Jim Luby talking about blueberries.

Breeding and Genetics of Fruit Crops for Cold Climates

Principal Investigator

Jim Luby

Department and College

Department of Horticultural Science in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Project Number


Funding Type

State of MN (SAES)

Partnering States and Countries

  • Arkansas
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Washington 
  • West Virginia
  • Chile
  • New Zealand

Project Start and End Date

July 1, 2015-June 30, 2020

Project Summary

Fruits are a critical component of a healthy and pleasurable diet, being sources of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients. In Minnesota, fruit crops are mainly produced on small farms and often direct-marketed to consumers as part of a diversified cropping scheme with other specialty crops. Their production is frequently associated with tourism and other added-value enterprises. The additional value of fruit crops is derived from sales of nursery stock and from consumer-grown produce. Minnesota fruit growing is dependent on germplasm developed at the University of Minnesota. Over two-thirds of the apple production, nearly all blueberry production is based on cultivars developed at the University or their direct descendants. Recent advances in apple genomics has greatly increased the practicality of implementing marker-assisted breeding (MAB) in fruit crops. Fruit crops have long generation times before the commercial product (fruit) can be evaluated. Evaluation of individual plants requires intensive greenhouse and/or extensive field space and thus, is expensive. Using genetic markers to indirectly select for desirable traits in parents or offspring is an obvious opportunity that is becoming realized.

In this project, we will develop new varieties of fruit crops using conventional crossing and selection. We will make selection more efficient by finding DNA markers linked to genes that control traits of interest. By selecting the proper marker, we will be able to select for a fruit trait before the plant fruits or durable disease resistance trait even in the absence of the disease. New varieties of apples, and other fruits developed under this project are benefiting fruit growers in Minnesota and the northern USA due to their cold hardiness, disease, and pest resistance. Fruit consumers are benefiting from their superior eating qualities and health-related traits. Knowledge developed in the genetics of fruit crops including development of DNA markers for use in marker-aided breeding should improve the efficiency of fruit breeding programs and increase the probability of obtaining new varieties with desired features.