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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 9 June 2011 Referencing Hub media
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Plant & Food Research (PFR) have an extensive collection of genetically diverse apple trees (an apple germplasm collection) at their Hawke’s Bay orchard. Satish Kumar and Richard Volz of PFR describe the 3 key reasons why the collection is important – it is a source of novel traits, it provides breeders with genetic diversity, and it acts as a gene bank in case of disaster.

Transcript

Richard Volz (Plant & Food Research)
Essentially, the germplasm is our discovery area for identifying new traits that we think might be valuable in new cultivars, and it’s very important for our breeding programme that we take a long-term view and look at potential new attributes that are discovered in the germplasm collection. There might be very useful, highly valued attributes in our new cultivars for the future.

Satish Kumar (Plant & Food Research)
If we do find something outstanding, we can introgress those characters into breeding new varieties, and those new varieties will not only provide better economic returns, but they will be perhaps better for some health benefits as well.

In case of New Zealand, we had like Royal Gala, Braeburn and Splendour, so those were the 3 main cultivars that were used to breed the new cultivars. So that prompted us to think about our strategy in the long term, and therefore we went out to like Kazakhstan or to other parts of the world to bring this material in so that we can provide genetic variability.

Maintaining a germplasm is like having an insurance, so if tomorrow there is a cyclone or a fire here or any risk, at least we have that material preserved and that could be used in future. So basically the germplasm is a sort of a bank, gene bank, which we can use, you know, in the future if we need to.