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Genetic improvement of apples for quality and tolerance or disease-resistance.

As the quality of apples suitable for environmentally-
friendly growing methods is not fully competitive with top
standard cultivars, this project's solution is to use a
traditional cultivation approach with new genotypes.

The apple (Malus x domestica Borkh.) is the most important fruit species in the CZECH REPUBLIC and BELGIUM but also in the majority of other European countries. Apples now account for approximately 50% of the output of deciduous tree fruit in Europe. In EU countries alone the present total annual production of apples fluctuates around 10 million tonnes. However, the prices in the European market for fresh apples were low in last few years because of stagnation in fresh apple consumption. This is connected with higher competition of subtropical and tropical fruit and subsequent other expectations of the consumers as regards fruit quality. Also in this context, apples grown under environmentally friendly conditions with limited use of chemicals are now preferred. Over the last 10 years several new apple cultivars with resistance or tolerance to scab (the most important disease caused by the fungus Venturia inaequalis) have been developed. These new genotypes are not fully accepted by the consumers because the inferior fruit quality compared with common varieties such as 'Golden Delicious', 'Jonagold' and some others. This means that more breeding is needed to develop resistant cultivars with good fruit quality. One of the problems encountered is the apple's very long breeding cycle, up to 8 years at least, and nearly the same period is necessary for testing all promising genotypes at both grower and consumer level. Therefore it is important that the main partner has advanced promising new selections with disease tolerance or resistance from different donors such as 'Antonovka' cv. and some other varieties with the given traits controlled by polygenes. These quite diverse genotypes are now being mutually combined by intercrosses with the aim to make this disease resistance more stable. Seedlings originating from these crosses are artificially inoculated and all susceptible genotypes are removed. All partners can use this germplasm for further testing under their specific climate conditions and further breeding, with respect to their specific market. The project also aims to combine polygenic and monogenic resistance. In addition to disease resistance, the partners are interested in other specific characteristics such as growth patterns, fruit bearing pattern, early flowering, late bloom, late ripening and parthenocarpy. Fruit quality, however, will be a major objective of the project. While all above-mentioned characteristics are important for the successful acceptance of new cultivars by the growers, fruit quality will be considered the most important factor for consumer acceptance. Some orchard characteristics, such as disease resistance, will play a primary role in selecting tree types. However, without acceptable top quality, a new cultivar will fail, regardless the superiority of orchard characteristics. The term 'fruit quality' contributes to those attributes that make fruit attractive as a food source. The unique role of fruit in the diet is related to their desirable combined sensory properties such as colour, size, shape, flavour, crispness, juiciness and texture. Sometimes it is very difficult to define what the best quality is because it may differ for different groups of people. Therefore this subject has been chosen as a topic for international collaboration to better understand different target marketing areas. Moreover, breeding for quality differs from breeding for other tree and fruit characteristics in an important way. For most tree characteristics, the fruit breeder alone is competent to select superior genotypes among the segregating progenies. Few breeders, however, possess the expertise and analytical equipment to identify the many intangible characteristics that collectively constitute superior fruit quality. Genetic improvement of apple quality therefore requires a team effort involving breeders and experienced practical pomologists, each contributing the special expertise toward developing the final superior cultivar. An important aspect in apple breeding is breeding efficiency. Breeding efficiency in this project will be improved by the development of early selection methods, based on the relationships between seed dormancy, bud dormancy and time of harvest, between juvenility and precocity, growth patterns and other characteristics during the juvenile period. Moreover, the choice of parents, based on combining ability studies (both general and specific combining ability) and the use of molecular markers for specific characteristics to support early selection, will increase breeding efficiency. The project also aims to implement the new genotypes in the fruit industry. The research and development of new selections involve: A) Creation and preliminary identification of new advanced genotypes. It will comprise selection of parents, hybridisation (making crosses), pre-selection of young seedlings, evaluation and selection of seedlings in the orchard stage. B) Testing and evaluation of promising genotypes. Establishing small plot testing trials for comparison with standards in cultural conditions with respect to the most advanced growing technology and for the proper evaluation of the most important economic characteristics. C) Establishing single pilot orchards with one or a few superior genotypes to evaluate their orchard performance. These orchards will also supply greater quantities of apples demanded to test their market acceptance and develop their marketing. D) Pre-marketing activities: developing of suitable procedures of post-harvest handling, storage and marketing (including a logistics approach). Keywords: apple, variety, breeding.
Acronym: 
GENIMPROVEDAPPLE
Project ID: 
1 868
Start date: 
01-04-1998
Project Duration: 
57months
Project costs: 
1 950 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Market Area: 

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.