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The IFO-PFR apple rootstock breeding programme

The IFO-PFR apple rootstock breeding programme aims to select dwarf to semi-dwarf rootstocks with resistances to pests and diseases, such as fire blight, woolly apple aphid, crown rot and replant disease Two crosses of ‘M9’ with ‘Robusta 5’ and ‘Aotea’ made in the 1980s initiated the breeding programme and PFR partnered with IFO in 2001 to start developing selections for commercial release. 

Currently, eleven selections are at different stages of commercial evaluation for horticultural productivity traits, in which IFO plays a major role as many of its 24 nursery partners have established stool beds and trial orchards across North and South America, Europe, South Africa and Oceania. Three selections prioritised for their fire blight and woolly aphid resistance as well as dwarfing trait,  are anticipated to be released world-wide within the next 3 years. 

These selections are also under evaluation within the NC-140 programme in the US and the EUFRIN programme in Europe. The breeding programme extensively employs genetic marker-assisted selection to increase breeding efficiency for the dwarfing trait and ensure pyramided genes for durable resistances. The programme is underpinned by the PFR Technology Development programme that studies genetics of future breeding targets (e.g. abiotic stresses) and supports genetic marker development.