Fruit Breeding and Genetics


Fruit Breeding and Genetics

Dr. John R. Clark

The Department's current Fruit Breeding and Genetics Program was initiated in 1964 by Distinguished Professor Emeritus James N. Moore, and has continued under the leadership of John R. Clark since 1997. The program has commercialized approximately 70 genotypes including strawberry, peach, nectarine, ornamental Prunus, table grape, juice grape, blueberry, and blackberry.

The greatest success has been in blackberry, with the Arkansas program being a world leader in developing new blackberry cultivars particularly for the shipping industry along with local market producers and home gardeners. A major breakthrough in the blackberry program was the development and release of the first primocane-fruiting blackberry cultivars in 2004 (Prime-Jan® and Prime-Jim®), the release of the world's first shipping quality primocane-fruiting blackberry in 2009 (Prime-Ark® 45) and the introduction of the first thornless primocane fruiting blackberry (Prime-Ark® Freedom) in 2013.

Additionally, the program has cooperative breeding and testing activities with both private and public cooperators in the US and internationally. These cooperations allow for an expanded utilization of the program's genetic accomplishments.

The overall program focuses on development of fruit cultivars for Arkansas producers of fresh-market fruits. There is a range of objectives across the crops but common characters of improvement are quality, plant adaptation, plant health, and yield. The use of the cultivars extends beyond Arkansas however, to other states in the region, across the U.S., or in other countries.


The program has a very active intellectual property rights program that serves in the commercialization of most developments. Cultivars are commonly plant patented, with additional protections utilizing trademarks, Plant Breeders Rights, and other forms of protection worldwide. Income from royalties and testing and breeding agreements provide for substantial program support.
The program is based at the Division's Fruit Research Station, Clarksville, with additional activity in selection testing at the Southwest Research and Extension Center, Hope. Graduate and undergraduate students conduct research at the Fruit Research Station also, another important function of that unit in the program's educational component.

The program uses classical breeding techniques primarily. Molecular applications are being installed in the program for marker-assisted seedling and parent selection with the primary molecular focus in peach and nectarine.