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Kim E. Hummer

N.I. Vavilov’s theories direct present-day global activities in plant science, breeding, and conservation. His expeditions around the world located centers of diversity of crop evolution. Vavilov was one of the earliest scientists to realize that wild genetic diversity could be lost, through genetic erosion, reducing the possibilities for future crop improvement. To measure genetic erosion, Gary Nabhan and colleagues traveled in 11 countries following routes that Vavilov had taken more than half a century before. The detailed notes concerning the vegetation and flora that Vavilov observed could be used as a baseline in contrast with Nabhan’s plant and cultivar inventories to observe changes in plant diversity at specific sites. The objective of this manuscript is to summarize potential genetic erosion at three case study locations, the Pamiri Highlands of Tajikistan, the Ethiopian Highlands, and the Colorado Plateau of Southwestern North America. At these localities Vavilov’s notes can be compared with the agricultural activities of the modern day. In each case, significant climatic, environmental, and human-caused changes have affected the local agriculture during the intervening years. Localities that have retained diversity have suffered the least. Reduction of diversity is associated with decreased agricultural stability and productivity. Programs encouraging farmers to manage diversity and promote involvement of local youth in agriculture may reduce or moderate the effect of genetic erosion.

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Kim E. Hummer

More than 35 species of blueberries (Vaccinium L.) and huckleberries (Vaccinium and Gaylussacia Kunth.) are indigenous to North America. The indigenous North American peoples, wise in the ways of survival, recognized the quality of these edible fruits and revered these plants. Beyond food needs, these plants played significant roles in their culture, sociology, economics, and spirituality. Because these traditions, developed and gathered over millennia, were transmitted orally, documentation of these uses have been determined through archeological data, written records from western civilization after first contact, and recent surveys of present-day native peoples. The wealth of indigenous knowledge on blueberries, huckleberries, and other foods was shared with European immigrants. These fruits were used by many tribes throughout North America. Samuel de Champlain documented that fresh and dried blueberries provided “manna in winter” when other food was scarce. Pemmican, a preserved concoction of lean meat, fat, and blueberries or other fruit, enabled survival. Blueberry products such as ohentaqué, hahique, satar, sakisatar, sautauthig, k’enkash, navag, and nunasdlut’i were important to Native Americans. Roger Williams, Meriwether Lewis, and Henry David Thoreau were each impressed with the uses of blueberries by indigenous Americans. The social, technological, and horticultural changes that gave rise to a commercial wild huckleberry and blueberry gathering and production history are summarized.

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Kim E. Hummer

The center of diversity for white pine blister rust (WPBR) (Cronartium ribicola J.C. Fischer) most likely stretches from central Siberia east of the Ural Mountains to Asia, possibly bounded by the Himalayas to the south. The alternate hosts for WPBR, Asian five-needled pines (Pinus L.) and Ribes L. native to that region have developed WPBR resistance. Because the dispersal of C. ribicola to Europe and North America occurred within the last several hundred years, the North American five-needled white pines, Pinus subsections, Strobus and Parya, had no previous selection pressure to develop resistance. Establishment of WPBR in North American resulted when plants were transported both ways across the Atlantic Ocean. In 1705, Lord Weymouth had white pine (P. strobis L.), also called weymouth pine in Europe, seed and seedlings brought to England. These trees were planted throughout eastern Europe. In the mid-1800s, WPBR outbreaks were reported in Ribes and then in white pines in eastern Europe. The pathogen may have been brought to Europe on an infected pine from Russia. In the late 1800s American nurserymen, unaware of the European rust incidence, imported many infected white pine seedlings from France and Germany for reforestation efforts. By 1914, rust-infected white pine nursery stock was imported into Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wisconsin, and in the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. The range of WPBR is established in eastern North America and the Pacific Northwest. New infection sites in Nevada, South Dakota, New Mexico and Colorado have been observed during the 1990s.

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Kim E. Hummer

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Kim E. Hummer

The pear, Pyrus L., originated in prehistoric times. Records of its cultivation date back 3000 years both in Europe, with the ancient Romans and Greeks, and in Asia, with the Chinese. Pear culture was significant in France and England by the 16th century. The European golden age of pear improvement occurred from the 17th through the 19th centuries. The pear genetic resource collection for the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Plant Germplasm System is maintained at Corvallis, Ore. This collection preserves more than 2000 diverse pear accessions, represents 26 species, and includes more than 410 heirloom cultivars. At least 10 of the cultivars have obscure origins from the ancient Roman, Greek, or Chinese cultures. Another dozen are at least 400 years old, and more than 250 were introduced during the European golden age. Another 120 “antique” cultivars of the collection were introduced during the first half of the 1900s. The “big four” economically important Pyrus communis L. cultivars in the United States, `Bartlett', which originated in 1777; `Anjou', late 1700s; `Bosc', 1807; and `Comice', 1845; are also represented. Origin and background information for these heirloom clones is web accessible through the Germplasm Resource Information Network (GRIN) database. Although many ancient pear genotypes have been lost, the Repository staff continues to search for significant heirloom cultivars that are not yet represented. Besides having direct value in crop improvement, these plants are a significant part of our human heritage. Their preservation is a sacred trust.

