Christopher Gottschalk

Christopher Gottschalk
Telephone: 517-353-0379

Department of Horticulture

Ph.D. Graduate Research Assistant

1066 Bogue St, Room A326
East Lansing, MI 48824

Area of Expertise:

Transcriptomics, genetics, pomology, flowering, breeding


Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology - Horticulture

CV: File Download


“More than any other single trait, it is the apple’s genetic variability—its ineluctable wildness—that accounts for its ability to make itself at home in places as different from one another as New England and New Zealand, Kazakhstan and California. Wherever the apple tree goes, its offspring propose so many different variations on what it means to be an apple—at least five per apple, several thousand per tree—that a couple of these novelties are almost bound to have whatever qualities it takes to prosper in the tree’s adopted home.”

 - Michael Pollan

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World

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My interest in apples stems from the amazing diversity that they exhibit, as described perfectly by Michael Pollan above. This interest brought me back to Michigan State University's Department of Horticulture (BSc Plant Biology - MSU) where I could immerse myself in the investigation of the unique genetics of apple trees. I am currently in my third year (PhD) as a student in Steve van Nocker's developmental genetics laboratory. My current research endeavors are quite diverse and include the following key focus areas:

  • Genetic mechanism for floral initiation in apple
  • Effect of fruit load on floral initiation (biennial bearing)
  • Regulation of flowering through plant growth regulator application
  • Marker-assisted selection of new red-juice cultivars of apples
  • Evaluation of new apple cultivars: red-fleshed/juice and cider
  • Genetic diversity of Malus species, hybrids, and cultivars

Main Research Endeavors

Genetic mechanism underlying flowering in apple - This is a broad project investigating a number of different aspects related to flowering in apple and represent the bulk of my dissertation research. First, I am working to elucidate the pathway the governs floral initiation. Second, I am investigating the role fruit load has on repressing floral initiation (biennial bearing). Third, I am documenting the variability in timing of floral initiation and fruiting patterns. This project involves a wide degree of approaches including but not limited to: genomics, transcriptomics, plant growth regulator application, and management practices.  The goal of this research to provide a better understanding of the role genetics has on biennial bearing and develop new management practices to manipulate flowering in apple.

Flowering trees

Development of red-juice apples (Michigan PureRed) - This is a project aimed at developing new cultivars of apples that display vibrant red-flesh coloration. Originally this project was started as a cultivar trail to evaluate a few select red-flesh apple cutlivars for production in Michigan in the hopes to support the nutraceutical industry. It has since been refocused as breed project, utilizing marker-assisted selection, to develop new improved cultivars for production of red colored juice. I have been facilitating collaborative efforts to market and develop the use of this fruit in the hard cider industry. This has included a number of collaboration between our laboratory and commercial cider producers.

Otterson (2)Otterson (1)

Great Lakes Cider Apple Collection - This is a project to construct a reference collection of cider specific apple cultivars for evaluation in Michigan. This collection will serve as a genetics resource, variety trial, testing grounds for low input production, and as a source for budwood. I am currently the administrator and content manager for the MSU cider apple extension site ( 

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Minor Research Endeavors

Malus Gene Expression Atlas - I am assisting in the bioinformatic processes to construction an atlas of gene expression across various organs, tissues, and development stages of a unique Malus species.

Role of Gibberellic Acid (GA) has on repression of flowering in apple - I applied my bioinformatics expertise in constructing transcriptomic data to explore GA's role in the flowering pathway. This also includes PGR evaluation trials to further characterize GA's use as a management strategy in controlling crop loads. 

Apple Dormancy - Assisting in the documentation of dormancy requirements (endo- and ecodormancy) in domesticated apple cultivars and wild relatives. In addition, I will be exploring management practices in which to influence dormancy status. The goal is to develop methods suitable for Michigan growers to use for frost avoidance during bloom.

Scripting programs for big data management and bioinformatics. Github address

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