Breeding New Varieties of Fruit

Didn’t want to get the USDA thread too off topic so I started another thread.

This is a subject that interests me a lot, and I think a lot of us amateur fruit growers should try our hand at it. Yes, it takes a lot of time and you might not ever get what you are really after, but hey, you might, and then you’ve got a new variety that generations after you could be growing and thanking you for. As Luther Burbank said, “It only takes one plant to change an industry”

As we are always facing new challenges with fruit growing, it’s always best to have as many people as possible trying to develop new varieties that can handle whatever challenge is thrown at us.

So anyway, what are your “new variety” ideas? Or questions? I’m fairly new at this myself but have done an internship dealing with it that basically changed my life. Plant breeding is very cool stuff.

One trick to saving time and space is to grow out your seedlings until they are big enough to take a scion from and then graft it to the tips of the branches of an older tree (it will produce fruit much faster and you keep all your “experiments” on only one tree)


I look forward to watching this thread develop. I have already learned several things from the previous discussion.

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I’m interested in the Rubus species (Brambles) and stone fruit. Most of my ideas have been discussed. I have 4 or 5 directions I would like to go. I don’t plan to change the world, just my backyard! I like high acid stone fruits. I made a cross of Arctic Glo nectarine and Indian Free peach. Both are high acid and sugar. Arctic Glo has more sugar. it does not taste like an acid fruit in the Midwest region. I’m hoping to get a peach that ripens earlier and has more sugar. Indian Free may some years ripen too late here to harvest. it is close! Glo ripens early August. So a cross may ripen somewhere inbetween? This is my main goal. To fill a hole in my harvest window.
Indian Free is a great plant to work with for various reasons. It is an old cultivar, Jefferson grew it at Monticello.
IF is not self fertile, so it saves the step of having to emasculate the flowers. Plus you know if your cross took, if you bag the flower after pollination. So my tree’s fruit has to be a cross with something. It produced 21 fruits last year, I gave most away and had about 7 seeds left that I saved myself. These were from the flowers I crossed. If my cross failed (I didn’t bag flowers, i will this year!) Every seed is a hybrid, has to be. I have PF Lucky 13, Spice Zee Nectaplum, and Arctic Glo, so it has to be with one of them. All flowered and fruited last year. So that made it easy! See what happens! Seeds planted in ground last fall. Well actually in a Root pouch. See if it works. I keep brambles in root pouches all winter and they have survived. With so much air flow the soil is never too wet, like what happens in regular pots in the winter.


I want to breed my Superior or Alderman plum with pluots–FK or FS … Flavor Supreme would b e an interesting one because its so early to ripen…if someone could produce a similar fruit that was just a little later then FS …that would be a winner since at least with my yard, i have a gap after FS…

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That sounds like a good idea! If the pollen is compatible? I would try both. I may try it with Satsuma, what I have. Here again the fruit has to be a cross, no need to emasculate the flower. If you bag it, no other pollen can get in

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Do what you do in terms of making my first cross between desirable varities with desirable characterics. Then I do what you do with even a second or third cross with other crosses all the time selecting desirable characteristics. One thing I do few people think of is I listen to the insects and animals and get their opinion. Right now I lost some people but think of your garden and what happens to garden plants ? You can take a plant being eaten at and picked on as a compliment or insult but nature is telling you it tastes good. That plant you should pay close attention to because in every case I’ve seen its a winner in terms of desirable fruit. I also take the shotgun approach and plant a lot because of the hundreds of seeds I plant most will die in the first year because of cold, disease, etc. I start with wild apples seeds in the first place because they have already demonstrated they survive without people. They have more genetic diversity etc. In the end I have raised some fantastic apple trees. Its a pet project and I limit myself to a small space for that project. Great post Kate! @chartman has some great sources for wild apple seeds similar to what I used and that’s the way I started breeding apples. It takes years but when they produce their first apples its exciting. One last trick fireblight strikes after they come into fruit the first time so try to use FB resistant rootstock so if you use Kate’s method it does not kill the whole tree (don’t ask). Make sure to grow several of those graftable trees so all your eggs are not in one basket. Graft the same variety on two rootstocks instead of one because storms happen.


What kind of time frame is a person looking at to start getting fruit (apple) from a graft on a established tree?
I have had good luck at finding several decent varieties already established growing in the wild , but it would also be neat to experiment with trying to cross certain apples.

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In 2-3 years you are typically eating fruit if its a good established apple tree you top work with another variety.

