Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Genetic Improvement for Fruits & Vegetables Laboratory » Research » Research Project #444275

Research Project: Accelerating Blueberry and Cranberry Improvement by Exploiting Germplasm Resources and Multi-omics Technologies

Location: Genetic Improvement for Fruits & Vegetables Laboratory

2023 Annual Report

Objective 1. Enhance genomic resources for blueberry and cranberry by increasing the number of reference genomes in these crops and related species, leveraging evolving genotyping platforms to develop well-saturated genetic maps, and mapping and utilizing QTL for marker development and gene discovery of selected traits. Sub-objective 1a. Develop new reference genomes. Sub-objective 1b. Develop a consensus genetic-physical map for cranberry. Sub-objective 1c. Map QTL for selected traits in blueberry and cranberry. Sub-objective 1d. Develop markers for key QTL and identify trait-associated candidate genes. Sub-objective 1e. Develop and use virus-induced gene silencing (VIGs) and CRISPR gene editing to test target gene function in blueberry and cranberry. Objective 2. Develop improved cranberry/blueberry pre-breeding and breeding methods that exploit high-dimensional genomic, phenomic, and environmental data, leading to the development of genetic stocks, improved breeding lines, and elite cultivars. Sub-objective 2a. Develop and evaluate methods to effectively and reciprocally introgress rabbiteye (V. virgatum) and highbush (V. corymbosum) germplasm to produce improved and environmentallyadapted selections and cultivars. Sub-objective 2b.Develop and evaluate methodology to utilize V. meridionale (Andean blueberry) to improve highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum), and to cross-transfer blueberry (V. corymbosum / V. virgatum), cranberry (V. macrocarpon), and lingonberry (V. vitis-idaea) germplasm. Sub-objective 2c. Develop, validate, and implement genomic selection models to initiate a rapid recurrent selection cranberry pre-breeding pipeline. Sub-objective 2d. Develop and deploy systems for image-based high-throughput phenotyping and trait discovery in cranberry and blueberry. Objective 3. Apply ‘omics technologies to better understand fundamental cranberry/blueberry processes and plant-microbe interactions such as disease resistance and environmental stress tolerance. Sub-objective 3a. Develop hyperspectral imaging techniques for the collection of phenotypic data of blueberry and cranberry, such as disease status, fruit wax, and stress response. Sub-objective 3b. Use transcriptomics to characterize response of blueberries and cranberries to various treatments such as temperature stress and during various other processes/developmental stages.

Uncover genome variation in Vaccinium crops and related species, using long-read sequencing and advanced bioinformatics tools. Evaluate V. meridionale by highbush blueberry, by lingonberry, and by cranberry F1 progeny for quality traits and as pre-breeding material for the development of superior lines. Develop genomic selection (GS) models to enhance prediction accuracy for selection and breeding. Increase the use of imaging for high-throughput phenotyping and the procedures for image analysis. Employ RNAseq experiments to identify important target genes and create markers for their selection in progeny.

Progress Report
This is a newly established project approved thru OSQR review. Please see final annual report 8042-21000-279-000D. Phenotyping for various traits in blueberry and cranberry is in progress. Second year evaluation is underway for a replicated plot containing families composed of “Nocturne × highbush” pentaploids × 4x highbush cultivar individuals, and families composed of “Nocturne × highbush” pentaploids × 6x rabbiteye cultivar individuals. Selected genotypes of Highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum) x Andean blueberry (V. meridionale) and genotypes of Andean blueberry (V. meridionale) x lingonberry (V. vitis-idaea) are being propagated for distribution to cooperators to allow evaluation of environmental adaptation.