The almond [Prunus dulcis Miller (D.A. Webb)] breeding program of the University of Adelaide began in 1997, with the objective of creating new superior cultivars with high productivity, good kernel quality, and self-fertility (Wirthensohn and Sedgley, 2002). The aim of self-fertility is, in part, due to the potential incursion of Varroa mite (Varroa destructor and Varroa jacobsoni) into almond-growing regions that would greatly affect bee hive performance at the critical time of flowering (Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, 2017). It also allows growers to have single-block orchards to facilitate more efficient orchard management. Scion cultivar improvement is acknowledged by the Almond Board of Australia as a high priority in their Industry Strategic Plan (ABA, 2018). Australian growers are mainly reliant on cultivars from overseas, mostly from California, but with a small representation of old Australian cultivars such as Johnston’s Prolific, Chellaston, and Keane. The Australian industry requires new varieties to expand its planting choices.
The breeding program has produced more than 34,000 seedlings and in 2016/2017, the first six cultivars were released commercially to the Australian almond industry. ‘Capella’, ‘Carina’, ‘Maxima’, ‘Mira’, ‘Rhea’, and ‘Vela’ all outperform the benchmark cultivar Nonpareil in yield, with four being self-fertile. The earlier flowering cultivars offer a replacement for ‘Price’, and the later flowering cultivars offer a replacement for ‘Carmel’, which is showing symptoms of noninfectious bud failure. All have been registered with the Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) office of Intellectual Property Australia (IP Australia) and US Plant Patents.
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