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  • Author or Editor: Kim Hummer x
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Abstract

The cover photograph, by Joseph Postman, Plant Pathologist, USDA/ARS, demonstrates a portion of the unique diversity of Pyrus germplasm within the collection at the National Clonal Germplasm Repository (NCGR) in Coivallis, Ore. Each of the fruits in the photograph is a pear species, hybrid, or cultivar.

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Pyrus communis L. germplasm came to North America with early settlers. Pyrus cultivars have markedly declined since the turn of the century when more than 2700 unique Pyrus cultivars and 10,000 cultivar synonyms were noted. In 1956, 844 Pyrus cultivars and selections were widely available. Fireblight, Erwinia amylovora (Burril) Winslow et al. 1923, and lack of cold hardiness were main causes of cultivated germplasm loss. During June through December 1989, I resurveyed 37 State Agricultural Experiment Stations which had pear collections in 1956, to determine the present extent of their collections. Only four had more than 100 cultivars; 12 had 10 to 100 cultivars; 21 had less than 10. Experiment stations have decreased their collections because of funding cuts and program redirection. The National Clonal Germplasm Repository at Corvallis, established in 1981, has a collection of 811 unique cultivars and representatives of 26 Pyrus species. About 194 cultivars published in 1908 are in the NCGR collection. At least 424 of those listed in 1956 still exist. Oriental species and other foreign selections not previously available are actively being acquired. About 80% of the clones in the NCGR collection are virus negative; about 10 % reside in backup in vitro storage. Fireblight damage has not been observed thus far. With continued federal support, Pyrus germplasm availability should remain more stable than the decline seen in the last 90 years.

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The National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) is a network of federal and state cooperative agencies which houses germplasm of economically important crops and their wild relatives. Curators are assigned to coordinate long term collections at facilities located throughout the country for optimum crop performance. Constant awareness of germplasm outside of the NPGS system will improve the scope and value of NPGS collections. This alternate source germplasm can reside in other national germplasm collections, in breeding and research collections, in botanical gardens and arboreta, and with private companies, organizations, or individuals. New plant explorations also continue to provide additional germplasm. Many organizations and individuals have begun compiling and publishing lists of germplasm sources. A summary of lists for temperate fruit and nut germplasm will be presented as an example. Compilations of this sort are extremely useful at the time of publishing but become outdated as listed sources change, or new sources are established. Periodic updating of published compilations are thus required. Contacts with Crop Advisory Committee members, plant researchers, and professional and amateur specialist organizations are also important sources of germplasm information.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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