Genetic technologies revolutionising new berry varieties

Karen Brock – photo: Nuffield International Farming Scholars

Karen Brock – photo: Nuffield International Farming Scholars

“Consumers may be able to enjoy a broader selection of berries following the research of Nuffield Scholar and Tasmanian horticulturalist Karen Brock, who aimed to find ways to assist Australian plant breeders to take new berry varieties to market more quickly”, informs Nuffield International Farming Scholars. Brock received a Nuffield Scholarship supported by Hort Innovation and Nuffield Australia, to investigate how traditional breeding programs can integrate new technologies to reduce the time taken from experimentation through to commercial release of new berry varieties.
Together with her family, she owns Brocklands Pty Ltd, a diversified horticultural business in Winkleigh, Tasmania, supplying plants and tissue culture material to the soft berry fruit and truffle industries. Additionally, the family operates a tissue culture laboratory and raspberry breeding program.
Travelling around the world
She traveled around the world to seek out the latest in scientific studies and certification schemes being used to manage new berry varieties, with visits to the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand and Europe.
Brock said her research found the development of gene technologies will both challenge and build upon decade-long propagation techniques for berries, which have traditionally included cuttings, seed germination, grafting and budding to rootstocks. “More understanding of genomic sequences will mean that plant breeders can spend less time experimenting with seedlings and more time focused on bringing berries to commercialisation. For instance, a new breeding technique such as marker-assisted breeding (MAB) enhances understanding of the effects of genetics, including new traits that are often chosen for future blueberry, raspberry, blackberry and strawberry varieties. Combining MAB techniques with traditional breeding practices will enable breeders to develop new exciting traits in plants and ensure they adapt to changing environmental requirements.”
Impact on patents and breeders’ rights
Brock also found advances in genetic technologies are leading to the reclassification of berries and impacting how patents, breeders’ rights and other forms of IP are managed [read full text]