Getting local fruit varieties into local orchards is a particular challenge in Ontario because breeding work takes place within the Niagara region, where the movement of plant material is limited in an effort to prevent the spread of plum pox virus (PPV).

While the industry established a mother block for propagating clean plant material outside the quarantine zone near Windsor, north of Detroit, Michigan, budwood must first go to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s key plant health laboratory in Sidney, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island, for cleanup.

“That’s a three- to four-year process, so all of a sudden, if variety X looks good, then a grower almost has to wait six or seven years to start testing it or look at it on their commercial site,” said Michael Kauzlaric, a researcher with the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre who works with growers seeking new varieties.

To give growers a head start, the evaluation committee won a relaxation of the quarantine rules. Growers within the PPV control zone are able to receive plant material from Vineland and develop plantings of new varieties on a limited basis.

Commercial orchards in the Niagara region now have trial plantings totaling approximately 1,200 trees of eight peach and nectarine varieties now moving through final testing and registration. “We’re doing virus cleanup in parallel to commercial testing,” Kauzlaric said.

“Growers (will) have had four or five years of experience with the variety at their own site, and they can say yes or no, and then – boom! – 10,000 or 20,000 trees can get planted … instead of waiting another three or four years after it arrives in Windsor.”

— by Peter Mitham