At the recent International Blackcurrant Conference (IBA) held in Kent, renowned plant breeding scientist Rex Brennan was presented with a specially commissioned painting as a token of the appreciation of UK growers. The painting was given for his outstandingly successful blackcurrant breeding programme. Rex Brennan has been breeding blackcurrants at the James Hutton Institute for more than 30 years and has produced at least ten highly commercial varieties. It is estimated that his varieties from the James Hutton Institute account for more than 50% of the global crop and new varieties are launched most years. Ben Hope alone accounts for 50% of the UK blackcurrant crop.
James Wickham, Head of blackcurrant procurement for Lucozade Ribena Suntory (LRS), made the presentation at the IBA Conference at the end of a talk by Rex, summarising the aims and objectives of his work so far, and discussing plans for breeding varieties in the future to overcome present day difficulties such as lack of winter chilling. The programme is also aiming to raise the level of the anthocyanins most associated with the healthy superfood status that blackcurrants already demonstrate.