Submitted to: Acta Horticulturae
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/20/2009
Publication Date: 5/1/2010
Citation: Ledbetter, C.A. 2010. Apricot Breeding in North America: Current Status and Future Prospects. Acta Horticulturae. 862:85-91. Interpretive Summary: Over the last 60 years, apricot acreage in California has continuously declined. Urbanization of coastal valleys displaced apricot production which has been relocated inland. Cultivars that performed well in the mild coastal valleys performed poorly when cultivated in the hot, dry climate of the San Joaquin Valley. Both publicly funded and private breeding programs were initiated to develop varieties that would produce high quality apricots in the SJV. Since 1980, over 40 new apricot cultivars have been developed in the US. Currently, public breeding efforts face static funding, while increased funding for private breeding efforts is common. California apricot growers strive to obtain a unique market niche that will provide good profit margins, but overplanting of high quality cultivars can saturate the market with fruit and soften prices. Without grower and industry support for public breeding efforts, private breeding programs may dominate North American apricot development efforts in the near future.
Technical Abstract: For many North American consumers, apricot remains a little known and underappreciated fruit. Apricot tonnage and total harvested orchard area are increasing on a worldwide basis while both production and acreage have been declining in North America for several decades. This is in spite of the fact that approximately 50 new apricot cultivars have been released for production by North American breeders in the last 30 years. In California, the major growing region for apricot production in North America, acreage has now declined to slightly more than 5,200 ha, whereas nearly 40,000 ha of apricot once grew in California’s orchards. Currently, there are only two publicly-funded apricot breeding efforts that remain active in North America. The present absence of PPV from North American apricot growing regions has allowed breeders to focus available resources on other important breeding criteria. An expanded ripening season is being pursued by both breeding efforts, as are the incorporation of novel flesh and skin characteristics into the locally adapted apricot selections. Late-bloom interval is also pursued in an effort to broaden apricot production regions as well as to improve crop reliability to growers in regions prone to late spring frosts. Funding for publicly-sponsored breeding programs has remained static while personnel and overhead costs associated with breeding have increased significantly in recent years. The lack of resources will undoubtedly limit publicly-sponsored apricot breeding efforts in the future. Private breeding efforts, funded by varietal tree sale royalties or other proprietary charges, may dominate North American apricot development in the near future.