Skip to main content

Improving the stability of high-quality traits of berry in different environments and cultivation systems for the benefit of European farmers and consumers

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - GoodBerry (Improving the stability of high-quality traits of berry in different environments and cultivation systems for the benefit of European farmers and consumers)

Reporting period: 2019-03-01 to 2020-02-29

The quality of fruit and yield are considered to be an extremely complex matter and depend on many factors. It is difficult to define objectively what fruit quality is since it changes during fruit ripening. Moreover, consumer acceptance is related to specific perceived aspects such as appearance, fruit shape and/or colour. Organoleptic attributes like texture, sweetness and acidity combined with aroma and flavour are also important as well as health benefits, which are becoming even more ingrained into the consumer consciousness, and are therefore perceived as a required quality attribute.

It is now abundantly clear that climate change will inevitably impact the growth conditions of berry plants in different ways across various European regions and climatic zones. The research in GoodBerry has been focused on improving berry production and fruit quality under climatic change scenarios, and thereby making production more controllable and resilient. The challenges of GoodBerry was to determine the variability of these health quality traits across the target fruits and the factors that have an impact - geographic locations, cultivations strategies, temperature, etc.

Although berries are grown in Europe itself, demand is much higher than European production capacity. Thus, the market relies on imports from developing countries (e.g. Morocco, Mexico, Peru) to fill the gap. Off-season supplies also come from countries in the southern hemisphere, most importantly New Zealand and Chile. Nowadays, berry production in the EU - representing 17% of the world production - is vital for maintaining activities in European rural areas, although those fruits can generally be considered as minor crops compared to other fruit species. Among berry fruits, strawberry is the most important crop in the EU and its production is widespread with varying intensity across all EU countries. In addition to the importance of strawberries for the EU berry production and market, the production of other berries, such as raspberry and black currant, has been gaining importance during the last years.

The fact that berry crops represent significant components of many rural economies within the EU makes it crucial for rural industries to have access to a range of varieties that are adapted to local conditions and can be grown in an efficient and sustainable manner. The improvement of cultivation efficiency and increased commercial value of the fruit will help to overcome the geographic labour cost discrepancies and achieve more efficient production and higher prices by added value. GoodBerry will thus extract and assemble the knowledge and skills necessary to seed a technology base for Europe and other berry producing regions that will secure and expand high quality production chains.
The overall strategy of the GoodBerry project has been delivered through the activities in five research and technological development blocks with additional dissemination/training and management work. Within the project, different tasks have been defined to reach clear objectives during this reporting period.

Part of our work has been focused on different elite cultivars of strawberry, raspberry, and black currant grown in contrasting environments aimed the identification of the genotype x environmental interaction. For that, we applied modern genomic tools together with a deeper phenotypic evaluation for flowering and fruit quality. As a result, we have identified genes determinants underlying plant adaptation and fruit quality. Also, we have conducted numerous trials concerning the process of flower initiation, dormancy and management practises to reduce diseases in strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant. With the different trials the partners have contributed to the clarification of these complicated plant processes, and contributed to new, innovative management practices to reduce powdery mildew and grey mould in strawberry and raspberry, and charcoal rot in strawberry. In this context, several practice abstracts have been published at the EIP-AGRI platform summarising all these results. The partners have constructed ‘easy to understand short presentations’ with the key outcomes of the performed trials to clarify floral initiation and dormancy characteristics, as well as tools to control powdery mildew and charcoal rot. Overall, a total of 72 applied publications are available on the GoodBerry website, covering 23 main topics. Within the project, new genetic population (strawberry) with improved adaptability to cultivation systems and exhibiting higher fruit quality has been developed. This population has been studied applying genetic and metabolomic analysis together with QTL mapping for developmental and fruit quality traits in different environments. From this work, we were able to deliver a list of markers for marker assisted selection, which constitute a valuable knowledge for breeders to support them (i) selecting varieties specially adapted to a specific location, and (ii) evaluating the plasticity of varieties in different environments. Markers for breeding were identified for traits linked to development (flowering date) and to fruit quality (aromas). Within GoodBerry, we also developed a set of tools to analyze and select fruits with optimized quality - organoleptic, nutritional and bioactive components. State of the art high-throughput metabolomic, gas chromatography (GC) and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) technologies for primary, secondary polar and volatiles compounds is used to maximise analytical data collation while minimising analysis time. The improvement of external fruit quality has been achieved for standard sensorial quality traits. Within the project, a dissemination plan has been developed by considering a proper and logical integration of scientific, technical and public dissemination of results generated within the project. The overall management of the project concerns all GoodBerry partners and research, administration and financial management, IP issues and outreach related to the whole project have been overseen.
GoodBerry will impact directly on a significant number of key strategic areas including sustainable production, enhanced quality of life, important socio-economic factors, increased competitiveness and prosperity, the knowledge-based economy, international development as well as the advancement of fundamental science and the exploitation of knowledge. In particular, the main impact levels of GoodBerry are the following:

- Publication of scientific papers
- Growers’ guidance on management practices for optimized berry production dissemination and their implementation
- Optimization of berry breeding programmes

10 out of 19 partners will directly exploit the high valuable knowledge generated in GoodBerry and implement it in their own breeding programmes. Indeed, the better understanding of the complex relationships between genotype and environment is a fundamental basis for successful breeding of cultivars adapted to challenging environmental conditions.
GoodBerry logo