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programme SharCo

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Agricultural Research Service - United States of America

Genetic improvement of fruit crops both through the use of traditional approaches and molecular techniques

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is US Department Agency’s main in-house scientific research agency. The ARS mission is to find solutions to agricultural problems that affect Americans every day, from field to table. The Appalachian Fruit Research Station’s (AFRS) mission is to identify critical problems of temperate fruit production; develop the science, technology, and genetic base needed to maximize productivity and quality of fruit crops; and minimize the adverse effects of biotic and environmental factors on these crops. The Appalachian Fruit Research Station provides technical assistance to the American fruit industry, farmers and consumers by developing new knowledge, germplasm and technology to maximize productivity and quality of fruit crops and minimize the adverse affects of biotic and environmental factors on fruit crops. The Genetic enhancement of fruit crops unit which is proposing to contribute to this proposal has extensive experience in the genetic improvement of fruit crops both through the use of traditional approaches and molecular techniques. In relation to the proposed project the collaborating scientist from the AFRS genetic improvement unit have extensive experience in the development of resistance to plum pox virus through genetic engineering.

Key persons involved

  • Dr. Ralph SCORZA
    AFRS Genetic Improvement of fruit Crops lead scientist and tree fruit breeder. Dr. Scorza’s expertise is in tree fruit breeding, specifically Prunus (peaches and plums).
    He has released a number of peach and plum varieties that are commercially grown in the U.S. Along with colleagues at AFRS he is developing “second generation” genetically engineered tree fruits with Plum pox virus resistance and other improved traits.

  • Dr. Christopher DARDICK
    Research scientist and molecular plant virologist in the Genetic Improvement unit.
    He specializes in bioinformatic and functional genomic technologies and notably has expertise is microarray design, testing, and use. His efforts are currently focused on understanding host transcriptome responses to infection by Plum pox virus and other stone fruit viruses.


  • Hily, J. M., Scorza, R., Malinowski, T., Zawadzka, B., and Ravelonandro, M. 2004. Stability of gene silencing-based resistance to Plum pox virus in transgenic plum (Prunus domestica L.) under field conditions. Transgenic Res. 13:427-436.

  • Hily, J. M., Scorza, R., Webb, K., and Ravelonandro, M. 2005. Accumulation of the long class of siRNA is associated with resistance to Plum pox virus in a transgenic woody perennial plum tree. MPMI. 18:794-799.

  • Damsteegt, V. D., Scorza, R., Stone, A. L., Schneider, W. L., Webb, K., Demuth, M., and Gildow, F. E. 2006. Prunus host range of Plum pox virus (PPV) in the United States by aphid and graft inoculation. Plant Dis. 91:18-23.

  • Dardick, C.D. 2007. Comparative expression profiling of Nicotiana benthamiana leaves systemically infected with three fruit tree viruses. MPMI, In press.

  • Dardick, C.D. and Ronald, P. 2006. Plant and Animal Pathogen Recognition Receptors Signal through Non-RD Kinases. PLoS Pathogens. 2:14-28.

Material resources

AFRS is fully equipped with laboratories, plant tissue culture facilities, growth chambers and greenhouses to serve the research needs of the investigative staff. Field work is carried out on 200 ha of orchard area under the general supervision of a permanent field crew and specific supervision of individual research scientists. The facility is fully accredited by the US regulatory agencies for conducting research in plant genetic engineering. Work with PPV is carried out under P1 containment through and agreement with a nearby collaborating USDA laboratory. No PPV inoculations can be carried out in the field in the US.