College of Food, Ag & Nat Res Sci
The goal of this project is to develop new fruit varieties for Minnesota and other regions. The group's primary focus is apple breeding with more minor efforts in other crops such as blueberry, blackberry, and strawberry. Outputs will include new cultivars and germplasm and improved knowledge on their performance in regions with cold winter climates. To facilitate this goal the researchers develop tools and knowledge base of phenotype and genotype information for critical traits in apple to enable efficient DNA informed breeding for critical traits. They focus efforts in discovery and validation of marker-trait associations on genomic regions of apple having major effects on postharvest fruit quality traits and apple scab resistance and develop informative markers that can be used to combine scab resistance and fruit quality traits in improved germplasm. They will also determine the utility of selection based on genome-wide DNA markers to improve fruit quality and combine improved fruit quality with apple scab resistance and estimate the economic costs:benefits of using DNA markers for breeding program applications.
Genetics and genomics information, and associated enabling technologies, are developing rapidly in apple and other fruit crops, leading to numerous discoveries with potential application. In these crops, many quantitative trait loci (QTLs) and major genes have been identified and genome sequence information has been published and relatively inexpensive DNA markers have become available. With these genomics advances genomics, marker-assisted breeding (MAB) implementation has only just begun in U.S. fruit breeding programs. These crops are clonally propagated for commercial production (as a scion-rootstock composite plant in apple) and have long generation times before the commercial product (fruit) can be phenotyped. Evaluation of individual plants requires intensive greenhouse and/or extensive field space; thus, phenotyping of individual plants is expensive. Application of DNA markers is an obvious opportunity that has not yet been widely implemented due to significant technical, economic, logistical, and informational barriers.