Variety Development


Summerland Varieties Corp. (SVC) identifies promising new tree fruit varieties and commercializes them for the benefit of the Canadian tree fruit industry. SVC licenses new varieties that originate both internationally and in Canada.

International Varieties

SVC maintains strong ties with tree fruit breeding programs and variety managers around the world. This means that SVC staff have an opportunity to see and taste new varieties early in their development and commercialization.

For an international variety of interest, SVC coordinates the importation of the variety into Canada, establishes trees in orchard trials and evaluates its potential for the Canadian industry. If the new variety shows promise, SVC secures plant protection status in Canada, establishes a virus-free budwood source, sells high-health propagative material to growers, and collects royalties on behalf of international owners.

Access to international varieties is important for Canadian growers, primarily because some new varieties, such as the Honeycrisp apple, are widely recognized by consumers and sell for premium prices. SVC works with the international owners to make these varieties available to our growers so they can realize maximum returns from their orchards. 

Canadian Varieties

SVC is the commercialization agent for most apple and cherry varieties from Canada, most notably those developed in the breeding program at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Summerland Research and Development Centre (Summerland RDC).

The commercialization of these new varieties has benefited Canadian growers in a number of ways. SVC develops varieties that differentiate Canadian product and provide a competitive advantage in the global market place. For example, Canada’s cooler climate coupled with late harvested cherry varieties allows our growers to sell cherries when prices are high but competing producers are sold out. When licensing new varieties to international partners, SVC prohibits fruit sales into Canada thereby protecting the domestic market for Canadian growers and ensuring a more profitable tree fruit industry. Finally, international licenses generate significant royalties and SVC reinvests that money into industry initiatives and research programs that address tree fruit problems and support further innovation in Canada.

Development of Canadian Varieties

Variety development at SVC is a multi-step process involving the identification, testing, protection and commercialization of potentially high-value selections.

Identification

SVC identifies new tree fruit varieties that may benefit the Canadian tree fruit industry. These new varieties come from a number of sources including private orchardists and AAFC’s tree fruit breeding program at the Summerland RDC.

SVC looks for apple and cherry varieties that have attractive fruit that store well and have desirable eating qualities. The varieties must be grower friendly with precocious, productive and regular bearing trees that are adapted to the climate in Canada’s fruit growing regions. Cherry varieties must also have large sized, split resistant fruit with an attractive, tightly attractive tightly attached stem.

 

 

13S2009 (Staccato®) cherry was identified as a high-value variety because of its late harvest date relative to other sweet dark cherry varieties.

 

Testing

Apple varieties

After identifying a promising apple variety, SVC must demonstrate that the variety can be successfully grown in Canada’s apple producing regions; that the variety will retain premium quality throughout commercial storage, pack, and retail display; and that the variety has enough consumer appeal that people will choose it over other commercial varieties.

All new apple varieties are first evaluated in the National Grower Testing program where trees are planted in orchards in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Starting in third leaf and continuing to fifth leaf, selections are evaluated for the following horticultural characteristics:

  • Vigour and growth habit
  • Grower friendly characteristics
  • Consistent and uniform yield
  • Fruit appearance
  • Eating quality
  • Incidence of diseases and disorders 

 

Apple varieties from the apple breeding program at Summerland RDC are tested in grower orchards throughout Canada’s apple growing regions. This test site is located in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.

 

The most promising varieties from the National Grower Testing program are also planted in 0.25 to 5 acre blocks. The purpose of these larger plantings is to determine whether the selections meet minimum criteria for the following attributes:

  • Yields at full bearing
  • Fresh packout size and quality

Large plantings also produce sufficient fruit to evaluate the following:

  • Effect of packing systems on fruit quality
  • Effect of commercial storage on fruit quality
  • Consumer response to the variety in a retail environment

SVC has agreements with several international tree fruit companies who also test these same new varieties in orchards around the world to determine their commercial appeal in international markets.

Cherry varieties

British Columbia is the number one producer and exporter of sweet cherries in Canada, which makes cherry variety development an important regional effort for SVC.

Currently, all the cherry varieties managed by SVC are from AAFC’s internationally renowned cherry breeding program in Summerland, BC. These varieties are now widely planted around the world. For example, approximately 30% of the 38,000 acres of cherry orchards in Washington State are planted with Summerland varieties; the number one planted variety in Chile is Santina; and Lapins, Sweetheart, Summit and Sylvia are among the most popular varieties in Europe.

Cherry breeding and grower testing focus on three general and enduring program objectives:

  • Differentiating Canadian growers in the global marketplace
  • Ensuring adaptation to the environment
  • Supporting reductions in production costs

Protection

SVC applies for Canadian Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) for those apple and cherry varieties that perform well in orchard tests. PBR is a form of intellectual property rights that protects a new variety in a way that is similar to protecting a new invention with a patent. PBR grants the variety owner and SVC the right to control propagation, license growers and collect royalties for the trees and fruit that are sold.

SVC protects its new varieties in other fruit producing regions of the world by partnering with international variety managers who apply for local plant protection on behalf of the variety owner and SVC. 

 

The SPC136 variety, which is branded Suite NoteTM, has remarkably large heart-shaped cherries with tightly attached, attractive stems. SVC protected this variety in numerous countries throughout the world including Canada, US, Chile, Argentina, Australia, European Union, South Africa and Turkey.

 

SVC further protects important varieties by registering a trademark that is used in association with the marketing of high quality fruit produced by licensed growers.

Commercialization

SVC commercializes new varieties under three types of systems: open, regional and club.

Open varieties

SVC manages many varieties, especially cherries, as openly available varieties around the world. This means that all commercial growers can grow these varieties. SVC protects open varieties with Plant Breeders’ Rights in the countries where they are available, and grants nurseries the rights to propagate and produce trees of the variety. When growers purchase these trees from the nursery, they must pay a tree royalty and sign a grower agreement that prohibits further propagation of the variety by the grower.

 

The early harvesting Santina cherry variety is available to growers from licensed nurseries throughout the world including Canada, US, Chile, Australia, European Union and South Africa.

 

Regional varieties

Regional varieties have attributes that are desirable in certain markets or are of interest to a select number of international partners. These varieties are protected by Plant Breeders’ Rights and Trademarks in a few countries, and SVC focuses on managing fruit quality through trademark agreements.

SVC manages SPA493, the SALISH® apple, as a regional variety. This branded variety is only promoted in the Canadian market and the apples must meet a minimum quality standard before they can be sold under the trademarked name.

 

Club varieties

Club varieties are the most valuable varieties and are fully protected in numerous countries around the world. SVC licenses the international rights to grow club varieties to large, vertically integrated growers who have the capacity to pack, store, and market the fruit.

SVC licenses international partners to grow a limited number of acres of the club varieties in return for tree and fruit production royalties. The international partners must also agree to promote the varieties and build strong consumer demand in their market territories.

SVC licenses the Ambrosia apple variety as a club variety in the US, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, European Union and South Africa. It is an open variety in Canada.