The Monterey Bay chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers extends many thanks to breeder Ellen Thompson and field manager Juan of Pacific Berry Breeding in Watsonville, CA, for leading yesterday’s exhaustive and elucidating tour of their caneberry breeding facility. Pacific Berry Breeding, one of only a handful of caneberry breeding operations spread across the globe, works with material from public breeding institutions and germplasm repositories, and under contract with major commercial berry producers, to develop novel varieties of blackberry and raspberry for the fresh market.
Ellen demonstrated for us the traditional breeding methods employed here, showing her technique for making controlled crosses via manual pollination. She discussed how seedling varieties are evaluated for quality and commercial viability, and how seedlings are chosen to advance from season to season as “selections”, and then as “advanced selections” suitable for larger field trials. Fewer than 2% of of an initial cohort of seedlings will make it as far as propagation for extensive trials.
Following our fascinating extended tour of Pacific Berry Breeding, a dozen of us with the afternoon free reconvened at chapter secretary Ken Konviser’s Bobcat Ridge homestead avocado farm for a tasty potluck lunch and tour of his gardens.
At Ken’s hillside farm with a broad view overlooking the valleys of Corralitos and out to the bay, and beyond his tidy rows of terraced vegetables and healthy small orchard of numerous avocado varieties for market, we also enjoyed examining some of the more exotic specimens that he’s planted.