A long-term breeding program for the pineapple industry is improving traits such as eating quality
The investment National pineapple breeding and evaluation program (PI17000) is working towards the release of new pineapple varieties suited to Australia’s key pineapple growing regions. There is a focus on developing and evaluating high-yielding varieties with improved disease resistance and flowering control, as well as improved fruit consistency and quality, to meet the needs of both growers and consumers.
The program is looking at the industry’s main commercial varieties and advanced varieties developed through previous breeding work, while implementing a novel approach to pineapple breeding – utilising a low level of in-breeding – to develop new elite lines.
Meet Nathan and Rhiannon Stevens, pineapple growers
Nathan and Rhiannon are second-generation pineapple growers from Lake Mary Pines in Yeppoon, Queensland. Each year they plant 1.5 million pineapple plants and rattoon 700,000 plants, that’s over 2.2 million pineapples a year on their 340 acre property.
Through the levy-funded pineapple breeding and evaluation program, Nathan and Rhiannon have had breeding lines planted on their property which have just been harvested. Dr Garth Sanewski is a QDAF plant breeder involved in the program, and he discussed with them the pineapple traits the industry is looking for. These traits are being selected for within the pineapple industry breeding program. When the new breeding selections were ready, the Lake Mary Pine staff planted out the lines to evaluate them under standard growing conditions.
Garth involved Nathan and Rhiannon in the evaluation work by asking them what they thought about what they were seeing in the paddock, and they also participated in assessments such as flavour testing, fruit shape, size and appearance. Garth then went away with about 50 crosses selected from the Lake Mary Pines plantings to continue working with the best lines in the breeding program.
Nathan and Rhiannon said that “it takes time to breed pineapples as each crop is two years, but we are definitely excited about the opportunities for future lines of these varieties.”
What varieties are you currently growing on your property?
“This year we are introducing the Aus Carnival variety, which is a variety from the previous plant breeding program also run by Garth – as we said it takes time to get the varieties to commercial stage. Our Aus Carnival plants will be arriving soon, and we are excited about this fruit. It promises to fit in really well in with our cycles in Yeppoon and we are aiming to use this variety to respond to a window of high demand and low supply.
As we said Aus Carnival, along with Aus Jubilee and Aus Festival, are all lines from the previous breeding program that are proving to be well accepted into the market these days with their high eating quality and appearance.”
What future benefits do you think this program will bring?
“We need to continue with the current program as the latest 50 selections from the recent plantings will need a few more years to see how they grow out. We see a lot of potential and great eating quality in what has been selected to go forward with.”
“It takes time to breed pineapples as each crop is two years, but we are definitely excited about the opportunities for future lines of these varieties.” Nathan and Rhiannon, pineapple growers, Yeppoon, Queensland