures to ensure that the data protection act (GDPR) is followed strictly. No personal information will be collected from this survey and disclosed to any third parties.
Please complete the survey below by 5 November 2021. If you have comments not covered by the survey questions, please email Professor Dan Sargent (dan.sargent [at] niab.com), Head of Genetics Genomics and Breeding at NIAB EMR. Your time in responding to the survey is greatly appreciated, for which we thank you.