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  • Author or Editor: John M. Capik x
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Eastern filbert blight (EFB), caused by Anisogramma anomala, is a devastating disease of Corylus avellana, the European hazelnut of commerce, and is considered the primary limiting factor of production in eastern North America. Conversely, C. americana, the wild American hazelnut, is generally highly tolerant of EFB, although it lacks many horticultural attributes necessary for commercial nut production. Hybrids of C. americana and C. avellana combine the EFB resistance of the wild species with the improved nut quality of the European species. However, inheritance of EFB resistance from C. americana remains unclear with existing hybrids derived from a very limited selection of parents. To investigate this topic, C. americana and advanced-generation C. americana × C. avellana hybrids were crossed with susceptible C. avellana and the resulting seedlings exposed to EFB through field inoculations and natural disease spread. In the winter after their fifth growing season, plants were rated for the presence of EFB using an index of 0 (no disease) through 5 (all stems containing cankers). The three progeny related to C. americana ‘Rush’ segregated for resistance in a ratio of one resistant to one susceptible, suggesting the presence of a single dominant R gene. A wide array of disease responses was observed for the other progenies with some expressing little EFB resistance or tolerance and others showing a distribution of disease phenotypes typical of control by multiple genes. Overall, the results indicate that both qualitative and quantitative resistance is present in C. americana. They also suggest that the choice of C. americana parent as well as the C. avellana parent will play a significant role in obtaining useful levels of EFB resistance in hybrid offspring, although the degree of disease expression in the parents may not be a useful predictor of progeny performance. Thus, more research is needed to understand inheritance of resistance, especially in advanced-generation backcrosses to susceptible C. avellana.

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Stable genetic resistance to the fungal disease eastern filbert blight (EFB), caused by Anisogramma anomala, is vital for sustainable production of European hazelnut (Corylus avellana) in eastern North America. In this study, new hazelnut germplasm from the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and Poland (a total of 1844 trees from 66 seed lots) was subjected to A. anomala under field conditions over at least five years in New Jersey. Plants were then rated for the presence of EFB using an index of 0 (no disease) through 5 (all stems containing cankers). Nuts of the resistant trees were evaluated to identify plants with improved kernel characteristics. Genomic DNA of these trees was also screened with sequence-characterized amplified region (SCAR) markers generated by the primers BE-03, BE-33, and BE-68, which are closely linked to the single dominant R-gene of ‘Gasaway’, to assess the resistant seedlings for the presence of this well-known source of resistance. At final evaluation, 76 trees remained free of disease with nine expressing only minor symptoms (rating 1 or 2). The resistant trees spanned 24 different seed lots representing all three countries. The remaining trees ranged from moderately to severely infected with 81% of the total collection rating 5. Several of the resistant trees were found to produce commercial-sized (≈12 mm diameter), round kernels that blanched well. Although the results of the ‘Gasaway’ SCAR primers were inconclusive, the diverse collection origins and disease phenotypes provide evidence that novel sources of resistance were likely identified in this study. These new plants should broaden the genetic base of EFB-resistant C. avellana hazelnut germplasm available for breeding.

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Central Asia is a center of diversity for many important fruit and nut tree species, including wild and cultivated apricots (Prunus armeniaca L.). A wealth of apricot germplasm that expresses novel and valuable characteristics such as fruits with high soluble solids, edible kernels, glabrous skin, and diverse colors and flavors, as well as later-blooming flowers, late-maturing fruit, and drought, cold, and salt tolerance, can be found growing across this region. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Central Asia has become more accessible for reciprocal germplasm exchange and scientific collaborations. Thus, opportunities now exist to obtain, study, and use a much wider diversity of Central Asian apricot germplasm in breeding efforts, which can lead to improved crop traits and ultimately an expansion of the regions where this high-value crop can be grown. To bring attention to the valuable P. armeniaca genetic resources found in Central Asia and to promote its better use, management, and preservation, a description and history of the species from a Central Asian perspective, along with recent and ongoing activities, are discussed in this article.

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