Chile’s raspberries to go under the microscope

Scientists to analyze genetic makeup of Chilean raspberry to further understand fruit’s development and growing patterns.

Raspberries are set to receive some star treatment by Chilean scientists in a bid to better understand the delicate fruit’s growth, ripening and processing.

Chile’s Center for Healthy Research (CREAS) will be working to map out a gene analysis of the raspberry. CREAS researcher and biologist Lida Fuentes explained why studies of this fruit is particularly relevant to Chile.

“The initiative came about because I realized raspberries, and their close variant blackberries, are rarely studied fruits that have economic importance for Chile,” she told Fresh Fruit Portal.

“In general, the Rubus genus has been studied very little on a genetic level. So we chose Heritage (Rubus idaeus L. cv Heritage) because it’s a variety that has adapted very well to Chilean conditions,” Fuentes said. “It has good production from November to April, depending on the conditions. Availability is a main reason we chose this variety.”

Scientists will thoroughly analyse the raspberry’s cellular structure and the hormones that are thought to regulate the ripening process.

“I focused on post-harvest issues for raspberries, because if you harvest it ripe in the field, it will be in bad condition two days later in the refrigerator. The objective is to know how to prolong the shelf life through hormonal and other treatments,” the researcher said.

The post-harvest unit of La Platina, Chile’s Agricultural Research Institute (INIA), is collaborating with the researchers. The team has already applied an auxin hormone treatment for plant growth and ethylene to encourage ripening and senescence. The results will be evaluated soon by researchers once the treatment has made an impact on the fruit.

“At first there was considerable controversy if ethylene was involved in ripening or not. Now, we are seeing that this does have implications when fruit is on the plant,” Fuentes said, who added that the research is also important in relation to better understanding climatic conditions and soil types that may affect the raspberry.

During the last 10 years, fresh fruits exports in Chile grew at an annual average rate of 12.6 percent. Raspberries represent 10.7 percent per year. Raspberries also represent the crop with the largest amount producers in the country, who are 21,000 strong.