Within the framework of the Estonian National Programme of Plant Genetic resources the Polli Horticultural Research Centre of the Estonian University of Life Sciences is responsible for the investigation and preserving of the genetic resources of fruit and berry cultivars and selections bred in Estonia. The collections of fruit and berry cultivars are part of the Estonian plant genetic resources network initiated in 1994. Collections themselves date back to the beginning of breeding work at the institute established at Polli in 1945.
Almost one thousand accessions have been planted into the collections, including registered varieties, landraces and some selections of 17 tree fruit and small fruit crops. The accessions include 370 apple, 80 pear, about 100 plum, 60 cherry, 55 strawberry, and 75 black currant varieties. Among these there are 253 accessions of Estonian origin including 43 apples, 7 pears, 23 plums, and 17 cherries. Besides Estonian cultivars, the collections include foreign cultivars that were introduced for producing fruits, for use in breeding programmes as parents and for screening for prospective cultivars in both aspects.
The Polli Horticultural Research Centre is the only institution in Estonia that is engaged in circumstantial investigation of fruit and small fruit cultivars. The repository has a common mission: to collect, maintain, distribute and evaluate genetic resources. The most important investigated characteristics are: resistance to frost and some economically important diseases, yield potential, blooming time, self-compatibility, ripening time, storage ability, attractiveness of fruits, their flavour and chemical composition, also plant size and growing habit. The collections are used for both research and teaching purposes.
The level of the documentation and evaluation of the accessions is being constantly improved. The database will contain information about the biochemical composition and phenological and economic descriptors of Estonian fruit and berry cultivars. It will also provide practical tips about growing different cultivars and will cover all relevant literature sources.
Currently the electronic database of the accessions preseved at Polli includes information on 253 cultivars and prospective selections bred in Estonia and it is accessible through the website of the coordinator of the national programme for genetic resources, Estonian Crop Research (http://www.etki.ee) and Nordic Genetic Resource Centre. An on-line catalogue of the cultivars bred in Estonia can be accessed also at http://www.polli.ee. The accessions of Estonian origin are available to international collaborators for evaluation, research or breeding.
An inventory and a more detailed characterisation of the of accessions of our Ribes collections, both Estonian and introduced cultivars, is being carried out within the EU plant genetic resources project “RIBESCO - Core collection of Northern European gene pool of Ribes”.