NIFTS Home Page : Message from Director General

[ ここから本文 ]

Activities of NARO Institute of Fruit Tree Science 【NIFTS】

By Yoshinori HASEGAWA, ph D.
Director General, NARO Institute of Fruit Tree Science,
NARO Agriculture and Food Research Organization

  1. Overview of NIFTS
    Going back in time, the history of NIFTS began in Okitsu, Shizuoka Prefecture (present day Shizuoka city) in 1902 when it was established as the Horticultural Division of the Agricultural Research Station affiliated to the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce. It became an autonomous institute in 1921 and renamed as Horticultural Research Station. It moved to Hiratsuka city (Kanagawa Prefecture) in 1947. After its separation from the Divisions of Vegetable crops and that of Ornamental crops in 1973, it was established as the Fruit Tree Research Station of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. In line with the process of sifting most of the Research Organizations to the independent Agency, the Fruit Tree Research Station of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries made a new start as the NARO Institute of Fruit Tree Science affiliated to the independent Agency of the NARO Agricultural Research Organization in April 2001. The second stage mid-term plan (five years) began in 2006. From 2006 to date, the NARO Institute of Fruit Tree Science was re-organized as an independent Agency, the NARO Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO).
    At the time of starting the second stage mid-term plan, the mid-term target that the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries provided for five years was aimed at being entirely achieved. Therefore, about 130 research topics of NARO as a whole were provided. The research team that bears the responsibility for each research issue was arranged under a research manager. Toward the achievement of the second stage mid-term target, the NIFTS was organized under the Director General with the Department of Planning and General Administration, the research managers, the senior coordinator of citrus research, and the Research Support Center. Along with them, 11 research teams working on Japanese pear, chestnut, stone fruits breeding, etc. and one research sub-team were established. The existing Research Divisions and laboratories were abolished due to the introduction of the research team system. However, in order to promote efficient fruit tree research, the research is continuously developed by arranging the research base in the various suitable ecologies for tree crop cultivation. It is also necessary to implement and continue the research on the exploration, collection, preservation and utilization of the genetic resources to enhance genetic introgression into the existing germplasm and broaden the genetic base for breeding in the long term. For the reason that the research team system is not accustomed to the aim of achieving with the time limit, the Fruit Genome Research Team is arranged in the Research Support Center.
    1. Research system of individual fruit tree
      At present, the duty of the NIFTS is to ensure achievement of the goals shown in the mid-term target as a research institute of NARO specializing in the research on fruit trees. So the NIFTS aims at contributing to the fruit industry by promoting the development of new cultivars and rootstocks of the fruit trees and improving the cultivation technique, the pest control and the postharvest technology, etc.
      In order to promote these researches, the headquarters (Tsukuba city, Ibaraki Prefecture) arranges some research teams which corresponds to the research, chiefly on Japanese pear, chestnut and stone fruits such as peach, and a research team which studies important issues such as the effects of global warming, fruit genomics, etc. At the Okitsu Citrus Research Station (Shizuoka city, Shizuoka Prefecture) and the Kuchinotsu Citrus Research Station (Minami-Shimabara city, Nagasaki prefecture), the research on evergreen fruit trees such as citrus are being implemented. At the Okitsu Citrus Research Station, the important research such as the health benefits of fruits and genomics are chiefly targeted. At the Kuchinotsu Citrus Research Station, the research on cultivation techniques, crop improvement, physiology, control of disease and insect damage are being promoted. At the Apple Research Station (Morioka city, Iwate Prefecture), the cold district fruit trees, comprising chiefly apples, are being researched. At the Grape and Persimmon Research Station (Higashi-Hiroshima city, Hiroshima prefecture), grape and persimmon are chiefly researched on utilizing the warm and dry climate condition of the Setouchi region.
    2. Agricultural technique training system that aims at promoting succession in manpower
      The NIFTS traditionally has its agricultural training system that starts from the apprentice system in 1906. This system targets high school graduates and adopts a residential system which lasts for two years. Training is being conducted on the cultivation techniques on deciduous fruit trees at the Headquarters in Tsukuba and on evergreen fruit trees at the Okitsu and the Kuchinotsu Citrus Research Stations. This system is aimed at training fruit tree farmers’ successors and engineers of fruit trees. Over 3000 people have already graduated and most of them are actively involved as leaders in the various fruit tree districts nation-wide.

