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Kim Hummer

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 Compilations of this sort are extremely useful at the time of publishing but become outdated as listed sources change, or new sources are established.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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Kim Hummer

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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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 Hummer and Donna Gerten

In commercial growing regions the bloom period for currants and gooseberries is critical to crop development because of potentially damaging spring frosts. Breeding programs in northern latitudes include selection for frost avoidance mechanisms such as late blooming tendencies. Corvallis climate is milder than Ribes production regions, with the average winter minimum temperature about 10C and the coldest recorded April temperature of -5C in 1926. The last spring frost occurs by April 14 on average. About 30 cultivars and species selections of currants and about that same number of gooseberries were evaluated for blooming and fruiting at the National Clonal Germplasm Repository. Dates of first bloom, last bloom, first ripening, and last ripening during 1987 through 1989 were collected. The longest ripening period, 93 days, occurred in 1989 on a selection of R. burejense F. Schmidt. The shortest ripening period in 1989 was 70 days, occurring in many black currant cultivars including Black September, Crusader, Coronet, and Invigo. These same cultivars required a range from 62 to 66 days to ripen m 1987. For the years examined thus far, the earliest ripening dates occurred in 1987, starting as early as Julian date 150; the latest ripening date (192, Julian) occurred in 1988. Data from 1990 will be presented. The climate in the Pacific Northwest is favorable for the production of currants and gooseberries.

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Jules Janick and Kim Hummer

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Kim E. Hummer

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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

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 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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Allan Stoner and Kim Hummer

The latter part of the 19th and the first several decades of the 20th century can be described as a “golden age” for plant exploration and collecting. During the initial years of this period, agricultural scientists from the United States and elsewhere devoted considerable resources to collecting potential new crops for farmers as well as superior plants or cultivars of the species that farmers were already growing. Over time, there was a shift toward collecting unadapted germplasm, or raw material that possessed traits that plant breeders and other scientists could use for cultivar improvement and other types of research. Although many institutions and individuals were involved in plant collecting during this period, the creation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Seed and Plant Introduction in 1898, resulted in the largest single program devoted to plant exploration. This office employed many individuals, including David Fairchild, P.H. Dorsett, Frank Meyer, Walter Swingle, and Wilson Popenoe. These and many other individuals collected—and introduced into the United States—seeds and plants of thousands of fruits, vegetables, nuts, ornamentals, cereals, forages, oilseeds, and other types of crops. Although the mission of most of the plant explorations during this period was to collect any plants that appeared interesting or potentially useful, others focused on collecting targeted species. Much of the material collected during this era is still maintained by the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS), and much more of it shows up in the pedigrees of cultivars grown by farmers and gardeners today. In addition to collecting plants for immediate and future use, scientists of this era, such as Nicolai I. Vavilov and Jack Harlan, contributed greatly to the understanding of the evolution of plants and plant genetic diversity, and the interdependence of plants and civilization.