Support for UK Soft Fruit Breeders

Major support has been announced for a UK threatened species...the soft fruit breeder.


Fri, 20 May 2011


James Hutton Institute

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare and Mylnefield Research Services Ltd a commercial affiliate of The James Hutton Institute – Scotland’s new research "super institute" – have funded the appointment of a trainee soft fruit breeder.

Both companies are committed to supporting the next generation of plant breeders who can integrate current and emerging molecular technologies with traditional breeding methods to improve the efficiency of selection and the utilisation of genetic resources in breeding new berry varieties.

Dorota Jarret took up post at MRS recently and will be undertaking a part-time PhD in genetic control of processing quality traits in blackcurrant.

A native of Poland, she graduated in 2006 from the Agricultural University of Szczecin with a degree in horticulture and a specialism in fruit cultivation. Since graduating she has worked in the commercial soft fruit industry in Scotland as an agronomist, during which time she was responsible for managing and developing crop protection systems, advising on plant nutrition and trialling of new varieties.

On her appointment, Dorota said: "I am delighted to be joining such a prestigious and ground-breaking institute, whose wide-reaching influence has been ever-present in my academic and professional careers.

"I am looking forward to the new challenges that this opportunity brings and it will be an honour to work alongside the team of distinguished scientists here and to make a contribution to future developments in the field."

Mylnefield Research Services (MRS) has breeding programmes responsible for some of the best berry varieties in the world. It is also actively involved in potato and barley breeding which has also been recently supported with new trainee breeder appointments.

GlaxoSmithKline uses 90% of the total blackcurrant crop in the UK in Ribena, one of the most popular brands in Britain. Those blackcurrant varieties are the result of many years of research and breeding at The James Hutton Institute and MRS, situated on the outskirts of Dundee.

GSK's commodity director, Michael Dunsire, said: "We had an excellent working relationship with SCRI and look forward to continuing with The James Hutton Institute and believe that investing in the future and a new generation of plant breeders will help secure the future of a sustainable blackcurrant industry.

"This breeding programme, which we’ve supported for the past 20 years, is an integral part of the Ribena strategy to produce superior blackcurrant varieties with health benefits, pest and disease resistance, great flavour and the ability to meet the changing global climate requirements."

MRS managing director, Dr Nigel Kerby, believes that plant breeding is a critical core expertise of any nation that hopes to have a vibrant, agricultural industry in our changing environment.

Dr Kerby explained: "The announcement underlines our commitment to training a new generation of plant breeders. We are very keen to increase the UK’s capacity for training plant breeders.

"The James Hutton Institute and Mylnefield's support for this expertise is unique in the UK and underlines our commitment to developing new, highly successful varieties able to withstand the changes brought about by climate change, with better resistance to pests and diseases, and with excellent flavour and nutritional properties.

"The opportunities to do public good are immense in terms of helping to overcome poverty around the world. Of course there are also potentially lucrative careers in the commercial sector."

An estimated 50% of all the blackcurrants grown in the world were developed at the Institute’s Dundee base. In addition, the Glen Ample raspberry is the most widely used in the UK, and the Glen Lyon raspberry is a standard for the Spanish berry industry.

Meanwhile, the James Hutton Institute scientists are taking part in a major project called ClimaFruit. They have joined a consortium including Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Germany with the goal of securing the long-term future of the soft fruit industry in Northern Europe.

Soft fruit production in Scotland represents a valuable sector within the agricultural/horticultural landscape. Raspberry and blackcurrant crops in Scotland are valued at approximately £12 million annually for raspberry and around £0.79 million for blackcurrant, although the latter value rises to an added value of over £200 million within the UK blackcurrant processing crop.

The James Hutton Institute.

Mylnefield Research Services.

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare.

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