22 October 2021, UK: Genetic Improvement Networks (GINs) provide a key link between industry and academia to ensure that genetic research addresses the needs of the industry, and help tackle longer-term issues through breeding efforts. The James Hutton Institute and NIAB have received funding from Defra to scope out a business case for the establishment of a Soft Fruit Genetic Improvement Network, and views from the soft frut industry are being sought to help inform the process.
Defra has supported GINs in a range of crops but there is currently no GIN in place that addresses the needs of the soft fruit industry; it is hoped that a Soft Fruit GIN will enable a co-ordinated research approach to pre-breeding genetics of key traits and new breeding tools in a range of soft fruit crops.
Co-ordinated research will include the development and deployment of molecular markers for pest and disease resistance, high throughput phenotyping and genotyping, accurate predictive models for gene function (and epistasis), and the use of gene editing technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9 for germplasm development. This co-ordinated approach will benefit private and public breeding programmes by generating new knowledge and tools to speed up breeding, which in turn will provide growers with new varieties that have better fruit quality traits, and more importantly, can be grown more sustainably.
A short, online questionnaire prepared by researchers will help provide information to determine the case for a Soft Fruit GIN. The survey, which is open until 31st October, and which only takes 5-10 mins to complete, can be found by following this link: https://www.niab.com/survey-questions-soft-fruit-genetic-improvement-network.