Generous MNRC participants are dedicated to supporting research science and breeding efforts. They believe in the development of cold hardy, disease resistant, prolific and profitable future cultivars and varieties.
Since 1957, MNRC has collected voluntary payments from propagators of U of M ornamental and fruit introductions and contributed over $2 million to the U of M Department of Horticultural Science. Due to funding and budgetary cutbacks, MNRC payments are critical and greatly appreciated.
The following University of Minnesota breeding programs are supported in part through the MNRC:
Woody Landscape Plant Breeding Project
Since 1954, U of M woody landscape plant breeders have been developing new and improved trees and shrubs for USDA plant hardiness zone 4 landscapes. For long term projects, including the famed ‘Lights” azaleas, breeders use a systematic process of traditional breeding, selection and evaluation.
For new breeding initiatives, the process begins with a germplasm evaluation of seedlings originating from the northern-most location we can identify. Such evaluations provide a sense for the taxa’s range of diversity for horticultural qualities, and allow us to begin selecting parents for the breeding process.
Herbaceous Perennial Breeding Program
The University of Minnesota’s Herbaceous Perennial Breeding Program is recognized as one of the premiere public-sector flower breeding project programs in the world.
Highlights from the program include the creation of new chrysanthemum plant habits (from large shrubs to groundcover types), discovery and breeding of reflowering, non-vernalization requiring lilies, release of USDA Zone 4 winter-hardy gladiolus, and cold-tolerant gaura are example research efforts enabling the generation of revitalized floricultural crops for the 21st century.
Focus on preventing the creation of invasive ornamental floriculture crops prior to their release onto the market has led to research on contributing factors within the horticultural distribution channel, risk assessment, as well as plant traits to select against during domestication.
Fruit Breeding Program
The University of Minnesota’s Fruit Breeding Program focuses on developing, evaluating, and introducing fruit cultivars with horticultural, disease and pest resistance, and fruit quality characters desired by growers and consumers in Minnesota and surrounding areas.
The breeding programs concentrate on apple and grape. Research aims to determine the inheritance of these traits and, where appropriate, map important loci using molecular markers for use in marker-assisted breeding. Recent or current examples include traits related to fruit quality and scab resistance in apple, resistance to apple scab, and low temperature responses, disease resistance, sex type and fruit quality in grape derived from wild Vitis riparia.
Native and Ornamental Grasses Research Program
The University’s Native and Ornamental Grasses Research Program is housed at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. First planted in 1987, the site is now how to one of the largest collections in the United States and contains over 200 ornamental and native species and cultivars.
The plants are evaluated annually for winter survival, flowering time, growth habit, self-seeding, and winter interest with favorites being introduced to the marketplace. Every year, new plants are added to the collection and others are removed from the program.