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Kim E. Hummer

Several species of Ribes have ornamental qualities worthy of consideration in residential and commercial temperate zone landscape plantings. Ribes sanguineum Pursh has been selected and cultivated throughout the Pacific Northwest, and boasts of early spring flowers of white, pink, or red. The two species of golden currants, R. aureum Pursh and R. odoratum Wendl. f., have brilliant yellow-fl owered racemes. Ribes species exhibit a broad diversity of plant habit and texture ranging from the upright 2.5 m, vigorous, and fully armed Menzieís Gooseberry, R. menziesii Pursh, to the prostrate shade-loving Crater Lake currant, R. erythrocarpum Coville & Leiberg. R. viburnifolium A. Gray remains evergreen in mild climates throughout the year. The foliage of some selections of R. americanum Miller and R. cynosbati L. brighten to a brilliant crimson red in the fall. The fall foliage of other species, such as R. hirsuta L., develop a continuum of color on their branches, from bright red at the apex, through orange and yellow to green towards the base. Spring bloom data and ratings of fall color for species in the Corvallis Repository collection will be described.

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Kim E. Hummer

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service, National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis was established as the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System's berry genebank in 1981. Since then, the USDA has sponsored numerous explorations throughout the United States and foreign countries to obtain berry plant genetic resources. Species of Fragaria L. (strawberries), Ribes L. (currants and gooseberries), Rubus L. (raspberries and blackberries), and Vaccinium L. (blueberries and cranberries) are native to both domestic and international localities. With limited gene pools for cultivated strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, expeditions have provided a wealth of genetic resources to expand opportunities for breeders to develop new cultivars. Particularly given the diverse species inherent in the development of cultivated blueberries, these trips have discovered unusual new blueberry relatives and forms available for expanding the range of production, increasing plant yields, and improving fruit antioxidant content. Along the way, new fruit species and new uses for known species were observed. Gathering the bounty of the world's berries resulted in encounters with diverse fauna, from snakes, bears, and bison to butterflies, mosquitoes, ticks, and chiggers. Avenging Toxicodendron species have added their mark on intrepid explorers. Remote sites with nothing but clear night stars and the satellite markers on the global positioning system offer radiant beauty and an abiding hope for the conservation of plant genetic diversity for all people for all time.

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Kim E. Hummer

The genus Rubus L., indigenous to six continents, includes blackberries, raspberries, and their hybrids and is commonly referred to as brambles or briers. Rubus species were a food and medicinal source for native peoples soon after the Ice Age. This short article presents only a sample of the wealth of historical reports of medicinal uses for Rubus. Brambles were documented in the writings of the ancient Greeks: Aeschylus, Hippocrates, Krataeus, Dioscorides, and Galen; Romans: Cato, Ovid, and Pliny the Elder; Asian medicinal traditions; traditional Chinese medicine; and the Ayurvedic tradition of India. Folk traditions of native peoples throughout the world have also applied Rubus for multiple medicinal uses. Although in modern times Rubus is grown for its delicious and vitamin-rich fruit for fresh and processed product consumption, the ancients used the whole plant and its parts. Stems, branches, roots, leaves, and flowers were used in decoctions, infusions, plasters, oil or wine extractions, and condensates. Decoctions of branches were applied to stop diarrhea, dye hair, prevent vaginal discharge, and as an antivenom for snakebites. Leaves were chewed to strengthen gums and plastered to constrain shingles, head scurf, prolapsed eyes, and hemorrhoids. Flowers triturated with oil reduced eye inflammations and cooled skin rashes; infusions with water or wine aided stomach ailments. Greeks and Romans recorded female applications, whereas the Chinese described uses in male disorders. The fruits of R. chingii are combined in a yang tonic called fu pen zi, “overturned fruit bowl,” and prescribed for infertility, impotence, low backache, poor eyesight, and bedwetting or frequent urination. The Leechbook of Bald described the use of brambles against dysentery, combining ancient medicinal knowledge with pagan superstition and herb lore. Medicinal properties of Rubus continue in Renaissance and modern herbals, sanctioning leaf infusions as a gargle for sore mouth, throat cankers, and as a wash for wounds; the bark, containing tannin, was a tonic for diarrhea; and root extract, a cathartic and emetic. Recent research has measured high ellagic acid, anthocyanin, total phenolics, and total antioxidant content in Rubus fruits. Fruit extracts have been used as colorants and are now being tested as anticarcinogenic, antiviral, antiallergenic, and cosmetic moisturizing compounds. From ancient traditions through conventional folk medicines to the scientific confirmation of health-promoting compounds, Rubus is associated with health-inducing properties.

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Kim E. Hummer

In 1999, the National Clonal Germplasm Repository at Corvallis, Ore., was assigned to preserve the hardy Actinidia Lindl. resources for the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Plant Germplasm System. The fuzzy kiwifruit [A. deliciosa (A. Chev) C. F. Liang et A. R. Furguson] and other less cold-hardy Actinidia species, remain at the Davis Repository. The hardy Actinidia, commonly called Chinese gooseberries or hardy kiwifruit, encompass two taxonomic sections, Leiocarpae and Maculatae, and include about 13 described species. These perennial vines are natives of Asia and have been developed and cultivated in Lushan, Wuhan, and Guilin, China; Motueka, New Zealand; Kagawa Prefecture, Japan; Vladivostok, Russia; and California, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York in the United States. Thus far, the Corvallis Repository has established representatives of six species, A. arguta (Siebold & Zucc.) Planch. Ex Miq., A. callosa Lindl., A. kolomikta (Maxim.&Rupr.) Maxim, A. melanandra Franch., A. polygama (Siebold & Zucc.) Maxim., A. purpurea Rehder and 60 cultivars. These clones will be preserved as potted plants under screen. They will also be fruited and evaluated as trellised plants in the field. The repository plans to expand the species diversity of the collections. Plant requests for dormant scionwood or spring softwood cuttings are available by contacting the Corvallis Repository Curator.

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Kim E. Hummer