As part of the research project „Entwicklung ökologisch gezüchteter Obstsorten in gemeingutbasierten Initiativen“ (short EGON – Development of organically bred fruit varieties in community-based initiatives), a three-day excursion of the project partners to the Centre wallon de Recherches agronomiques in Gembloux, Belgium (CRA-W) took place in August 2018. The CRA-W is a state research institute of Wallonia and deals with the sustainable development of (Walloon) agriculture from an economic, ecological, technical and cultural perspective. The institute is organised into four departments, each with several research units. We met there with the head of the unit “Breeding and Biodiversity”, the researcher and fruit grower Dr. Marc Lateur, and his team. This unit of the CRA-W deals with the development of new fruit varieties as well as fruit breeding methods and strategies.
In addition to an introduction and discussion about the work of the research institute, we were guided through the trial areas and variety collections, where we could see and try a variety of Belgian and international apple and pear varieties. This was of particular interest to the practical partners and natural scientists of the EGON project. Practice partners of the EGON project are fruit growers of the ecological-participative breeding initiative Apfel:gut. Ecological-participative in this context means that fruit growers concretely participate in the breeding process by breeding and selecting seedlings under ecological conditions (Bioland or demeter farms) on the land of the fruit growing farms. The CRA-W is also involved as advisor in an ecological-participative fruit breeding project in which fruit growers from Wallonia and Northern France are involved.
In addition, the methodological approach for the genetic analysis of apple varieties within the EGON project was presented by Dr. Nicholas P. Howard and discussed with colleagues. As a successful conclusion of the day at the research institute, our practical partners conducted an apple and pear tasting of current samples from the Apfel:gut breeding project with all participants.