Forty delegates from nine European countries attended the highly successful meeting on the subject of Rosaceous Genomics research to consider how genetic knowledge across this plant family can help with crop improvement.
The Rosaceae includes many of the UK's important fruit crops and ornamentals - such as apple, pear, cherry, raspberry, strawberry, rowan and rose. Similarities between the crops at the molecular level mean that knowledge of agronomic genes and markers in one crop can now be a short-cut to finding them in another. Thus, for example, the wild strawberry, a small herbaceous plant with a short lifespan, can be used as a genetic model for not only the cultivated strawberry but also tree fruits such as apple and cherry.
Advantages include using molecular screening to detect the presence of resistance genes and using DNA fingerprints to identify plants in gene-bank collections which save both time and resources by reducing the need for expensive comparative trials.
Recent advances in all the important crops were presented. The three topics most discussed were the genes controlling flowering in strawberry, disease resistance genes in all rosaceous fruit crops and the genetics of self incompatibility in cherry, plum, almond and pear. These topics are important to plant breeders who are aiming to develop improved cultivars for these species that are more productive and less susceptible to diseases.
The meeting concluded with a discussion of plans for a European Rosaceous Genomics Initiative with a view to securing European funding for collaborative research.
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