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Ongoing project

Genetics of fruit sensory preferences (AS19003)

Key research provider: Griffith University, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation

What’s it all about?

This investment is exploring current consumer preferences, purchasing and consumption patterns and the part that fruit sensory qualities (such as taste, smell, look and feel) contribute to these behaviours. This information will be used to enhance the delivery of breeding programs, ensuring that they are working to improve varieties for both the producer and the consumer.

The underlying biological contributors to these sensory qualities will be profiled and the genetics of each explored, with this information funnelled into levy-funded breeding programs such as mango, papaya, pineapple and strawberry.

These insights will allow the co-development of consumer and producer-related traits, adding efficiency to these programs and allowing them to deliver superior varieties to market sooner. By identifying new opportunities for premium or niche varieties of produce, this may add substantial value to some industries.

The research team now have 5 PhD students on-board with a mid-year start date and a remaining 1-2 students to be recruited.
 
The papaya and pineapple teams commenced meetings to discuss experimental outlines for the coming 6-12 months. These crop-specific meetings will be held for strawberry and mango once the relevant students are on board.
 
Unfortunately, during the 2021/22 season sensory and consumer evaluation plans were put on hold due to covid-related issues.
 
The research team have also been involved in several conference presentations and publications by the team and students, and will be promoting the project through upcoming industry events such as the 2022 TropAg conference in November.

The development of new varieties is a balancing act, delivering selections with high consumer appeal as well as improved characteristics for producers. This project seeks to understand current consumer preferences, purchasing and consumption patterns and the part that fruit sensory qualities (taste, smell, look and feel) contribute to these behaviours.

The underlying biological contributors to these sensory qualities will be profiled and the genetics of each explored and developed into a suite of tools that can be implemented into active mango, papaya, pineapple and strawberry breeding programs. This will allow the co-development of consumer and producer related traits, adding efficiency to these programs and delivering superior varieties to market sooner. Along the way, new opportunities for premium or niche varieties may add substantial value to industries currently worth almost $670 million annually.

Over the last six months Hort Innovation, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, University of Queensland and Griffith University have worked together to establish a project management team with key representatives from each organisation, as well as intra-organisational teams. A two-day kick-off meeting with all participants was held on 8-9 November 2021 with the plant breeders (strawberry, pineapple, mango and papaya) and included Cathy Nock from Southern Cross University (passionfruit).

The projects for the proposed PhD students have been advertised, and three ongoing PhD students who are working on topics that align closely to this project have produced valuable scientific knowledge and methods that will inform this project.