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Research Update

Branching out with budwood

Virus-freematerial fromPICO orchard will undergo trial testing in fruit-growing regions of Ontario and Quebec, as well as being subjected tomore stringent testing here.

By Susan McIver A scope.

Located at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland, the eight-hectare orchard is the only commercial, certified virus-free source of budwood in the country.

“I do not know of any other companies, anywhere, that operate a budwood orchard for the sole purpose of selling mass quantities of propagative material,” said Ken Haddrell, PICO operations manager.

Founded in 1994 and owned by the BC Fruit Growers’ Association, PICO is a variety rights management company that licenses new varieties of tree fruits and berries both domestically and internationally. The corporation is located in the same building as the PARC offices and research laboratories and leases the orchard land from the centre.

There has been some movement to establish a certified budwood orchard in Ontario, but as Haddrell said, “This would be mostly peach material due to the Plum Pox infections there”.

Some Canadian nurseries maintain certified budwood blocks for their own use and may occasionally provide material to other nurseries.

“I would think the large Canadian nurseries profit more from ornamental and backyard garden sales than commercial fruit trees,” Haddrell said.

Germplasm repositories dedicated to the preservation of various species exist in both the U.S. and Canada. The Canadian Clonal Genebank in Harrow, Ont., has the mandate to preserve the genetic diversity of Canadian fruit crops by acquiring and maintaining wild plant material and named cultivated varieties.

“The material from these facilities is more for starting a budwood orchard, or re-establishing particular varieties, than distribution for mass propagation,” Haddrell said. The PICO orchard serves as a source of propagation material for orchardists, including large commercial growers,


Nicki Ibuki examines a Nicola variety apple tree in the certified virus-free budwood orchard operated by the Okanagan Plant Improvement Corporation in Summerland.

and nurseries and as a repository of traditional and unusual varieties.

Today, the orchard contains more than 20,000 trees, representing approximately 500 varieties.

“Apple varieties comprise about half, cherries almost a third and peaches, pears, plums, apricots and nectarines the remainder,” said Nick Ibuki, who was appointed orchard manager in 2004.

Almost all varieties come from the PARC breeding programs.

The most promising varieties are sent to the Centre for Plant Health in Saanich, where they undergo rigorous testing and therapy, if needed.

Some varieties can be certified virus-free within a year or two, but others require many years of heat therapy to eliminate viruses.

The tests are done according to internationally accepted standards and the plants are maintained in isolation. Certified virus-free material is indexed according to each propagation from the mother plant and movement from the

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2010

unique resource in Canada, possibly the world, the budwood orchard operated by the Okanagan Plant Improvement Corporation (PICO) is expanding its

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