The Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima Blume) and other Castanea species (Castanea spp. Mill.) have been imported and circulated among growers and scientists in the United States for more than a century. Initially, importations of C. mollissima after 1914 were motivated by efforts to restore the American chestnut [Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh.], with interests in timber-type characters and chestnut blight resistance. Chestnut for orchard nut production spun off from these early works. Starting in the early 20th century, open-pollinated seeds from seedlings of Chinese chestnut and other Castanea species were distributed widely to interested growers throughout much of the eastern United States to plant and evaluate. Germplasm curation and sharing increased quite robustly through grower networks over the 20th century and continues today. More than 100 cultivars have been named in the United States, although a smaller subset remains relevant for commercial production and breeding. The University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry curates and maintains a repository of more than 60 cultivars, and open-pollinated seed from this collection has been provided to growers since 2008. Currently, more than 1000 farms cultivate seedlings or grafted trees of the cultivars in this collection, and interest in participatory on-farm research is high. Here, we report descriptions of 57 of the collection’s cultivars as a comprehensive, readily accessible resource to support continued participatory research.
Eastern filbert blight (EFB), caused by the fungus Anisogramma anomala, is a primary limitation to european hazelnut (Corylus avellana) cultivation in eastern North America. American hazelnut (Corylus americana) is the endemic host of A. anomala and, despite its tiny, thick-shelled nuts, is a potentially valuable source of EFB resistance and climatic adaptation. Interspecific hybrids (Corylus americana × C. avellana) have been explored for nearly a century as a means to combine EFB resistance with wider adaptability and larger nuts. Although significant progress was made in the past, the genetic diversity of the starting material was limited and additional improvements are needed for expansion of hazelnut (Corylus sp.) production outside of Oregon, where 99% of the U.S. crop is currently produced. Our objective was to determine if C. americana can be a donor of EFB resistance. We crossed 29 diverse EFB-resistant C. americana accessions to EFB-susceptible C. avellana selections (31 total progenies) to produce 2031 F1 plants. In addition, new C. americana germplasm was procured from across the native range of the species. The new collection of 1335 plants from 122 seed lots represents 72 counties and 22 states. The interspecific hybrid progenies and a subset of the American collection (616 trees from 62 seed lots) were field planted and evaluated for EFB response following field inoculations and natural disease spread over seven growing seasons. EFB was rated on a scale of 0 (no EFB) to 5 (all stems containing cankers). Results showed that progeny means of the interspecific hybrids ranged from 0.96 to 4.72. Fourteen of the 31 progenies were composed of at least one-third EFB-free or highly tolerant offspring (i.e., ratings 0–2), transmitting a significant level of resistance/tolerance. Several corresponding C. americana accessions that imparted a greater degree of resistance to their hybrid offspring were also identified. In addition, results showed that 587 (95.3%) of the 616 C. americana plants evaluated remained completely free of EFB. These findings confirm reports that the species rarely expresses signs or symptoms of the disease and should be robustly studied and exploited in breeding.
The perennial stem canker disease eastern filbert blight (EFB), caused by Anisogramma anomala, is devastating to most trees of European hazelnut (Corylus avellana), as genetic resistance is rare in the species. The pathogen is harbored by the wild American hazelnut (Corylus americana) found throughout much of eastern North America. Wild American hazelnut is generally resistant or tolerant to EFB, and is fully cross compatible with C. avellana, the species grown commercially for its nuts, making it a valuable resource for disease resistance breeding. The objective of this study was to identify quantitative trait loci (QTLs) associated with EFB resistance and tolerance in these two species. Three unrelated EFB-resistant C. americana selections [Oregon State University (OSU) 533.069 from Pennsylvania, OSU 403.040 from Nebraska, and OSU 557.122 from Wisconsin] were crossed with C. avellana ‘Tonda di Giffoni’ (TdG), a cultivar from Italy known to be tolerant of EFB. Their progenies, each containing 124 trees, were exposed to A. anomala through field inoculations and natural spread over 7 years, then each tree was evaluated for cumulative disease response. Results showed that disease response of all three populations exhibited a roughly normal distribution, indicating that resistance/tolerance was under multigenic control. An average of 2869 total markers were used to construct each population’s linkage map following genotyping, which included an average of 121 published simple sequence repeat markers to anchor linkage groups (LGs) to those of previous studies. Linkage maps were constructed for each parent of each population and used to map QTLs associated with EFB response. The subsequent analysis resolved five EFB-related QTLs across the three populations, highlighting three genic regions. Unexpectedly, only one QTL was identified from one of the three resistant C. americana parents, located on LG11 of the map of OSU 403.040, whereas three QTLs were found in a similar region on LG10 across the three maps of TdG, and a fifth QTL was found on LG6 of one TdG map. The lack of strong QTLs identified from the three EFB-resistant C. americana parents suggests that their resistance may be highly quantitative and not resolved within the constraints of this study. In contrast, tolerance from TdG appears to be conferred by a limited number of genes with relatively strong effects. Based on prior mapping work in European and American hazelnut where R genes have been located on LG2, LG6, and LG7, the QTLs associated with resistance/tolerance on LG10 and LG11 represent novel resistance regions. These QTLs present new targets for marker aided breeding, especially when pyramiding EFB resistance genes is a goal.
Eastern black walnut (Juglans nigra) is a large tree endemic to the eastern United States and is highly sought after for its timber products and uniquely flavored nuts. The University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry in New Franklin, MO, USA, hosts an eastern black walnut cultivar repository. This collection supports an ongoing breeding program to improve economic performance for nut production (kernel weight, nut quality, precocity, and yield). In 1996, 54 cultivars were grafted and planted in a series of experimental orchards for evaluation. From 2001 until 2015, trees were evaluated for 12 phenological and eight nut quality/yield traits. Economically relevant traits including kernel weight, kernel percentage, and precocity (total nuts produced age 6 to 10 years) ranged from 1.1 to 8.6 g, 5.3% to 39.3%, and 16 to 1522 total nuts per tree, respectively. Kernel percentage was positively correlated with kernel weight (r = 0.51) and precocity (r = 0.38). Precocity was negatively correlated with the first (r = −0.39) and last (r = −0.30) female bloom. Principal component analysis and biplot analyses revealed high levels of variation among the cultivars. The first two components explain 43.4% of the total variation. Nut dimensions (nut length and nut thickness), nut and kernel weight, and kernel percentage are the largest drivers of variation in the collection. Eigenvectors for precocity and kernel percentage load together and are orthogonal to kernel weight, suggesting these three important traits can be improved simultaneously. Also, nut length loads with kernel weight, providing a candidate indirect selection parameter to increase kernel weight. These data inform strategies for crossing scheme design, expectations for multitrait genetic gain, complementary hybridization, and identifying unique recombinants.