‘Pyramiding’ wilt genes to boost UK strawberry production

15th Jul 2015

Genetic markers, abundant in the cultivated strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa), will lead to new varieties resistant to Verticullium Wilt (Verticillium dahliae).

The work led by scientists at East Malling Research (EMR) has shown that the more resistance-associated markers a plant had, the greater its resistance to wilt. The implication of this work is that plant breeders can now ‘pyramid’ these genes to produce high levels of disease resistance in new varieties.

The results of this study funded by BBSRC and an HDC-funded PhD studentship (Laima Antanaviciute) are now being introduced to the strawberry breeding programmes at EMR.

“Verticillium wilt is a soil-borne fungal pathogen that infects strawberries and many other crops through the roots, causing wilting and cell death,” commented EMR Crop Geneticist Dr Richard Harrison. He continued, “With only a single chemical treatment available, there has been an urgent need to improve crops’ resistance to this key disease.”

Markers significantly associated with the disease resistance trait were used to screen material with known wilt resistance and susceptibility phenotypes. A clear and statistically significant relationship was observed between resistant, tolerant and susceptible material and the total number of markers present in the different resistance classes.

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