Development of critical tart cherry genomic and phenological resources for breeding purposes
Courtney Hollender, an assistant professor in the MSU Department of Horticulture, is sequencing the Montmorency tart cherry genome to identify traits that could be beneficial to breeding efforts.
Researcher: Courtney Hollender
Michigan tart cherry growers are facing increasing environmental and pest challenges that threaten the survival of their industry. This includes frequent crop losses due to severe spring freeze events. Over 90% of the Michigan tart cherry crop was lost in 2002 and 2012 in response to severe freezes. Freezes in 2015, 2017 and 2020 also caused significant crop loss for some. To reduce these tragic losses, and strengthen the industry, new cultivars and effective cultural practices need to be developed. The lack of a sequenced tart cherry reference genome has been a major bottleneck for the development of genomics-informed solutions for a variety of challenges, including environmental ones. High-quality reference genomes, which exist for apple, peach and pear, are foundational resources for marker-assisted breeding and gene discovery. For this project, researchers have begun sequencing the Montmorency genome, which will greatly benefit research into tart cherry development, physiology and genetics throughout the world. This includes rapidly enhancing breeding efforts via marker-assisted selection for beneficial traits. One such trait, which researchers are making progress on via genomic and developmental analyses, is later bloom time. Researchers believe this work will lead to reduced risk of crop loss from severe spring freeze events by developing later-blooming cultivars and cultural practices to delay bloom.