2012 Annual Report
SCRI Proposal submission.
1)in 2009 that wrote a planning grant to the SCRI which was funded in late 2010. During the period between October 2010 and May 2011 the rootstock research committee assembled several industry/scientific focus groups to develop research priorities for apple, peach, cherry and pear rootstock research. The focus groups, which were attended by rootstock scientists and industry representatives, were held in conjunction with several nationwide industry or scientific meetings like the NC-140 rootstock research committee annual meetings in Provo, UT on Nov. 2, 2010, the meetings of the Washington State Horticultural Society in December 2010, the Great Lakes Fruit Expo in Michigan in December 2010, the New York Apple Research and Development board meetings in December 2010, the California Pear Research Committee in December 2010 and several other extension/industry meetings attended or organized by the rootstock research committee during the year 2011. As a result of these efforts a novel network of rootstock researchers that include economists, social scientists, tree fruit physiologists, root researchers, propagation researchers, plant pathologists, plant genomicists, plant breeders is preparing to submit a grant proposal to the NIFA-SCRI in January 2012 which addresses the needs and priorities identified and supported by the U.S. temperate tree fruit industry. This joint effort needed a name, several were proposed but one resonated with all the community: Dr. Gregory Lang proposed the name Root2Fruit which highlighted the intrinsic connection between rootstocks and fruit –“good fruit starts from the root”. While a proposal was drafted in early 2012, the group failed to raise enough matching dollars to allow the Coordinated Agricultural Project proposal to go through. The group is still active and has plans to submit a pared down proposal in early 2013.
Rootstock Research Priorities:
On March 2, 2011 Root2Fruit held a one day priority setting and education session about rootstock research priorities and potential impacts on productivity and profitability of the fruit industry. This session was co-sponsored by the International Fruit Tree Association (www.ifruittree.org) in Pasco, WA. These meetings were attended by members of the several segments of the tree fruit industry: nursery owners/operators, tree fruit growers, variety managers, marketers, fruit packers, researchers, extension specialists, farm managers and consultants all working on all aspects of production of the temperate tree fruit industry. The priority setting session featured a town hall meeting model where the state of the art of temperate tree fruit research was presented to attendees by lead U.S. researchers, followed by a discussion group that utilized real time wireless polling technologies to prioritize research to be planned/proposed in the next round of the NIFA-SCRI programs. As a result of these meetings, several priorities supported by the temperate tree fruit industry were identified. Propagation (efficiency, techniques, acclimatization, chip budding, germplasm, source material), sustainability (labor ergonomics and root efficiency), integrating rootstocks into management systems and root and soil interactions (replant problems) were among the priorities identified by the group. These priorities have resonated with other grower groups that were interviewed in 2011. These priorities were embraced by a network of researchers advised by industry and generated a gap analysis and other ideas on how to overcome such problems with the scientific tools available.
Because improved fruit tree rootstocks are an essential component of a sustainable and profitable fruit production system, this research is essential to the future of the tree fruit industries. If the project is funded it will have a significant national impact on the tree fruit industries. We (the Root2Fruit team) estimate that annually the tree fruit industry loses $500 million due to poor rootstock performance and/or tree death due to rootstock susceptibilities to biotic and abiotic stresses. Improved rootstocks could reduce these losses with greater adaptability and survivability and further improve profitability by improving yield efficiency. This impact could exceed $1 billion per year and improve the long term sustainability of rural communities that are dependent on tree fruit production.