The first meeting of the ECPGR Working Group on Berries was held 14-15 January 2020 in Dresden, Germany, organized in collaboration with the Julius Kühn-Institut (JKI) and sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Participants from 17 countries reported on the status of berries’ genetic resources in their collections. Conservation and breeding activities mostly focus on strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry and currants, but also occasionally on minor crops such as cranberry, elder, myrtle and others. Several wild-harvested berry species are endemic of Europe and carry an astounding genetic diversity, which is often threatened or under-investigated. For example, the crowberry (Corema album) only grows on the Atlantic coasts of the Iberian peninsula.
Many participants highlighted the difficulties they are facing for the management of the respective collections, owing to scarce available resources. Challenges are particularly heavy for these vegetatively propagated crops that require to be maintained as living plants in the field or greenhouse, require frequent rejuvenation (every two years in the case of strawberry) and are susceptible to serious infections from several pathogens. Micropropagation and cryopreservation techniques are partly developed and implemented by a few institutions, but further investments in this direction are needed, ideally with a jointly coordinated planning at European level.
The Group agreed to start its activity with an inventory of all the existing berry germplasm that is maintained in Europe. These data should then find their way into the EURISCO catalogue and set the basis for priority characterization, evaluation and molecular analysis as well as to select the most important and unique accessions for inclusion into the European Collection. The Group is aiming to prepare a proposal to be submitted to the next ECPGR Grant Scheme call and wish to convene a second meeting in one year time in Sweden.
Funds for supporting this Working Group meeting were provided by Fed Rep of Germany