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Craig M. Hardner, Marisa Wall, and Alyssa Cho

Macadamia is a rapidly developing global crop; however, limited cultivation history and size of the industry means many challenges remain to support sustained productivity and profitability of this industry. This paper summarizes oral and poster presentations, and subsequent papers included in this volume, delivered at the 2017 International Macadamia Research Symposium, held in Hilo, HI, in September of that year. This was the first international meeting of macadamia researchers since 1992. The 28 oral and seven poster presentations covered propagation technology, tree physiology, soils and nutrition, pollination, pest and disease, orchard management, genetics and breeding, product development, and new production regions. Notable messages were that micrografting of macadamias is commercially viable; planting density and girdling could increase early yield per hectare; resource availability may limit cross-pollination yield; and yield production of individual branches is not independent. Integrated pest management was described to develop pest-resilient farming systems and manage felted coccid; an international collaborative approach was proposed for effective disease management and early detection; and the concept of integrated orchard management was used to translate research outputs into a common language for grower adoption. In the areas of breeding and genetic resources, research demonstrated that modern macadamia cultivars are two to four generations from wild but do not capture all wild diversity; progress was reported on the Macadamia Genome Project to produce the first macadamia reference genome; and advances in phenotypic selection and cultivar development were described.

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Mark E. Herrington, Craig Hardner, Malcolm Wegener, Louella L. Woolcock, and Mark J. Dieters

In Queensland, Australia, strawberries (Fragaria ×ananassa Duchesne) are grown in open fields and rainfall events can damage fruit. Cultivars that are resistant to rain damage may reduce losses and lower risk for the growers. However, little is known about the genetic control of resistance and in a subtropical climate, unpredictable rainfall events hamper evaluation. Rain damage was evaluated on seedling and clonal trials of one breeding population comprising 645 seedling genotypes and 94 clones and on a second clonal population comprising 46 clones from an earlier crossing to make preliminary estimates of heritability. The incidence of field damage from rainfall and damage after laboratory soaking was evaluated to determine if this soaking method could be used to evaluate resistance to rain damage. Narrow-sense heritability of resistance to rain damage calculated for seedlings was low (0.21 ± 0.15) and not significantly different from zero; however, broad-sense heritability estimates were moderate in both seedlings (0.49 ± 0.16) and clones (0.45 ± 0.08) from the first population and similar in clones (0.56 ± 0.21) from the second population. Immersion of fruit in deionized water produced symptoms consistent with rain damage in the field. Lengthening the duration of soaking of ‘Festival’ fruit in deionized water exponentially increased the proportion of damage to fruit ranging in ripeness from immature to ripe during the first 6-h period of soaking. When eight genotypes were evaluated, the proportion of sound fruit after soaking in deionized water in the laboratory for up to 5 h was linearly related (r 2 = 0.90) to the proportion of sound fruit in the field after 89 mm of rain. The proportion of sound fruit of the breeding genotype ‘2008-208’ and ‘Festival’ under soaking (0.67, 0.60) and field (0.52, 0.43) evaluations, respectively, is about the same and these genotypes may be useful sources of resistance to rain damage.

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Mobashwer Alam, Craig Hardner, Catherine Nock, Katie O’Connor, and Bruce Topp

The Hawaiian cultivars Keaau (HAES660) and Mauka (HAES741) were selected by the University of Hawaii—released in 1966 and 1977, respectively—and have been used extensively in macadamia orchards throughout the world. Recent molecular evidence suggests that these two cultivars are almost identical genetically; however, commercially they have been considered phenotypically different. This study reviews available molecular, historical, and phenotypic evidence to examine the hypothesis that these two cultivars are the same genotype. Phenotypic variability for morphological traits was observed in a replicated trial at Wolvi, QLD. Historical evidence suggests that both ‘HAES660’ and ‘HAES741’ were derived from the same orchard. We identified strong genetic and phenotypic similarities between these cultivars, with variability in some simple traits. This study provides evidence that these two cultivars are isogenic or near isogenic and may have been derived from the same plant source.

