azalea breeding

Project Details


Main research question/goal
How can the ornamental breeding specialists at ILVO respond to the Flemish azalea growers’ demand for new azalea cultivars? How can the ILVO azalea gene pool (the largest in the world) support the creation of novelties? ILVO has years of experience in azalea breeding. In 2008, ILVO began to collaborate closely with the Belgian growers cooperative Azanova cvba. This collaboration gives 21 azalea growers an active role in the ILVO breeding programme. Cultivars are bred for added value such as novel flower forms, fragrance, and disease resistance. Bio-assays developed at ILVO are used for resistance breeding.

Research approach
The selection process occurs in various phases. In Phase 1 parent plants are chosen from ILVO’s extensive azalea collection, crosses are made, and the first selection is made among the seedling populations. In Phase 2 selected plants are cloned and the selected cultivars are judged more precisely and diverse characteristics are examined. Disease resistance is also tested during this phase. In Phase 3, or the pre-commercial phase, candidate cultivars are tested at commercial nurseries in different production systems and pot sizes. Flowering is tested on different dates and post-sale shelf life is observed. Selections that pass the entire selection process are then introduced onto the market.

The collaboration with Azanova and the ILVO breeding programme has resulted in the successful release of novel azalea varieties with an accompanying marketing campaign. These joint efforts strengthen the position of the Flemish azalea growers worldwide. The members of Azanova are responsible for the production and marketing of the new cultivars. Azanova products can be recognized by a silver coloured pot. They are grouped under the commercial name AIKO®. AIKO® azaleas have unique, well-filled flowers. They are available in white, pink and red. More information on these new azaleas can be found at
Effective start/end date1/04/08 → …

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