Good Fruit Grower

March 1

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34 MARCH 1, 2016 Good Fruit Grower Ontario's stone fruit industry collaborates for best varieties. by Peter Mitham A reinvigorated industry is on the horizon for Canada's Ontario stone fruit growers, three years after the formation of a committee that puts industry stakeholders in the field alongside the breeder in test plots. Stone fruit research in Ontario languished following the retirement in 1995 of Dr. Richard "Dick" Layne, who had overseen fruit breeding activities at the federal research station in Harrow, Ontario. Some of the most promising selections were transferred to the provincial research station in Vineland, but little was done with them. The discovery of plum pox virus (PPV) in 2000 effectively halted breeding and propagation activities, as well as the work of the Ontario Fruit Testing Association (OFTA), which had previously received plant material for testing. During the past two decades, just four peach varieties have been released: Vollie, on the occasion of the cen- tennial of the Vineland station in 2006, Vee Blush, Virtue and White Knight, all designed to fill gaps in the market. Of these, the early season variety Vee Blush has attracted the most interest. Now, a host of new peach and nectarine varieties could be ready as early as 2018, thanks to the efforts of the Ontario Tender Fruit Evaluation Committee, estab- lished in 2012 with money remaining from the OFTA to guide breeding and commercialization activities. The committee officially formed as a partnership between the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers (OTFG), the University of Guelph, and the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, which now operates the Vineland research facility. Committee members who are engaged in outreach to stone fruit growers include Jay Subramanian, a professor of tree fruit breeding and biotechnology at the University of Guelph in Vineland who oversees the breeding activities; OTFG general man- ager Sarah Marshall; and Michael Kauzlaric, a researcher with the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. The committee meets weekly during the growing season, reviewing about 60 varieties a year. The meetings usually attract 15 growers and industry members from nurseries to packers who provide feedback, bringing them into the discussions. "They look at it from a different angle than what we as breeders look at it," Subramanian said. "It's not what I like that is important, it is what the growers like." New peaches show promise Continued on page 37

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