Incidence and severity of fire blight [Erwinia amylovora (Burr.) Winslow, Broadhurst, Buchanan, Krumwiede, Rogers, and Smith] following field infection were recorded using families resulting primarily from open-pollination of Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill. var.domestica (Borkh.) Mansf. cultivars and a few other Malus Mill. sp. The families were structured as three sublines, planted in three successive years (1992 to 1994), of a diverse population of apple germplasm established at HortResearch, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. The incidence of fire blight varied among the sublines with the oldest planting exhibiting more fire blight. Flowering trees were more likely to be infected than nonflowering trees, in terms of both incidence and severity. Furthermore, the level of fire blight was related to flowering date, with later flowering trees having higher levels. Thus, family means and narrow-sense heritability estimates were computed after first adjusting the fire blight score for flowering date by fitting a linear model. Provenance of origin of the maternal parent explained little variation except that M. sieversii Lebed. families were more resistant than M. sylvestris var. domestica families in one subline. Family means computed using all trees, and those from only flowering trees were highly correlated. Families from open-pollination of M. honanensis Rehder and M. xhartwiggii Koehne females were among the more susceptible. Those from several European M. sylvestris var. domestica cultivars as well as from M. baccata (L.) Borkh. and M. toringoides (Rehder) Hughes females were among the more resistant families. Narrow-sense heritability estimates ranged from 0.05 to 0.85 depending on the subline, with most estimates between 0.12 and 0.36. They were higher in the two older sublines that consisted primarily of open-pollinated families from M. sylvestris var. domestica, and lower in the younger subline that consisted primarily of M. sieversii, due to lower incidence and severity in the latter subline. Breeders who consider potential complications of juvenility, tree size, and flowering date in relation to infection periods should be able to exploit field epidemics to perform effective selection.
Four subsets of apple (Malus Mill.) germplasm representing modern and old cultivars from the repository and apple genetics population of the Horticulture and Food Research Institute of New Zealand Limited were used in this study. A total of 155 genotypes randomly chosen from the four subsets were analyzed for random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) variation. Nine decamer primers generated a total of 43 fragments, 42 of which were polymorphic across the 155 genotypes. Pairwise distances were calculated between germplasm subsets using the distance metric algorithm in S-PLUS, and used to examine intra-and inter-subset variance components by analysis of molecular variation (AMOVAR). A phenogram based on unweighted pair group method with arithmetic average (UPGMA) cluster analysis was constructed from the pairwise distances and a scatter plot was generated from principal coordinate analysis. The AMOVAR showed that most of the variation in the germplasm (94.6%) was found within subsets, suggesting that there is significant variation among the germplasm. The grouping of genotypes based on the phenogram and scatter plot generally did not reflect the pedigree or provenance of the genotypes. It is possible that more RAPD markers are needed for determining genetic relationships in apple germplasm. Nevertheless, the variation observed in the study suggests that the current practice of sublining populations in the first generation to control inbreeding may not be necessary in subsequent generations. If these results are confirmed by fully informative molecular markers, germplasm managers should reassess the structure of their genetics populations. There may be a need to combine sublines in order to capture the maximum genetic diversity available and to streamline breeding efforts.