Submitted to: Acta Horticulturae
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/16/2007
Publication Date: 3/25/2009
Citation: Ledbetter, C.A. 2009. Using Central Asian germplasm to Improve Fruit Quality and Enhance Diversity in California Adapted Apricots. Acta Horticulturae. 814:77-80. Interpretive Summary: While California apricots are well known for their large size and attractive color, consumers have also discovered that their taste can be quite tart and lacking in apricot aroma. The purchase of bland and/or tart apricots sends consumers to alternative fruit choices, and reduces overall apricot consumption. Central Asian apricots, well known for their high sugar content and aromatic fruit, were imported to the US for use in apricot breeding programs. Numerous Central Asian apricots were bred with large-fruited apricots adapted to California in order to increase fruit sugar content and aromatic quality. After two generations of breeding, the high sugar content of the Central Asian apricots was successfully combined with the large fruit size of California adapted apricots. Consumers will notice the significance of this accomplishment in the form of sweeter and more palatable fruit being available during the apricot marketing season. Product acceptance by consumers is necessary for repeat sales, leading to an increase in apricot consumption.
Technical Abstract: Fifty years of apricot breeding efforts at the Agricultural Research Service in Parlier, California have led to the development of ten new fresh market and processing varieties. During this period, consumer comments indicated that increased sugar and aroma would be desirable improvements in California produced apricots. In the early 1990’s, numerous sources of Central Asian apricot germplasm, both clonal and seedling-derived, were imported and utilized in the breeding program to introduce genetic diversity and improve fruit quality. These Central Asian apricots were generally not well adapted to California’s environment, but some accessions did display significantly increased Brix levels, long fruit development periods, diverse fruit colors and shapes as well as other novel characteristics. As a group, Central Asian apricot germplasm is far too small-fruited for fresh markets in North America. First generation hybrids between California adapted apricots and Central Asian accessions were generally more productive than their Central Asian parents, but were still too small in fruit size to be directly usable. Second generation hybrids, obtained through intercrossing elite F1s or through backcrosses to California adapted hybrids, are very diverse in both fruit and tree characteristics. Fruit sizes adequate for fresh marketing are obtainable in the second generation, and large-fruited clones having significantly elevated Brix levels are also observed. The fruit ripening season has been extended by two weeks through breeding with Central Asian apricots, and forthcoming seedlings may extend the fruit ripening period even later. Seedlings obtained to date as a result of breeding with Central Asian apricot germplasm demonstrate that significant gains in fruit quality traits can be obtained in two generations.