Genetic improvement of stone fruit trees for obtaining new varieties

The Group of Genetic Improvement of Fruit Trees at the Centro de Edafología y Biología Aplicada del Segura of the CSIC develops programs to improve the species of the genus Prunus to increase productivity, improve the adaptation to climatic conditions and the resistance to the Sharka virus, among others.

Fruit of the Cebasred variety. Image: CEBAS-CSIC.The programs started more than twenty years ago and have since focused on obtaining new varieties of apricot trees, almond trees and plums. In the case of apricot tree crops, the main problems are the Sharka virus, which threatens the nationwide production, the floral self-incompatibility of many varieties and the lack of attractive colours in the traditional varieties. The CEBAS Apricot Tree Improvement Program tries to provide solutions to the aforementioned problems and responds to the needs of the sector.

The program has obtained a set of new varieties that cover the whole production calendar (extra-early, early, mid-season and mid-late season). Some of the obtained apricot tree varieties are Cebasred, Orange Blackbird, Valorange or Micaelo, of extra-early, early and middle maturation, respectively. All of them are commercially available.

Fruit of the Orange Blackbird variety. Image: CEBAS-CSIC.The initiative has been successful, having as a result trees with a good climatic adaptation, high production, floral self-compatibility, and resistance to Sharka as well as an attractive skin and flesh colour of the fruits. Attractive colouring is an important factor in European markets, where there is a high demand of orange fruit and red veneer. In the last decade, around 900,000 trees have been commercialised through the Improvement Program.

“All varieties obtained by this program have been registered in Europe and have been licensed to numerous nurseries for commercialization”, explains David Ruiz, researcher at the Centro de Edafología y Biología Aplicada del Segura of the CSIC (CEBAS-CSIC) within the Group of Apricot Improvement.