Good breeding takes time. The University of Minnesota has been breeding cold-hardy, disease resistant plants for over 125 years. In that time, over 400 varieties have been released including apples, grapes, trees, flowers, and grasses. Today, University plant scientists and breeders are able to combine traditional breeding techniques with cutting-edge technology allowing them to use data and genomics not available to researchers in the past. Below, we have highlighted several current research projects and new varieties developed by U of M plant breeders.
In 2018, Minnesota apple lovers fell in love with First Kiss®, the newest apple variety from the University of Minnesota’s apple breeding program. This year there will be even more chances to experience the new Honeycrisp progeny, which is also known as Rave®, both in Minnesota and beyond.
First Kiss® /Rave® (aka MN55) represent the 27th apple variety released by the University's apple breeding program. This early-season treat features the crisp and juicy texture of Honeycrisp but will ready to harvest up to four weeks earlier.
'Itasca' becomes fifth wine grape released by the University's grape breeding program. It is the first cold-hardy variety with low enough acidity to produce dry white wines.
'Electric Lights Double Pink' and 'Electric Lights Red' azaleas are the newest members of the 'Lights' series and the first new azalea releases in nearly 15 years. Electric Lights Red is the long-awaited first red azalea released by the University.
New introduction True North™ Kentucky coffeetree offers a narrow, upright form making them suitable replacements for ash in Minnesota. Research has shown it to be easier to propagate compared to other Kentucky coffeetrees.
Pink Popcorn® (aka MNPink1 cultivar) is the first pink blueberry introduced by the University. Truly pink-fruited blueberries, with the sweet taste and satisfying crispness of the best of the blues, are a culinary novelty.
Over the last decade there has been a dramatic revival in beer brewing throughout the eastern U.S. Local craft and microbrewers are in need of new hops varieties. The U responded to this demand by starting a hops research program in 2010 and a breeding program in 2012.
In the winter of 2006, the honey bee population began to suffer steep declines. Since then, an average of 30% of all honey bee colonies die every winter. Beekeepers struggle to replace losses. U of M researchers are hard at work studying the causes and looking for solutions that will save the honey bee.
The reliably cold-hardy ‘Summer Cascade’ wisteria was bred from a hardy strain of Kentucky wisteria and first known as ‘Betty Matthews,’ after a White Bear Lake resident in whose yard it grew.
U of M apple breeders, Jim Luby and David Bedford, describe the University’s apple breeding program and how they are incorporating both new and old techniques to help discover the next U of M release.