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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Kearneysville, West Virginia » Appalachian Fruit Research Laboratory » Innovative Fruit Production, Improvement, and Protection » Research » Research Project #425434

Research Project: Genetic Improvement of Fruit Crops through Functional Genomics and Breeding

Location: Innovative Fruit Production, Improvement, and Protection

Project Number: 8080-21000-023-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Apr 4, 2013
End Date: Apr 3, 2018

1: Discover new genetic knowledge, and develop superior germplasm with improved fruit quality, disease and pest resistance, precocity, productivity, and adaption to climate change for stone fruits and pear. 1.A. Apply traditional breeding methods to improve fruit quality (fruit size, sugar/acid balance, color, and time of ripening), disease and pest resistance, precocity, and productivity of peach and pear germplasm. 1.B. Determine the relationship between pear scion architecture and rootstock performance, and develop improved rootstocks for pear. 2: Develop accelerated breeding systems for tree fruit species. 3: Develop and apply new molecular knowledge and technologies for tree fruit improvement. 3.A. Understand molecular mechanisms of flowering. 3.B. Develop molecular knowledge and technologies to produce novel, improved fruit types. 3.C. Understand molecular mechanisms underlying the development of tree architecture. 4: Address barriers to applying transgenic technologies to genetically improve stone fruits and pear. 4.A. Develop effective genetic engineering technologies for fruit trees. 4.B. Develop knowledge for the regulatory approval and public acceptance of transgenic plants.

The objectives of this project are to provide genetic solutions to major problems affecting temperate tree fruit agriculture. This will be accomplished through: 1) traditional breeding methods to produce genetically improved tree fruit cultivars; 2) integration of biotechnology applications to improve breeding efficiency; 3) development of core knowledge about complex agricultural traits that will enable genetic improvements; and 4) development of genetic engineering technologies for tree fruits and addressing genetically modified organism (GMO) market acceptance issues. The broad base of expertise of the research team, from advanced genomics to field-oriented breeding, will enable this program to incorporate the most appropriate technologies to solve the target problems and develop integrated solutions that encompass diverse scientific disciplines. Traditional breeding programs will focus on improving fruit quality, tree architecture, and resistance to major pests and diseases in both stone fruits and pears. To speed breeding efforts in the future, biotechnology strategies will be used to shorten tree juvenility and enable rapid generational cycling. Fundamental agronomic traits that are potentially transformative but complex in nature including flowering time, stone development, and tree architecture will be studied using genetic, genomic, and epigenetic strategies to develop the core knowledge necessary for future genetic improvements. Improved plant material generated from both traditional and biotech approaches will be evaluated in collaboration with the industry and consumer groups, speeding the utilization of this material. The planned research has the potential to revolutionize the breeding of tree crops through the acceleration of the breeding cycle. The identification and utilization of genes affecting tree architecture will allow for the genetic restructuring of trees for new, more efficient orchard systems. Elucidation of epigenetic control of plant function opens new avenues for plant improvement. The development of improved and novel fruit qualities and the release of new varieties can impact fruit production and marketing, increase the consumption of these health-promoting agricultural products, and improve the U.S. fruit industry’s competitiveness.