For Amy Iezzoni, quality fruit doesn’t start at the grocery store; it starts in a laboratory.
Iezzoni, a horticulture professor, will be part of the four-year, $14.4 million grant research project called RosBREED. The project will allow researchers to match favorable traits in strawberries, cherries, peaches and apples to improve the fruits’ quality and create new breeds.
By looking at the genetic makeup of quality fruits, Iezzoni said researchers can create fruits with more ideal characteristics, including crispness, color and taste. The project will allow the researchers to apply findings pertaining to one fruit to the breeding of other fruits.
“Now we have a marker that allows us to know what traits parents are going to give the progeny,” Iezzoni said. “We don’t have to wait for them to develop.”
MSU will join the University of Minnesota, Washington State University, USDA laboratories and several international laboratories for the RosBREED project.
“(Working together) is the way we can efficiently move forward,” said Cameron Peace RosBREED co-director and Washington State University assistant professor. “Our individual breeding programs always focus on adaptability to local growing areas. This project allows us the synergistically show these crops are genetically related; the information we gain by working together goes to benefit all.”
Horticulture professor Jim Hancock will work to establish different strawberry breeding populations.
“We will collect the data on what makes a great strawberry and search for molecular markers that tag these traits,” Hancock said. “The markers will then be used to make our selection process more efficient.”
Hancock said working with many other fruits in addition to strawberries hopefully will provide useful information for all fruits. Hancock said results from the RosBREED project could be available during the next three years.
“Instead of doing everything in strawberry, we can use information obtained from other species,” Hancock said. “I am very optimistic this will work and streamline our strawberry efforts.”
Iezzoni said the project could allow farmers and researchers to make better fruit more quickly than was possible in the past.
“It’s wonderful to think that maybe I’ll have genetic tools to help me be a faster breeder,” Iezzoni said.