Breeding fruit fast

What if you could wave a magic wand and instantly create fruit that fits the needs and wants of growers and processors, as well as consumers?

It won’t be that instant, but fruit breeders across the world are excited about a new international research effort that will ultimately slash years off the time it takes to develop new fruit varieties with desirable traits.

Fruit breeding has typically involved educated guesses, a lot of trial and error, and many years of growing and managing test plots. Those efforts will continue. But through the RosBreed project, researchers are analyzing DNA and identifying markers for desirable traits, such as fruit firmness, flavor, color, sweetness, disease resistance and storage life, to name a few.

Key Points

RosBreed program to improve fruit crops in state.

DNA analysis helps identify desirable traits.

Program looks to shorten time needed in fruit breeding effort.

Amy Iezzoni, Michigan State University tart cherry breeder, heads the RosBreed project, aiming to combine emerging DNA genome sequence and research findings to improve apples, cherries, peaches and strawberries — key species in the botanical family Rosaceae.

Iezzoni uses the term “jewels in the genome” to describe what the breeders are seeking to discover — the individual genes that control critical production and fruit quality traits.

Long time in the making

“Fruit breeding takes a long time. What we hope to do is speed it up with a more precise effort,” Iezzoni says.

“It has real application for growers. Hopefully, they won’t have to wait the next 30 years for new varieties,” she says. “We want to provide breeders with information they can use to make better crosses and better seedlings.”


fast-forward: Amy Iezzoni, Michigan State University tart cherry breeder who heads the RosBreed project, waters her seedlings. Through DNA analysis and genome sequencing, scientists are identifying desirable traits in fruit when the plant is only a seedling. This method eliminates the time once required to grow a tree to produce the fruit for study.

This article published in the May, 2011 edition of MICHIGAN FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.