Location: Crop Germplasm Research2009 Annual Report
1. Modern Genetic Tools Define Pecan History: Pecan (in the genus Carya) is a valuable U.S. nut crop, and is also an important component of many U.S. ecosystems. Understanding the genetic relationships among Carya occurring naturally in different North American habitats is important in defining how these species evolved over time and how they historically expanded their ranges. The use of molecular biology tools can facilitate genetic research on Carya species to provide a better understanding of Carya history, and also to facilitate development of pecans as a commercial crop. Modern molecular methods including polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques were developed and used to obtain definitive genetic information, including patterns of genetic inheritance, on a diverse group of Carya species (from Mexico to the northern U.S.). This accomplishment is important because it established that southern Carya populations are much older than northern populations that were established after Pleistocene glaciation. The genetic tools developed by the work will be valuable in studies to document historical movements of Carya populations, and to better understand critical genetic aspects of the genus Carya that can be exploited in developing better pecan cultivars for use by U.S. farmers.