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Craig Hardner, João Costa e Silva, Emlyn Williams, Noel Meyers, and Cameron McConchie

In 2017, five new cultivars specifically selected for Australian conditions were released. These were developed from an improvement program initiated by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in the early 1990s. Progeny seeds were produced by crossing industry standard cultivars with other cultivars with elite kernel production per unit projected canopy area. Seedlings were planted at two densities (2 m and 4 m along rows) in field trials at Bundaberg in 1997 and 1998, and Northern New South Wales in late 1997, along with replicated plants of parents grafted onto seedling rootstocks. Trials were assessed for commencement of flowering, growth, yield, kernel recovery, and components of kernel quality over 8 years. Best linear unbiased predictions of clonal values were obtained for each individual progeny using a pedigree-based mixed linear model. A bio-economic model was used to estimate economic weights for a selection index of clonal values to identify elite candidates. Final approval of 20 candidates for second-stage assessment was made by an industry committee using selection index rankings and observations of tree field performance and kernel quality.

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Katie O’Connor, Ben Hayes, Craig Hardner, Mobashwer Alam, and Bruce Topp

Current macadamia breeding programs involve a lengthy and laborious two-stage selection process: evaluation of a large number of unreplicated seedling progeny, followed by replicated trials of clonally propagated elite seedlings. Yield component traits, such as nut-in-shell weight (NW), kernel weight (KW), and kernel recovery (KR) are commercially important, are more easily measured than yield, and have a higher heritability. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) combined with marker-assisted selection offers an opportunity to reduce the time of candidate evaluation. In this study, a total of 281 progeny from 32 families, and 18 of their 29 parents have been genotyped for 7126 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers. A GWAS was performed using ASReml with 4352 SNPs. We found five SNPs significantly associated with NW, nine with KW, and one with KR. Further, three of the top 10 markers for NW and KW were shared between the two traits. Future macadamia breeding could involve prescreening of individuals for desired traits using these significantly associated markers, with only predicted elite individuals continuing to the second stage of selection, thus potentially reducing the selection process by 7 years.

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Mark E. Herrington, Craig Hardner, Malcolm Wegener, Louella Woolcock, and Mark J. Dieters

The Queensland strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) breeding program in subtropical Australia aims to improve sustainable profitability for the producer. Selection must account for the relative economic importance of each trait and the genetic architecture underlying these traits in the breeding population. Our study used estimates of the influence of a trait on production costs and profitability to develop a profitability index (PI) and an economic weight (i.e., change in PI for a unit change in level of trait) for each trait. The economic weights were then combined with the breeding values for 12 plant and fruit traits on over 3000 genotypes that were represented in either the current breeding population or as progenitors in the pedigree of these individuals. The resulting linear combination (i.e., sum of economic weight × breeding value for all 12 traits) estimated the overall economic worth of each genotype as H, the aggregate economic genotype. H values were validated by comparisons among commercial cultivars and were also compared with the estimated gross margins. When the H value of ‘Festival’ was set as zero, the H values of genotypes in the pedigree ranged from –0.36 to +0.28. H was highly correlated (R 2 = 0.77) with the year of selection (1945–98). The gross margins were highly linearly related (R 2 > 0.98) to H values when the genotype was planted on less than 50% of available area, but the relationship was non-linear [quadratic with a maximum (R 2 > 0.96)] when the planted area exceeded 50%. Additionally, with H values above zero, the variation in gross margin increased with increasing H values as the percentage of area planted to a genotype increased. High correlations among some traits allowed the omission of any one of three of the 12 traits with little or no effect on ranking (Spearman’s rank correlation 0.98 or greater). Thus, these traits may be dropped from the aggregate economic genotype, leading to either cost reductions in the breeding program or increased selection intensities for the same resources. H was efficient in identifying economically superior genotypes for breeding and deployment, but because of the non-linear relationship with gross margin, calculation of a gross margin for genotypes with high H is also necessary when cultivars are deployed across more than 50% of the available area.