With Lubera® and Lubera® Edibles we are asked again and again, why we would have our own elaborate breeding programmes when there are so many fruit and berry breeding programmes worldwide from which one could use. Our short answer is this: because worldwide there are no fruit and berry breeding programmes that are especially geared towards the home garden. Almost the entire breeding efforts of universities, research stations and increasingly also of private breeders are aimed at commercial cultivation, which ultimately needs completely different plants and fruits than the garden market. That was the short answer, which, however, does not correctly explain the differences and advantages of the two breeding directions (commercial cultivation or home gardens).
Here is a closer look at five good reasons why there needs to be special breeding programmes for the home garden market.
- Home gardening focuses holistically on the plant until and with the harvest and enjoyment.
Breeding programmes for commercial cultivation mainly concentrate on everything that comes with and after the harvest: the yield, the harvestability, mechanisation, storability, shelf life in the rack and at the consumer, and finally, the flavour. Home gardening programmes are interested in all aspects of the plant (health, growth, beauty, texture, colours, flowers) up to the harvest and the enjoyment, which follows very close after the harvest.
- The home garden market wants the novelty and special features; commercial cultivation wants the same, just a bit better, more productive or more beautiful.
The global fruit industry is gigantic, but also very slow and almost phlegmatic. There are many reasons for this: every fruit buyer will be judged by his/her last year's results, so basically he/she will do the same thing and try to improve it at best. So there will be yet another action with gala apples or with the best autumn raspberry. Basically, this industry is not really calling for and looking for new products, but it wants the same products to be a bit better. The home garden market, on the other hand, wants novelty and uniqueness. However, we must admit here that parts of the home garden market (chain stores, plants in the food retail trade) run the risk of falling into the industrial logic of the fruit market and, while not explicitly excluding innovations, they are not actively pursued.
- Yield is the crucial factor in commercial cultivation and in the global fruit market.
Everything is subordinated to the yield, since it basically controls the price policy and the price possibilities. In the home garden, the yield or yield level is rather secondary, since no one accurately measures it. Those who sell a fruit-bearing plant do not sell the yield, but the experience of being able to enjoy the fruits of gardening. Of course, a raspberry or strawberry must bear good fruit, but the simplicity of the crop and the certainty that the gardener can even achieve a yield (and thus an experience) is far more important than the absolute amount of yield.
- The plant is a part of the product when new varieties for the home garden are bred and produced; the plant is not just a processing machine. Accordingly, its robustness, its beauty, its added ornamental value are also decisive criteria for sales and purchases. All of these things are completely unimportant in commercial cultivation.
- The fruit industry is increasingly organised in closed and vertically integrated systems.
Breeding programmes breed new raspberry varieties with better shelf life, cultivating them in proprietary or licensed production facilities – preferably in all climates to ensure a year-round supply – and subsequently these fruits are marketed centrally and with a single brand. This unity and vertical integration is increasingly leading to the fact that breeding for commercial cultivation no longer releases genetics for the home garden market. On the one hand, this is intended to prevent unpleasant illegal propagation by unauthorised producers who do not belong to the system; but above all, the genetic material should remain unattainable for other breeders for as long as possible in order to be able to use the time advantage and the production as well as the marketing advantages achieved through breeding longer and more sustainably.
In accordance with the considerations summarised above, we repeatedly note that these two breeding directions (commercial cultivation and the home garden market) tend to diverge even more. And even now, when we breed something in the field of vegetables, we quickly see that also with tomatoes, for example, the potential diversity that genetics would yield is far from being exploited by industrial hybrid breeding. There are also tangible business reasons for this: hybrid breeding and the subsequent seed production are so expensive that they are only worthwhile for very large amounts of seeds and plants, and these are partially not present in the home garden market...so there is more than enough room in the fruit vegetable sector to supplement industrial breeding with special home garden breeding programmes.
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