NHAES scientists share in $10 milion USDA research grant

October 08, 2014

NH Agricultural Experiment Station (NHAES) scientists at the University of New Hampshire are among those who have been awarded a $10 million, five-year federal grant to develop and apply modern DNA-based tools to deliver new cultivated varieties of rosaceous crops such as apples, peaches, strawberries, and cherries with superior product quality and disease resistance.

Considered among the leading scientists worldwide conducting this kind of research, geneticist Tom Davis, bioinformaticist Hailong Zhang, and graduate students Lise Mahoney, David Wood, and Yilong Yang, join 35 scientists from 14 U.S. institutions along with numerous international collaborators to work on genomics, genetics, and breeding of rosaceous crops.

"RosBREED: Combining Disease Resistance with Horticultural Quality in New Rosaceous Cultivars," the project will adapt and demonstrate new DNA-based tools in 22 U.S. breeding programs, focusing on eight crops: apple, blackberry, peach, pear, rose, strawberry, sweet cherry, and tart cherry. RosBREED brings unprecedented attention to local and regional breeding programs and a commitment to more efficiently, accurately, and creatively develop commercial scion and rootstock cultivars.

"This project includes our team's recently established strawberry breeding program funded through the Experiment Station at UNH, which aims to release new varieties bred for local growers and markets while being resistant to disease and suitable for organic production. Fruit quality is a top priority, while some of the new varieties also will incorporate ornamental qualities such as novel flower colors and attractive foliage for the home garden and landscape," said Davis, professor of plant biology and genetics in the UNH College of Life Sciences and Agriculture.

The grant is from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Specialty Crop Research Initiative and will be managed by scientists at Michigan State University and Washington State University.

NHAES scientists have been instrumental in the development of advanced tools and methods for genetic testing to determine which strawberries have the best combinations of qualities. They have played an integral role in developing the IStraw90® SNP Array. The array is a powerful tool that allows strawberry breeders to use the DNA of strawberries to select plants with potentially superior combinations of the genes that influence traits of interest, such as disease resistance and fruit taste.

The United States is the world's leading producer of strawberries. In 2012, the United States produced more than 3 billion pounds valued at $2.4 billion, according to the USDA. Most U.S. strawberries are grown in California. Strawberries are an important crop in New Hampshire. Becky Sideman, associate professor of plant biology and UNH Cooperative Extension professor and specialist in sustainable horticulture production, estimates the retail value of New Hampshire's strawberry crops at about $1.85 million, which she says is a conservative estimate.

The strawberry is among the most genetically complex plants, with eight sets of chromosomes. In comparison, humans have two sets of chromosomes - one set inherited from each parent. Not surprisingly, it has taken scientists longer to develop DNA analysis tools for strawberry than for some other crop plants and domesticated animals.
-end-
About the NH Agricultural Experiment Station

Founded in 1887, the NH Agricultural Experiment Station at the UNH College of Life Sciences and Agriculture is UNH's original research organization and an elemental component of New Hampshire's land-grant university heritage and mission. We steward federal and state funding to provide unbiased and objective research concerning diverse aspects of sustainable agriculture and foods, aquaculture, forest management, and related wildlife, natural resources and rural community topics. We maintain the Woodman and Kingman agronomy and horticultural farms, the Macfarlane Greenhouses, the Fairchild Dairy Teaching and Research Center, and the Organic Dairy Research Farm. Additional properties also provide forage, forests and woodlands in direct support to research, teaching, recreation and outreach.

University of New Hampshire

Related Genetics Articles from Brightsurf:

Human genetics: A look in the mirror
Genome Biology and Evolution's latest virtual issue highlights recent research published in the journal within the field of human genetics.

The genetics of blood: A global perspective
To better understand the properties of blood cells, an international team led by UdeM's Guillaume Lettre has been examining variations in the DNA of 746,667 people worldwide.

Turning to genetics to treat little hearts
Researchers makes a breakthrough in understanding the mechanisms of a common congenital heart disease.

New drugs more likely to be approved if backed up by genetics
A new drug candidate is more likely to be approved for use if it targets a gene known to be linked to the disease; a finding that can help pharmaceutical companies to focus their drug development efforts.

Mapping millet genetics
New DNA sequences will aid in the development of improved millet varieties

Genetics to feed the world
A study, published in Nature Genetics, demonstrated the effectiveness of the technology known as genomic selection in a wheat improvement program.

The genetics of cancer
A research team has identified a new circular RNA (ribonucleic acid) that increases tumor activity in soft tissue and connective tissue tumors.

New results on fungal genetics
An international team of researchers has found unusual genetic features in fungi of the order Trichosporonales.

Mouse genetics influences the microbiome more than environment
Genetics has a greater impact on the microbiome than maternal birth environment, at least in mice, according to a study published this week in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

New insights into genetics of fly longevity
Alexey Moskalev, Ph.D., Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Radiobiology and Gerontology Institute of Biology, and co-authors from the Institute of biology of Komi Science Center of RAS, Engelgard's Institute of molecular biology, involved in the study of the aging mechanisms and longevity of model animals announce the publication of a scientific article titled: 'The Neuronal Overexpression of Gclc in Drosophila melanogaster Induces Life Extension With Longevity-Associated Transcriptomic Changes in the Thorax' in Frontiers in Genetics - a leading open science platform.

Read More: Genetics News and Genetics Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.