Wednesday, 02 June 2021 08:55

New kiwifruit breeding JV

Written by  Peter Burke
A joint venture between Plant and Food Research and Zespri is aimed at speeding up the development of new and improved kiwifruit varieties. A joint venture between Plant and Food Research and Zespri is aimed at speeding up the development of new and improved kiwifruit varieties.

Moves are well underway to establish a new Kiwifruit Breeding Centre (KBC) - a joint venture between Plant and Food Research (PFR) and Zespri - designed to speed up the process of developing new and improved kiwifruit varieties.

A target of July 1 has been set to launch the JV. The first objective is for Plant and Food to obtain ministerial approval, agreements signed and then for the appointment of an independent chairperson to lead the new entity. From there will follow the creation of a board comprising representatives of both Zespri and Plant and Food.

Zespri's Carol Ward says about 50 staff from the partner organisations will join KBC and these staff are now being spoken to about their roles.

"KBC will bring together the best of the science expertise from PFR, along with market demand and commercial aspect through Zespri to develop the next generation of new cultivars for the industry," she told Rural News.

"Breeding plants is a long term game and we use traditional plant breeding methods, which typically take 12 years - right through from seedling to commercialisation," Ward explains.

"With KBC, we are looking at ways to speed that up, potentially using technology. The aim is to create better and more successful varieties - including ones that may be more robust to changing climatic conditions or meet different consumer demands in the market."

Ward says the focus of KBC wil be to work closely with PFR, which continue to do other science-based work for Zespri. She says the work will be driven by Zespri, which has more than half its staff based overseas and who do extensive market foresight and insight research into consumer trends looking at the needs today and into the future.

Ward says they will feed this knowledge back to KBC. Zespri will continue to hold the intellectual property and licencing rights for any new varieties of kiwifruit.

"We have the aspiration to have the world's leading portfolio of cultivars in the market," she explains. "That includes not only our gold variety, but a great performing green cultivar and the red one we launched last year."

Ward says they are already doing exploratory research on kiwi berries - the snack type of kiwifruit. "It's fair to say that SunGold is very successful and we are challenging ourselves to say, 'what's the next generation of SunGold?'."

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