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Summer 2011 Newsletter

Thousands of Hybrid Hazelnuts Field Tested

The third year of testing plants in the Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium’s collaborative breeding program is under way in Oregon, New Jersey and Nebraska. The group is working to develop high-quality hazelnuts that are both resistant to eastern filbert blight (EFB) and adapted to a range of climatic conditions.

Oregon State previously sent scions and layered hazelnut plants to Rutgers and the University of Nebraska that are growing well. Rutgers is field testing several thousand plants for EFB resistance.

Oregon State now has identified 8 hazelnut varieties known to be resistant to EFB. All are from eastern Europe: 3 from Russia; 3 from Crimea; and 2 from Georgia.

Field tests at Horning State Farm Demonstration Forest in Nebraska this summer have focused on plant protection and establishing new hazelnut field plantings. The Midwest presents difficult growing conditions – this year early summer rains were followed by extreme heat and humidity midsummer, with heat indexes more than 110°F.

Dr. Scott Josiah from the University of Nebraska reports that 1,200 seedlings have been planted at Horning Farm, and the greenhouse contains 1,600 seedlings that are hybrid crosses of C. avellana from Oregon State and C. Americana from Rutgers. These seedlings will be planted in spring 2012.

EFB Detection Test Peforming Well

Rutgers scientists continue to evaluate the effectiveness of their test to detect the presence of Anisogramma anomala, the pathogen that causes eastern filbert blight in hazelnuts. The test can tell researchers at an early stage, perhaps as early as 6 weeks after inoculation, whether a plant has the EFB fungus and quantify now much, said Dr. Tom Molnar, who developed the test. This cuts the time it takes to determine if a plant is infected with EFB by as much as 18 months, and will accelerate the Consortium’s research by identifying early on which plants are likely to be resistant and therefore worthy of further study. Besides advancing the Consortium’s work, OSU’s Dr. Mehlenbacher said there is considerable interest in Europe to have a test of this sort.

Sequencing of EFB Pathogen Results Surprising

Rutgers’ Dr. Brad Hillman reports surprising results in his work to sequence Anisogramma anomala using short-read sequences on an Illumina sequencer. The fungal genome is 340 megabases – much larger than expected, said Dr. Hillman. By comparison, the average size of chestnut blight funguses is less than 50 megabases, he said.

Dr. Hillman now is working to get a microsatellite, or 40,000 unique SSRs, by going through possible primer sets to make batches of 24 to run on 4 different EFB isolates that he predicts to be the most diverse. The first primer set currently is being analyzed. This will be done until he has sufficient numbers to do a good population analysis.

Outreach ot Peers, Public

  • Dr. Shawn Mehlenbacher attended the Conifer Genomics Group meeting, a diverse group comprised of corporate representatives and breeders from universities. This provided an opportunity to educate peers about the Consortium’s work and resulted in possible future collaboration with Clemson scientists who are sequencing the peach genome.
  • Dr. Mehlenbacher also has identified an opportunity to work with Ohio State researchers by providing educational information on the Consortium’s work on a website aimed at the plant breeding and genomics community.
  • The Nebraska Forest Service (NFS) held a Forestry Field Day workshop in June for state and federal conservation program staff and cooperative extension agents. Participants toured the Horning Farm hazelnut plots and Dr. Scott Josiah and Troy Pabst spoke about the importance of the hazelnut field trials, the potential of hazelnuts in Midwest/Great Plains agriculture and the Consortium’s work.
  • Rutgers’ Dr. Tom Molnar attended the Oregon Nut Growers meeting this summer, and presented on eastern filbert blight resistance at the American Pathological Society conference. Dr. Molnar and OSU’s Dr. Shawn Mehlenbacher presented on the Consortium’s research at the Northern Nut Growers Association annual meeting at Utah State University in July.
  • Arbor Day Foundation made another request for wild C. Americana seeds in a newsletter sent to several million readers. The seeds will be used to further research in creating disease-resistant hazelnuts. The request was made at the time of nut maturat