More local plant breeders should be encouraged to undertake research to develop new varieties of fruit trees. So far, most new varieties developed by local plant breeders are crops that require just a few years of testing and evaluation like ccrn, rice, vegetables and flowering ornamentals.
It is of course understandable why very few researchers undertake breeding of fruit trees because it usually takes many years to come up with positive results. If a plant breeder is in his 50s, he can not be sure if he could develop one new variety before he retires or passes away. That’s why even young researchers are reluctant to pursue fruit tree breeding.
We are of course thankful that there is now an ongoing research at UP Los Baños on mango. We have been told that the objective is to develop a carabao mango hybrid that is bigger in size, with thicker skin so it will not spoil as easily as the thin-skinned carabao mango. The thicker skin could also mean better shipping quality. There are other desirable traits that could be developed like thinner seed, a blush of red or pink on the skin, greater resistance to anthracnose and other diseases, And of course retaining the special flavor of the original carabao mango.
We are also thankful to Dr. Leon Namuco, a retired professor of the College of Agriculture of UP Los Baños, who had the bright idea of breeding a promising durian variety he named UPLB Gold that is registered with the National Seed Industry Council. The variety should benefit durian growers, especially in Luzon where we need to produce more durian for the Metro Manila market and other areas in Luzon.
UPLB Gold has a number of desirable characteristics. First, it is claimed to be a high yielding variety. It is also said to be an early bearer, meaning the fruits can be harvested in Luzon in the months of May and June. It means the fruits are ready for the market ahead of durian grown in Mindanao whose peak season is from August to October. Durian grown in Luzon can be sold in Manila at a more reasonable price than those from Mindanao because the high cost of shipping from Mindanao will be avoided.
UPLB Gold has also been cited as more resistant to pests because it has a thick skin which is not easily damaged by borers. Likewise, it has been observed that even if it is fully ripe the bottom end does not split open. This means that UPLB Gold can be stored longer than other varieties.
Other fruits that Filipino plant breeders can tackle are improved varieties of avocado, guava, guyabano, pomelo, balimbing, and others. Instead of fruit breeding, another strategy to come up with superior cultivars is to closely monitor plant populations of existing varieties because it is possible that desirable mutants could emerge. That’s what fruit farmers in Thailand have been doing. They propagate their selections and then enter them in competitions. The winning selections become their goldmine by selling their propagations at a high price.