The variety Jewel Marble aubergine (Solanum melongena) was released into the seed trade in 2020-21. It is an addition to the Jewel series which was originally released in 2015. A variety series is bred to have similar performance for habit and maturity, usually in a range of contrasting colours so that a crop can be grown as a mixture.
In the case of Jewel, there are now five components in the series:
Jewel Jet (black fruit)
Jewel Amethyst (purple fruit)
Jewel Jade (green fruit)
Jewel Ivory (white fruit)
Jewel Marble (striped fruit)
All these varieties are compact, well-branched, have lots of small fruit in distinct colours.
Once the original coloured fruit varieties were uniform and ready for bulking to commercial quantities, the question was ‘what next’?
There is a wide range of publically available germplasm that can be researched and acquired. Of the material available, we decided that a striped fruit variety and long fruited types would be interesting to add and enhance the commerciability of the series.
The internet is a valuable tool to identify germplasm resources and buy them.
Once a range of acccessions was made, they were grown out and compared in trials. The closest in habit and performance were hybridised with one of the Jewel colours. The hybrids were grown out, allowed to self pollinate (technically, F1 generation to F2 generation). The F2 generation was then grown and the contrasting genes segregated out. The best plants were selected and seed harvested for the next generation. This was repeated with further selection for the F3, F4, F5 generations until the target characters (habit, fruit colour, fruit size) were uniform and comparable with the Jewel ideotype.
Once the needed level of uniformity was achieved, basic stock seed was sent to the production farm and commercial quantities of seed made, which were then shipped back to Norwich for quality control and grading.
After 5 years of work, the new variety needed a name and became Jewel Marble. In order to sell, the new variety must be inscribed onto the EU Common Catalogue (‘brexit’ makes this more difficult and more expensive). Once that is done, seed can be sold.
The question again becomes ‘what next’?
Work is ongoing to identify long fruited types in a habit to match Jewel. We would hope to identify a product that is ready for production during 2022.