New research focuses on developing disease resistant pears

Fire blight pathogen in Pears to be tackled with DNA markers

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The United States' pear production is mainly susceptible to storm damage, climate change, and disease, particularly fire blight. These conditions caused pear producers in Washington State to lose nearly 70,000 tons of their crop last year alone. According to Nahla Bassil, plant geneticist, and Joseph Postman, pear curator, at the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) National Clonal Germplasm Repository (NCGR) in Corvallis, Oregon, developing superior new rootstocks is the number one research priority of the US pear industry.

Their research team includes Jason Zurn, a postdoctoral researcher and Barbara Gilmore, crop manager. Bassil's research focuses on developing DNA markers that enable diagnosing host-plant resistance to the fire blight pathogen in breeding material, resulting in new cultivars that are resistant to the most devastating disease of pears worldwide.

“The USDA world pear collection in Corvallis contains many species and varieties that are potentially better rootstocks or have unique genetic characteristics that are not found in commonly grown varieties,” Bassil said. “Genetic solutions for production problems are economical and efficient in the long run, but there are challenges to identifying new genetic materials with the needed traits.”


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