WELCOME TO THE PARTY! BLUEBERRY BREEDING MIXES PRIVATE AND PUBLIC WITH TRADITIONAL AND MOLECULAR TO CREATE A VIBRANT NEW COCKTAIL

C.E. Finn, J.W. Olmstead, J.F. Hancock, D.M. Brazelton
Blueberry cultivar development has never been this vibrant. Twenty years ago, most of the commercial cultivars had been ably developed by the USDA-ARS program headed by Arlen Draper or the North Carolina State University program under Jim Ballington. While there had been successes in the early breeding of cultivars adapted to low-chill regions, the game-changing program run by Paul Lyrene at the University of Florida was just getting its legs. In contrast, there are now active and successful public programs in Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Florida in the US as well as Japan. New fledgling public programs are in place in Oregon, British Columbia, Chile and Poland. Private programs that were only in the realm of hobbyists 20 years ago are now starting to release cultivars that will have a commercial impact. These private programs are in North and South America, Europe and Australia/New Zealand. They are rushing to fill needs in unique production areas such as Mexico. The cultivar release process utilized by these varying programs can be quite diverse. The cultivars released from the public programs in the US are often available to US producers with no limitations on who can license them. When public programs begin to look outside of North America, they often arrange exclusive licensing with a single company. With private programs, whether in the US or worldwide, the strategies can be quite different. Some programs keep their cultivars only within their company’s growers, others partner with a handful of exclusive partners, and others allow anyone to grow their cultivars. These agreements can further shift and morph into other types of agreements when the program moves their material into international markets. The first public-private licensing arrangements have also been developed that allow the use of breeding parents for a royalty share. While the future will have a mix of public and privately developed cultivars, compared to decades past, private programs will reach a new level of importance. Traditional breeding techniques will be counted on in all of these breeding programs for the foreseeable future, but for the first time marker-assisted blueberry breeding will be feasible. Blueberry cultivar development will be explosive in the next decade, with the possibility to achieve new levels of fruit quality and previously elusive products such as a dependable, machine-harvested fresh pack.
Blueberries have been the darling of consumers and of the news media, particularly as related to their purported health benefits, for nearly two decades. They are wonderful to eat, they ship and process well, and they are great for you. This rising interest has led to production spreading around the world in non-traditional and traditional production areas. To meet this demand, cultivar development programs have been pushed hard and new public and private programs developed all with the bottom line goal of developing cultivars that are profitable to produce in a wide variety of environments and that consumers want to buy. While these breeding programs are relying on traditional breeding techniques, in the quest to develop new cultivars more quickly and ever more efficiently, the interest and research in using genomics is rapidly increasing. Soon, the question will be not whether using these tools is technically feasible, but rather, are they affordable, do they offer advantages that can be justified, are breeders really willing to throw away so much germplasm without seeing it in the field? Blueberry researchers are having quite a party as breeding mixes private and public with traditional and molecular to create a vibrant new cocktail.
Finn, C.E., Olmstead, J.W., Hancock, J.F. and Brazelton, D.M. 2014. WELCOME TO THE PARTY! BLUEBERRY BREEDING MIXES PRIVATE AND PUBLIC WITH TRADITIONAL AND MOLECULAR TO CREATE A VIBRANT NEW COCKTAIL. Acta Hort. (ISHS) 1017:51-62
http://www.actahort.org/books/1017/1017_3.htm
Vaccinium, marker-assisted breeding, patents, plant breeder rights
English

Acta Horticulturae