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The plant breeding challenges to making kiwifruit a worldwide mainstream fresh fruit

Seal, A.G.
Acta horticulturae 2003 no.610 pp. 75-80
cultivars, plant breeding, Actinidia, fruits, market value, profitability, raw fruit, world markets, parents, ploidy, males, new products, production technology, crossing, kiwifruit, methodology, genetic variation, germplasm conservation
The world market for kiwifruit is tiny compared with those for other fresh fruits such as apples and bananas. Although the kiwifruit is a beautiful and nutritious fruit, the present commercial cultivars have some deficiencies that limit the volume and value of the market and the profitability of producers. The extensive genetic variation within the genus Actinidia presents breeders with a wide range of opportunities for developing new products. The challenge for breeders is to identify those improvements that will have the greatest impact on profitability and to devise methods and strategies to overcome technical constraints to achieving them. Breeders need to consider the likely future needs of consumers and producers. They need to have an understanding of the market and of production systems and cost structures. Breeders need access to a diverse germplasm collection and the imagination to foresee the potential of the genetic variation within it. They need to take account of the technical feasibility of their objectives. Choice of parents, especially males, is difficult and ploidy differences can restrict crossing options. The long generation time is a major constraint. The accumulation of tested parents, an improved understanding of the nature and inheritance of key characteristics and the introduction of new techniques can help to reduce or overcome many of these constraints. There are still very few different types of kiwifruit available on the world market and so plenty of opportunities for new types with the right characteristics. With imagination, robust objectives, sound strategies, perseverance and good luck, breeders have the opportunity to breed new cultivars that could help to transform kiwifruit into a mainstream and highly profitable fresh fruit category.