Low temperature is one of the most important environmental factors limiting crop plant growth, distribution, and productivity. New cultivars with improved freezing tolerance are a common breeding objective of many temperate fruit breeding programs. Improved freezing tolerance would prevent crop loss due to low temperature and reduce yearly fluctuations in crop quantity and quality. Breeding temperate fruit cultivars for improved freezing tolerance is made difficult by several factors, including complexity of the phenotype, difficulty in accurate measurement of the phenotype, and lack of fundamental knowledge concerning the inheritance and genetic control of this trait. Results from inheritance studies of freezing tolerance in temperate fruit crops as well as recent research in forestry genetics highlight some of the challenges and opportunities for further elucidating the inheritance of freezing tolerance in temperate fruit crops. A tremendous amount of research has been conducted describing the molecular biology and signal transduction of the cold acclimation response in the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana. These findings have begun the transfer to research in agriculturally important crops and hold great promise for elucidating novel methods for generating new fruit cultivars with improved freezing tolerance.
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