Top quality easy growing apples

Development of apple cultivars with resistance to diseases and better fruit quality by combining traditional methods of apple breeding with the most recent selection technologies using molecular tools.

Apple breeding is a slow process due to the inherently long juvenile period and the long growing cycle of the species. A new cultivar can typically take up to 30 years to develop. This project aims to reduce this time, and thereby enhance the efficiency of the breeding process. In a previous EUREKA project (E! 1868 EUROAGRI GENIMPROVEDAPPLE) a few new apple cultivars were developed, but also extensive apple breeding stock was created both in the CZECH REPUBLIC and BELGIUM. This material comprises thousands of seedlings (mostly pre-selected for scab and other diseases) in different stages of selection, several hundreds of advanced selections (genotypes) and also a range of candidates for new cultivars. Besides advanced donors of scab and mildew resistance, numerous genotypes with unique performance of fruit characters underlying high fruit quality were also identified. Furthermore, new techniques for fruit characteristic evaluation have been developed and applied to the selection process. In addition to the extensive breeding stock, large variety collections are available in the sites of all partners, which will also be utilised for the selection of the best donors and standards for testing. One of the main aims of this project is to develop new methods of apple selection based on molecular markers, which are in a tight linkage with desirable economic characteristics and could be used for the indirect selection of superior genotypes (through marker assisted selection, MAS). To achieve this target, we plan to select contrast varieties or genotypes for particular characters with opposite (desirable and undesirable) performance. Among these varieties and genotypes, we will make use of the most recent technologies based on molecular biology, namely AFLP (Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism) techniques to identify markers linked with desirable traits. A new system of indirect selection of improved cultivars will be designed on the basis of these relationships. Genetic AFLP-markers will also be used to distinguish monogenic and polygenic resistance to apple scab and to control pyramiding different genes of the resistance into single genotypes. Other aims of the project are to research innovative methods of selection for some special characters that require further investigation. Four architectural factors of orchard management are of concern to the fruit grower: i) reduction in the use of chemicals, ii) reduction in the time needed for pruning and harvesting; iii) early and high production, and; iv) regular bearing. BETTER3FRUIT and RBIP HOLOVOUSY will identify parents with self-pruning and self-thinning potential. Self-pruning varieties are characterized by bourse-over-bourse bearing combined with the extinction of poor quality spurs, while self-thinning varieties are characterized by setting only one fruit per flower cluster. Furthermore, between BETTER3FRUIT and HOLOVOUSY additional (new) parents will be evaluated for their resistance to storage diseases (Botrytis and Gloeosporium). As these characteristics are climate dependent, interesting parents will be selected and additional testing under different climatic conditions will be conducted at Naoussa, GREECE. One aspect that will receive particular attention is that of 'self-incompatibility'. Most commercial apple varieties are incapable of self-fertilisation, the ability to be able to introduce 'self-pollination' to fruit decreases the dependence of fruit on insect cross-pollination and weather conditions. This in turn can lead to higher, and more predictable yields. One of the partners (FTC) has generated transgenic, self-fertilising 'Elstar' lines. These will be evaluated in the field for their agronomic performance, assessed for the impact of self-compatibility on fruit set, self-thinning and yields. New breeding stocks will be created through new crosses of selected donors, with the objective of pyramiding disease resistance and combining disease resistant genotypes with donors of top fruit quality. Newly developed methods of selection based on molecular markers will be applied to existing breeding stocks and selecting materials with the aim to accelerate the breeding process and improve selection of the best donors for the next crossings. New cultivars and advanced selections from own breeding programmes will be tested together. This will be done using common testing schemes with commonly grown cultivars by all partners in different climatic and soil conditions under management systems simulating organic ways of apple production. The best cultivars and advanced selections from these trials will be promoted utilising variety protection in a number of E.U. markets. Keywords: apple, breeding, organic growing.
Project ID: 
3 101
Start date: 
Project Duration: 
Project costs: 
2 710 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Cellular and Molecular Biology
Market Area: 
Viticulture and Fruit Tree Cultivation

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