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I’m having lots of fun hearing about everyone’s projects. Very cool!

Drew, I’m going to have to go read that thread on breeding brambles. That’s always interested me. I tried to cross some dewberries with blackberries one time, I emasculated the flowers (I’m thinking that was where I went wrong) and most of the flowers never produced any berries. I’ll have to read up on it and try it again. Very cool about the Arctic Glo/Indian Free cross.

Rob- a hybrid plum crossed with FS would be very cool. I’ll be interested to hear what you get since both FS and Alderman/superior are very complex hybrids themselves, I think. You could get anything!

Clark- that’s great! No doubt the bugs and birds will go for what tastes good. Good point about the grafts potentially giving the tree FB and killing it.

That brings up a good other topic- breeding for disease resistance. Anyone ever bred specifically for FB resistance?

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University of MN i believe uses this method…i don’t recall exactly the time frame but it wasn’t nearly as long as growing a seedling out.

There are other methods to speed up fruiting…you can bend branches, bark inversion, girdling…

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The “neatest” plant breeding trick i’ve seen was developed for Plums, but applicable to all Prunus species. There’s a gene that causes early and continual flowering. They splice that gene into the trees, and then can evaluate them within a year, instead of having to wait for the tree to mature

The trick is - they get rid of the GMO part. If you remember back to High School Biology, Genes, and Mendel’s squares - you remember that if a (gene:Xx) and (gene:Xx) cross is created, 25% of the offspring will be XX, 50% Xx, and 25% xx. In most breeding crosses using this system, they will only save the plants that exhibit the Early Continuous Flowering. But, at any cross, they can select for plants that are not genetically modified.

Not sure I explained it well. It’s called “FasTrak” University of CA - Ag & Natural Resources has a nice website:


Well you do want to do that! I have over 10 blackberry cultivars in my yard, and they have every ploidy level imaginable! My guess is that one was a diploid and the other a tetraploid or something else! They are all over the place with ploidy levels. it makes it difficult to cross. I had a chart but I can’t find it. it had many cultivars and what ploidy level they were at.
The fact you got no berries (or no drupes), shows me the cross was probably good, and uncontaminated. it just didn’t take, again my guess is incompatible ploidy level.

These little guys have been intentionally exposed to Fireblight. They show no signs. I’m breeding these more for pear rootstock because their parent is Kieffer


These are the crosses that I will make this year:

(Myrobalan plum x Mariposa plum hybrid)x cherry.

Peach x Apricot.

My proprietary plumcot x Peach.

Shakar Pareh plumcot x peach;

Shakar Pareh plumcot x my proprietary peach-Almond Hybrid.

Shakar pareh plumcot x cherry.

My proprietary peach-almond hybrid X almond.

Nectarine X Apricot.

Cherry x Apricot.

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So are there no limitations to crossing stonefruit? Can sweet cherry cross with a peach? apricot? It seems to cross with plums (Nadia)… I know for grafting…sweet cherries don’t play on most (all?) rootstocks that peach/cots/plums go on.

Nectarine x apricot? That would be interesting. Hopefully its early ripening…keeps the typical apricot skin/size…but the flesh is pure nectarine!

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Cherry with peaches?

But cherries with apricots? It might be possible.

About seven years ago, I created a peach x apricot hybrid, but the soil I used might’ve been infected with a virus. I used the same soil on two adult plants, and all died.

Nectarine x apricot hybrids already exist, just google “nectarcots” then click on images. They look like apricots, but they are smooth like a nectarine. The flesh is between an apricot and a peach. The seed resembles like that of a nectarine.

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I will be trying bramble breeding this year . Ploidy levels are hard to find so I will just wing it . Goal hardier blackberry .
It seems all the new cultivars are for zone 6 + no matter what they say . I need a good berry of good size that does not need winter protection .

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Alpricots, almond-apricot crosses, were available from a few nurseries a number of years ago, and my intention was to add one, but never got around to it. I think grimo nut was the last to offer one, but they were not shipping these to the US.

These were distinct from sweet pit apricots, but the latter is all I can now find (I did add Chinese (Mormon) sweet pit apricot when my search for Alpricots proved unfruitful. ( pun intended)



Mine too. I’m starting with Darrow, a hardy enough cultivar that needs no protection in zone 6. Now just to give it some more complex flavors. I have to wait till my Darrow plant grows out. It’s a tiny little thing right now.

I wanted to add that Indian Free is one of the peach leaf curl resistant peaches, so hopefully that gene will stay with any hybrids!

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