  2. Research activities in the second stage mid-term plan
    Targeting the main fruit tree grown in our country such as citrus, apple, Japanese pear, chestnut, stone fruits, grape, persimmon, etc., 11 research teams, one research sub-team, and the fruit genome research laboratory are implementing research everyday while cooperating with the research teams in other Research Institutes, if required, in order to achieve the mid-term target. The outline of the main research content currently carried out at the NIFTS is shown under the following four divisions:
    1. Promoting the development of fruit cultivars with high quality and breeding efficiency for the attainment of highly profitable fruit tree management
      The NIFTS raises novel and superior cultivars of fruit tree crops such as citrus that is easy to peel and rich in healthy nutritional constituents; apple, persimmon and chestnut with high fruit quality traits. Genetic dissection is undertaken for useful genes such as resistance to citrus canker and crown gall of apple aimed at enhancing the efficiency of the breeding program for these important traits; and the development of DNA makers associated with non-astringent persimmon. Furthermore DNA fingerprinting technology is developed for the chestnut and other fruit crops to facilitate identification and spread of the newly developed cultivars as early as possible.
    2. Development of labor- and cost- saving technologies for sustainable production of high-quality fruit crops accommodating environmental perturbations such as global warming
      The NIFTS aims at the development of technologies for sustainable production of high-quality fruit crops accommodating the effects of global warming, and clarifies the influence that high temperature exerts on coloring of the pericarp of grape. It implements the development of the technology to control peel puffing of Satsuma mandarin and dormancy breaking technology of Japanese pear. Moreover, it elaborates on the down scaling that improves the development and resolution of a map which forecasts the movement of adequate production district for fruit trees which corresponds to the IPCC fourth evaluation report. In order to establish the cultivation technique that keep apple trees low using apple JM rootstock, the NIFTS further develops the training and pruning technique that ensures stable annual production and clarifies the causative factor of weakening fruit trees. The NIFTS also provides insights into the relationship between the training and pruning method and the dynamics of nutrients and water uptake from soil in Japanese pear orchard.
    3. Development of pest control technology using biotic function which contributes to establishment of ‘environmentally preserving’ fruit tree production system
      In developing disease control technology using biotic pesticide, the NIFTS researches on the characteristics of mycoviruses with different ability to lower the disease infectivity. The analyses of gene structure also aims at clarifying the characteristics of the fungus related to Japanese pear dwarf disease, and at the same time, analyzes the properties of Vitivirus recently isolated from grape for investigating the cause of the grapevine Corky bark disease.
      For the development of the ‘environment preserving’ pest control technology, the NIFTS clarifies the situation of the occurrence of Amblyseius californicus which is a natural enemy of citrus red spider mite, the behavior of spawning and damaging of fruits caused by oriental fruit moth to Japanese pear and the upspring time of the larva of Diaspidiotus perniciosus in apple orchard. Aiming at the development of a countermeasure technology against the citrus greening disease, the NIFTS clarifies the region where citrus psyllid overwinters and seeks to develop a method to identify the infectivity of bacteria. At the same time, it clarifies the cause of the mutation of bacteria between the countries and within the country of origin, and develops an identification method of the individual group of citrus psyllid in each region.
    4. Clarification of physiological functionality to increase consumption of domestic fruits and development of supply technology of highquality fruits
      In order to increase fruit consumption through the clarification of the physiological functionality that fruits possess, NIFTS implements the epidemiological research based upon which the relationship between the consumption of citrus and other fruits with various health indexes are analyzed continuously. Simultaneously, the technology that strengthens the elements of the physiological functionality in fruits after harvest is being developed. Moreover, to contribute to the promotion of exporting domestic fruits, the dynamics of ethylene receptor that forms the basis for technology development to effectively preserve the freshness is clarified. At the same time, whether post-harvest disorders of fruits are reduced using plant growth regulators, new materials, etc. is being investigated, and the cost saving method to preserve the freshness is developed. Furthermore, to prevent the product district camouflage, the product district verification technology is developed for apple and Japanese pear.

NIFTS Home Page Back