Balsgård – questions and answers

Last changed: 16 January 2024

After a few years of preparation, plant breeding of fruits and berries is now being moved from Balsgård to Campus Alnarp. Below are some questions and answers about what is happening and why.

The establishment of selected plant materials in Alnarp was started during 2022/2023 in order to ensure their long-term availability for research, education, and variety development. Propagation and moving the plant materials is expected to continue over a three-year period.

Why does plant breeding need to be moved?

The plant breeding of fruits and berries is being moved to Alnarp for both operational strategy and economic reasons. The conditions for the activities are changing over time and there are currently insufficient resources to continue with variety development at Balsgård. The pooling of personnel resources and infrastructure functions to Campus Alnarp increases the opportunities to exploit economies of scale and coordination with other parts of the faculty's activities within plant breeding, and research and education within fruits and berries.

  • What positive effects does the move have on teaching and research?

Students and researchers will have the opportunity to have practical involvement in breeding new varieties, as well as to contribute to solutions to challenges linked to plant breeding and apple cultivation. They will also have close access to more plant collections and cultivations of different varieties of fruits and berries. Expertise in plant materials, cultivation, further processing and product usage within fruits and berries will increase on campus.

  • Increase the attractiveness of campus – how?

More plant materials and more cultivation systems to be inspired by, as well as to use in various contexts. Expertise in and the physical presence of activities focused on fruits and berries in Alnarp contribute to SLU's horticultural profile on Campus Alnarp.

  • Concrete plans have been drawn up for how the horticultural courses and study programmes at Alnarp can be expanded with regard to fruits and berries and other cultivated plants. How will the move contribute to this?

More plant materials and cultivations to be inspired by and learn from, the opportunity to learn in practice about how to breed new varieties of apple from seed to fruit, as well as further processing into a range of products. The opportunity for meetings within different specialist areas on the theme of fruits and/or berries in order to jointly develop sustainable production systems that need access to a toolbox based on a wide range of expertise that can exploit opportunities and meet challenges. Food and landscape is one example of an emerging field of education/learning that can benefit from the establishment in Alnarp.

  • Other reasons?

Raises the profile of SLU Alnarp in the media. The development of a focus on fruits and berries in Alnarp strengthens the location's prominent position in the area of cultivated plants through the presence of NordGen and the Programme for Cultivated Diversity (POM).

What are the plans for plant breeding of fruits and berries at Campus Alnarp?

We will be prioritising apples in plant breeding at Alnarp. This means both plant breeding research and breeding new varieties. Collections of varieties of other plant species will be established that can be used for teaching and research, as well as for breeding new varieties, provided that the economic prerequisites exist.

What happens now in purely practical terms? How are the plant materials moved?

Selected plant materials will be moved from Balsgård to Campus Alnarp during the years up to and including around 2024. Moving the plant materials from Balsgård will be carried out gradually. For apples, this means the following:

  • Important varieties of apples in the apple collections at Balsgård will be selected, propagated and moved for continued use as parents in breeding new varieties.
  • There are currently about 8,000 apple seedlings at Balsgård that are 1–4 years old. The most healthy and resilient of these seedlings will be dug up, moved and planted at Alnarp for further evaluation.
  • Older seedlings, 5-9 years old, which have started or are expected to start flowering soon will be selected at Balsgård for fruit and tree properties. Selected trees will then be propagated by grafting and planted in variety testing at Alnarp together with selections and varieties from abroad starting in 2024.

For other fruits and berries, a limited number of accessions will be selected and propagated, and then planted at Alnarp.

Where will the plant materials from Balsgård be located at Alnarp?

Work is in progress to identify suitable locations for variety collections, breeding populations and variety testing of apples that will be sited at various locations at Alnarp. We are investigating fields that have existing structures for irrigation, protection from wind, etc., as well as a completely new establishment on farmland to the east of the old fruit and berry fields.

Other plant materials will be sited in several different locations on campus depending on the context within which they best belong.

What uses will be made of the plant materials that are moved?

The plant materials will be used for breeding new varieties (primarily apples), plant breeding research and teaching. Some of the plant materials will also be available to the public and in guided tours.

Now the farm is being sold – what will be retained and how will it be managed?

The intention is to sell the farm centre, including buildings as well as the land adjacent to the buildings, while the farmland will be retained by SLU. SLU's Buildings Division will continue to be the responsible authority for the farmland as a land resource for future needs within the university. When the land is not being used by SLU, it will be made available to external parties by way of lease.

What's happening at Balsgård?

The plant breeding populations at Balsgård will each be cleared away once they have been evaluated. The best seedlings will be propagated and then planted at Alnarp for variety testing. The plant genetic materials in the variety collections at Balsgård that are considered as being important to preserve for the future will also be propagated and moved to Alnarp. Some will be added to the national collection of fruits and berries.

Why won't all the trees and bushes be used?

Trees and bushes in variety collections need continuous maintenance in order to survive and be used, which takes resources away from research and teaching. It will therefore only be possible to retain variety collections of the absolutely most important plant materials for longer periods of time. Normally, 2-3 seedlings from each variety are saved.

For breeding new varieties, a large number of seedlings are produced, from which only the seedlings with the best properties are used for continued evaluation, and for eventual registration as a new variety. This is the normal approach for breeding new varieties.


Dr. Anders Carlsson, Head of Department
Department of Plant Breeding, SLU, +46 (0)40-415561