- About the BC Blueberry Council
- Breeding Program
The BC Berry Breeding Program is a collaborative effort between the BC Blueberry Council (BCBC), Raspberry Industry Development Council (RIDC), and BC Strawberry Grower’s Association (BCSGA). These three commodity groups work together under the umbrella of the Lower Mainland Horticultural Improvement Association (LMHIA) in partnership with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and with funding from both the Federal and Provincial governments.
Continually improving fruit yield and quality is required to enhance profitability in agricultural production and developing better berry varieties is key to the long-term viability of the BC berry sector. Breeding is a long-term process that typically takes 15-20 years from the time two parents are “crossed” to the time that a variety is released to growers.
The BC Berry Breeding Program has a long history of producing successful raspberry and strawberry varieties. However, breeding blueberries is more recent for BC, currently in its 13th year since initial crosses were made. The objectives for blueberry breeding include selection for better local adaptation, higher yields, superior fruit quality and enhanced pest and disease resistance. This requires extensive scientific research into screening methods to eliminate genetic susceptibility to fungal disease such as Godronia and Phomopsis canker and viral diseases such as Shock, reduce splitting and bruising tendencies and increase fruit firmness for long-term storage of fresh product. Perhaps the most important objective of the program is to develop high-yielding varieties that can be machine-harvested while resisting bruising and maintaining high fruit quality and firmness in cooler storage.
Finding the right combination of traits that make a variety that is more profitable for growers is based on production of thousands of seedlings each year through controlled “crosses” between the most advanced genetic material. In this way, the program is continually making genetic improvements in the breeding program’s store of genetic material (i.e., germplasm). Only the best of these seedlings become breeding “selections” that are put through rigorous testing in replicated plantings and then trialed across multiple locations through on-farm grower trials. Here, they are evaluated for several years to find the small proportion of selections that are superior to current industry standards. Advanced blueberry selections are currently in final stages of evaluation, and results from the 2020 field season are very promising. To-date, the program has made significant genetic improvements in several fruit quality traits, including firmness, size, and flavour. The BCBC is hopeful that new, locally-developed varieties will be on their way in the years to come.