Vineland Research and Innovation Centre’s Apple Breeding Program Update 2021

Producing apples with a high consumer appeal continues to be the focus of the breeding program. Over 33,000 unique seedling trees have been created since 2011 in the Vineland Test 1 (T1) block. Parents were selected based on their consumer appeal such as texture and flavour along with storage attributes and disease tolerance/resistance.

All T1 selections have rootstock and have undergone three seasons of fruiting before being considered for removal. An extremely large assortment of fruit in every possible characteristic (size, colour, shape, texture, flavour, harvest date, etc.) has been observed. In order to increase breeding efficiencies and minimize land use, seedlings have been culled prior to going into the field by using molecular markers in Vineland’s genomics laboratory for disease resistance and fruit quality traits including firmness, acid content and storage stability.

In an exciting development, Vineland’s Biochemistry and Consumer Insights teams have collaborated and identified a number of aroma volatiles that consumers find appealing in apples. Commencing in 2020, molecular markers were developed at Vineland for key aroma chemicals contributing to apple flavour. These markers are being implemented into the breeding program to enrich our population with apples containing aroma attributes that consumers find desirable before they are even planted into the T1 block. Vineland believes these aroma markers will be a distinguishing characteristic of the breeding program that will give us an edge in the marketplace.

Currently, there have been 75 selections advanced from the T1 to the Test 2 (T2) stage at Vineland. The T2 stage consists of eight trees per genotype grafted onto M9 rootstock. Fruit from these selections are being evaluated by Vineland’s trained sensory panel and samples have been provided to the apple industry across Canada for impressions.

Information from the sensory panel will be evaluated alongside industry feedback to determine which selections to advance for further testing.  Five selections have been sent to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Centre for Plant Health located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia for virus testing.

A limited amount of T2 material has been further propagated for on-farm testing (Test 3) across Ontario, which will commence this year. Each year we plan to propagate trees and we will slowly increase the number of test sites in Ontario and across Canada.

This research is supported by Ontario Apple Growers through the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada AgriScience Program and through the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs-University of Guelph Partnership Program. 

Rachael LeBlanc
Rachael LeBlanc

Research Scientist, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre