Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Study Mummy Berry Disease of Blueberry

May 20, 2011

Some varieties of blueberry, the second most popular berry in the U.S., is under attack by fungus Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi causing "mummy berry" disease. Thus, USDA scientists, who have more than a century of experience in breeding the fruit, are working on the disease. The USDA team from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) working on the project is headed by geneticist Mark Ehlenfeldt and plant pathologist James Palashock.

They have conducted extensive research to examine the responses of today's blueberry cultivars to infection by the fungus, which attacks in the plant in two phases. They observed that the fungus initially attacks the leaf litter of blueberry then spreads the pores to the nearby plants, infecting the emerging shoots and leaves. On the second phase of infection, the fungus attacks the fruit, causing it to shrink, shrivel, and turn whitish, looking like a "mummified fruit." After some time, the fruit falls on the ground and phases of infection are again repeated.

The researchers analyzed the blighting resistance data of 125 cultivars in two to six years, and the fruit-infection-resistance data from 110 cultivars in two to five years. They found out that "Brunswick" and "Bluejay" were among several blueberry cultivars that resisted both fungal infection stages.

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