Horticulture/Plant Breeding Projects

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These are the Horticulture/Plant Breeding projects that our Summer Research Scholars will be tackling in 2018.  Faculty members associated with each project are also listed. You can read more about their programs by clicking on their names.

1. Space saving columnar apple trees!

Apple TreesAlthough most apple trees branch and grow rapidly in size, there are compact ones, called columnar apple trees, which are slow in growth, have little branching, and require less space and pruning in orchards. Join us in the ongoing hunt to uncover the columnar genes, while learning basic techniques in plant genomics, such as DNA and RNA isolation, DNA sequencing, and gene expression analysis.
Lab 80%, Field: 20% Faculty: Xu

2. Sex chromosomes in willow

Willow BudOur lab conducts breeding and genomics of shrub willow as a sustainable feedstock for bioenergy and biofuels. Willow is dioecious (plants are either male or female), and we have mapped the locus that genetically determines sex in our reference species.  The field component will involve collecting male, female, and hermaphrodite individuals of native and hybrid willows to map the genes that control sex and to elucidate the mechanism of sex determination and sex-based differences in pollinator attraction or pest defense.
Lab: 70%, Field: 30% Faculty: L. Smart

3. Fight powdery mildew of grapevines with genetics!

powdery mildewPowdery mildew is the most devastating disease of grapevines, worldwide. As part of a national cooperative project, you can help hunt for genes for powdery mildew resistance from one of many wild North American grapevine species. You will learn about how to assess seedling grapevines for resistance, and process the data produced to locate chromosomal regions harboring resistance genes.  You will learn about molecular markers used in mapping grapevine chromosomes, and the use of marker-based chromosome maps to locate important genes.
Lab: 50%, Field: 50% Faculty: Reisch

4. Appreciating and understanding genetic diversity in Malus (apple)

applesMost apples are Malusdomestica or cultivated apple, but there are over 25 Malus species that can be used in breeding or to study the genes influencing plant architecture, leaf morphology and flowering. When these species are crossed, apple interspecific hybrids are created. This project will explore the phenotypic and genotypic diversity of some of these hybrids. Study of these unique plants will help you understand how best to characterize plants, both from a morphology and genetic perspective. Breeding theory and practice will be explained in relation to the project.
Lab: 40%, Field: 60% Faculty: Brown

5. Building better broccoli

broccoli We study the physiology and genetics of how broccoli uses temperature to regulate flower development. This work is part of a broader effort to develop broccoli that is resilient to the eastern climate, and to use the new hybrids to expand local production of this widely consumed crop (easternbroccoli.org). The summer project will involve scoring phenotypes and matching them with genomic information in several diverse collections of genotypes. 
Lab: 50%, Field: 50% Faculty: Björkman

6. Biodiversity of vegetables

Explore the diversity and natural colors in vegetable crops and how they can contribute to aesthetics and nutrition.  You will work in both the greenhouse and field with an applied breeding program to identify and select new plants with diverse colors and shapes.  The summer scholar experience will also include an opportunity to evaluate phytochemical profiles and how they influence plant nutrition and color. 
Lab/Greenhouse: 70%, Field: 30% Faculty: Griffiths

7. Mapping resistance to pests of willow

willow leafCertain cultivars of shrub willow bioenergy crops are very sensitive to a common insect pest, potato leafhopper (Empoasca fabae), which causes leaf curling and tip dieback called ‘hopperburn’. We have a mapping population that is segregating for susceptibility to potato leafhopper and willow leaf beetle.  You will map QTL for resistance to these pests and characterize the expression of the genes involved using real-time qPCR to better understand the genetic basis of potato leafhopper and beetle resistance in willow.
Lab/Greenhouse: 70%, Field: 30% Faculty: L. Smart

8. Do you like sour apples?

ApplesWhich apple(s) do you like the most? The traditional McIntosh, Golden Delicious, Jonagold or new apple varieties such as Honeycrisp, Snapdragon or SweeTango, and why? Your answers may vary widely, but fruit sourness (acidity) or sweetness is most likely among the factors that affect your preference. Wondering about what apple fruit acidity is, how widely fruit acidity levels may vary in apple, what causes fruit acidity, and how fruit acidity is determined at the genetic and molecular levels?  Please come and have a bite of one of our research projects that studies apple fruit acidity!
Lab 80%, Field: 20% Faculty: Xu

9. Breeding and selection of industrial hemp

hempIndustrial hemp is Cannabis sativa that produces low levels of THC and has numerous food, medicinal, and industrial uses. Cornell is initiating the first public hemp breeding program in the US, and we are evaluating germplasm for breeding and commercial cultivars for their adaptability to NY conditions. You will assist with field trial measurements, chemical, and genetic analysis of industrial hemp. Hemp is hot, pot is not!
Lab: 30%, Field: 70% Faculty: L. Smart

10. Apple trees grow horizontally

Apple trees grow upward normally. However, the picture shows that an apple tree can grow horizontally. It would certainly cause headaches if such trees were grown in apple orchard. Can we learn something from ‘the bad and the ugly’ and then make something good out it? The answer is YES as understanding the underlying genetics and genomics will provide useful information for making apple trees grow with optimum architecture. The mystery of horizontally growing apple trees is being revealed, but much remains unknown. Want to be part of our mystery solving team?
Lab: 80%, Field/Greenhouse: 20% Faculty: Xu

11. Rapid screening for powdery mildew resistance in strawberry and raspberry

high tunnel bramblesPowdery mildew in strawberry and raspberry has become increasingly problematic as growers adopt tunnels to protect the developing fruit from the weather. The higher humidity and lack of free water under the tunnels allows the disease to develop more easily than it would in the open air. In this project you will lead the effort to develop and test a rapid screening method for identifying resistance in commercial varieties and in segregating breeding populations. You will learn how to inoculate plants and track disease progression and learn how to evaluate the inheritance pattern and heritability of resistance in different populations of raspberry and strawberry.
Greenhouse/Lab: 70%, Field: 30% Faculty: Weber