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Third International Blackcurrant Conference, Dundee

Present a paper on “Development of low chill varieties from New Zealand”
at the 3rd International Blackcurrant Conference, Dundee. 
Also to visit the Blackcurrant Breeding programme at the James Hutton Institute (JHI).

The conference and the visit to JHI provided an opportunity to meet blackcurrant researchers, breeders, growers and processors.  The key benefits which were gained from these meetings were;

Discussion around exchange of plant material to benefit the NZ breeding programme by broadening the germplasm especially from the JHI programme with emphasis on high juice fruit quality.

Currant Clearwing, a major pest in NZ was discussed with the various researchers.  Testing and importation of resistant germplasm may provide a future solution to this problem for NZ growers.

Met the new Blackcurrant Breeder at JHI, Dorota Jarret who will succeed Dr Rex Brennan when he retires as the Blackcurrant Breeding Programme Leader.   Maintaining a strong relationship with the JHI programme is critical to success of the NZ programme. 

Researchers from France showed interest in trialing NZ varieties as there is no longer a breeding programme in France and their climate is lower chill than some of the other European growing countries. NZ varieties may suit the French climate and if grown commercially provide a royalty return to NZ growers.

I met blackcurrant breeders from Ukraine, Poland and Sweden. The Swedish programme is similar in size to the NZ programme.   I had interesting discussions with Dr Kimmo Rumpunen, who is responsible for the Swedish blackcurrant breeding programme about the challenges and the keys to success of small breeding programmes.

Each country present provided an estimate on their coming season's crop. The world production from these figures appears stable.  Spring has been cold and wet in both the UK and Europe, and yields are likely to be a little down on predicted.  From a NZ industry perspective this means prices should remain stable.

Although the blackcurrant industry is small compared to other world crops the conference highlighted the enthusiasm for growing and marketing the crop around the world.  The conference was unique in that it brought together growers, researchers and processors from most blackcurrant growing countries.  Presentations on the health benefits of blackcurrants highlighted a great future for this fruit.

Abstract of presentation:
Development of low chill blackcurrant cultivars from New Zealand
New Zealand’s blackcurrant breeding programme began in1992 and is now jointly managed by Plant and Food Research and Blackcurrants NZ Ltd.  The programme aims to provide commercial cultivars suitable for New Zealand’s low chill climate.  Emphasis has been placed on producing cultivars which are high yielding, gall mite (Cecidophyopsis ribis) resistant and suitable for juicing and other products.  More recently the programme has begun to investigate incorporating currant clearwing (Synanthedon tipuliformis) resistance.  Cultivars released from the programme include, “Murchison”, “Blackadder”,” Melina” and “Kepler” with most interest to date in “Murchison” and “Blackadder”. 

Cath Snelling
Plant and Food Research, Gerald St, Lincoln.
Ph: 64 3 977 7352 

Dates of Travel and places visited: 11-20 May 2012

  • 13 May 2012 visited Dr Rex Brennan and Sandra Gordon, blackcurrant breeders, at James Hutton Institute (JHI), Dundee.  Also met with Alison Dolan, Plant Pathologist, JHI, to discuss regulations around exchange of plant material between NZ and the UK.

  • 14 May 2012 attended pre conference agronomy session in Dundee.

  • 15-17 May 2012 I attended the 3rd International Blackcurrant Conference, Dundee and gave a presentation on “Development of low chill varieties from New Zealand”