15 Apr 2023

Driscoll's: understanding genetics to improve customers' experience


The global program of blueberries by Driscoll's, an American giant with a century of agricultural tradition and now a pioneer in innovation, will be presented at Macfrut at the International Blueberry Days (May 3-5, 2023 at Rimini Expo Centre). Taking part in the Symposium scheduled for the first day of the fair will be James Olmstead, Director of Blueberry Breeding at Driscoll's, one of the world's leading experts on the small fruit, who also has some 60 scientific publications in the field to his credit.

He currently leads a global team of researchers and scientists with the goal of developing the best cultivars of blueberries. Also of interest will be his contribution to the May 2 Berry School on the breeding program to obtain new pathogen-resistant varieties of blueberry .

"Driscoll's is a global market leader in fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries," explains James Olmstead. "With more than one hundred years of farming tradition, Driscoll's is pioneering innovation in the sensory quality of berries with the consumer trust mark of Only the Finest Berries™.

James Olmstead, Driscoll's

With more than 900 independent growers worldwide, the company develops exclusive berries varieties(fraogola, raspberry and blueberry) patented using only traditional breeding methods and developing sustainable cultivation techniques.

Driscoll's now serves consumers year-round in North America, Australia, Europe, and Asia in more than twenty-two countries. Driscoll's dedicated research and development operations are based in Watsonville, California, and operate globally to support the business.


Developing new cultivars that continuously improve flavor is the main focus of the research and development group, and a team of agronomists, farmers, sensory analysts, plant pathologists and entomologists work to bring these new cultivars to our independent growers."

Olmstead explains how blueberry has become an increasingly global product in recent years. "Over the past two decades, blueberries production has gone from being a predominantly local and seasonal product to being marketed on a global scale year-round. Much of this transition has been made possible by targeted breeding efforts. In particular, the development of cultivars with low chilling requirements, which began in mid-20th century Florida, led to a rapid influx of new available genetic sources at the beginning of the global expansion period of blueberry.

The history of low chill cultivar development is a fascinating study of theuse of native germplasm, and understanding the genetics of key traits for improvement during this development process has been the focus of geneticists at blueberry. A focus on differentiated fruit supply will characterize the next wave of cultivar development at blueberries.

It is expected that plant breeding, genetics and genomics will once again play a major role in how the global blueberries industry meets the challenge of providing a better consumer experience by increasing sustainable production practices."

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