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John M. Capik, Megan Muehlbauer, Ari Novy, Josh A. Honig, and Thomas J. Molnar

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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Thomas J. Molnar, Megan Muehlbauer, Phillip A. Wadl, and John M. Capik

Open access

Richard P. Marini, Tara Auxt Baugher, Megan Muehlbauer, Sherif Sherif, Robert Crassweller, and James R. Schupp

‘Honeycrisp’ (Malus ×domestica) apples were harvested from a total of 17 mid-Atlantic orchards during 2018 and 2019 to verify a previously published bitter pit prediction model. As in the previous study, bitter pit incidence was associated with low calcium (Ca) levels and high ratios of nitrogen (N), potassium (K), and/or magnesium (Mg) to Ca in the fruit peel and excessive terminal shoot growth. The best two-variable model for predicting bitter pit developed with the 2018–19 data set contained boron (B) and the ratio of Mg to Ca (R 2 = 0.83), which is different from previous models developed with data from three individual years (2015–17). When used to predict the bitter pit incidence of the 2018–19 data, our previous best model containing the average shoot length (SL) and the ratio of N to Ca underestimated the incidence of bitter pit. The model is probably biased because one or more important variables related to bitter pit have not yet been identified. However, the model is accurate enough to identify orchards with a low incidence of bitter pit.

Free access

Megan F. Muehlbauer, Josh A. Honig, John M. Capik, Jennifer N. Vaiciunas, and Thomas J. Molnar

The development of new cultivars resistant to the disease eastern filbert blight (EFB), caused by Anisogramma anomala, is of primary importance to hazelnut (Corylus sp.) breeders in North America. Recently, a large number of EFB-resistant cultivars, grower selections, and seedlings from foreign germplasm collections were identified. However, for a significant number of these, little is known of their origin, relationships, or genetic background. In this study, 17 microsatellite markers were used to investigate the genetic diversity and population structure of 323 unique accessions, including EFB-resistant and tolerant germplasm of uncertain origins, in comparison with a panel of known reference accessions representing a wide diversity of Corylus cultivars, breeding selections, and interspecific hybrids. The resulting allelic data were used to construct an unweighted pair group method using arithmetic averages (UPGMA) dendrogram and STRUCTURE diagram to elucidate relationships among the accessions. Results showed 11 consensus groups with EFB-resistant or tolerant accessions in all, providing strong evidence that EFB resistance is relatively widespread across the genus Corylus. Furthermore, open-pollinated seedlings tended to group together with reference accessions of similar geographic origins, providing insight into their genetic backgrounds. The results of this study add to the growing body of knowledge of hazelnut genetic resources and highlight recently introduced EFB-resistant seedling germplasm as new, unrelated genetic pools of resistance.

Full access

Josh A. Honig, Megan F. Muehlbauer, John M. Capik, Christine Kubik, Jennifer N. Vaiciunas, Shawn A. Mehlenbacher, and Thomas J. Molnar

European hazelnut (Corylus avellana L.) is an economically important edible nut producing species, which ranked sixth in world tree nut production in 2016. European hazelnut production in the United States is primarily limited to the Willamette Valley of Oregon, and currently nonexistent in the eastern United States because of the presence of a devastating endemic disease, eastern filbert blight (EFB) caused by Anisogramma anomala (Peck) E. Muller. The primary commercial means of control of EFB to date is through the development and planting of genetically resistant european hazelnut cultivars, with an R-gene introduced from the obsolete, late-shedding pollinizer ‘Gasaway’. Although the ‘Gasaway’ resistance source provides protection against EFB in the Pacific northwestern United States (PNW), recent reports have shown that it is not effective in parts of the eastern United States. This may be in part because the identification and selection of ‘Gasaway’ and ‘Gasaway’-derived cultivars occurred in an environment (PNW) with limited genetic diversity of A. anomala. The objectives of the current research were to develop a genetic linkage map using double digestion restriction site associated DNA sequencing (ddRADseq) and identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) markers associated with EFB resistance from the resistant selection Rutgers H3R07P25 from southern Russia. A mapping population composed of 119 seedling trees was evaluated in a geographic location (New Jersey) where the EFB fungus is endemic, exhibits high disease pressure, and has a high level of genetic diversity. The completed genetic linkage map included a total of 2217 markers and spanned a total genetic distance of 1383.4 cM, with an average marker spacing of 0.65 cM. A single QTL region associated with EFB resistance from H3R07P25 was located on european hazelnut linkage group (LG) 2 and was responsible for 72.8% of the phenotypic variation observed in the study. Based on its LG placement, origin, and disease response in the field, this resistance source is different from the ‘Gasaway’ source located on LG6. The current results, in combination with results from previous research, indicate that the H3R07P25 source is likely exhibiting resistance to a broader range of naturally occurring A. anomala isolates. As such, H3R07P25 will be important for the development of new european hazelnut germplasm that combines EFB resistance from multiple sources in a gene pyramiding approach. Identification of EFB resistance in high disease pressure environments representing a diversity of A. anomala populations is likely a requirement for identifying plants expressing durable EFB resistance, which is a precursor to the development of a commercially viable european hazelnut industry in the eastern United States.