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USDA Awards $10M to Researchers Developing DNA Tools for Rosaceous Crops

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The NH Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire said on Wednesday that it is among 14 US institutions who will share a five-year, $10 million grant to develop and apply DNA-based tools to improve the quality of and disease resistance in rosaceous crops.

The project called RosBREED: Combining Disease Resistance with Horticultural Quality in New Rosaceous Cultivars brings together 35 researchers from 14 US institutions, as well as international collaborators, to apply genomic and genetic technologies in the breeding of rosaceous crops. The researchers will adapt and demonstrate new DNA-based tools in 22 US breeding programs with a focus on apple, blackberry, peach, pear, rose, strawberry, sweet cherry, and tart cherry.

The US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Specialty Crop Research Initiative awarded the grant, which is being managed by researchers at Michigan State University and Washington State University.

"This project includes our team's recently established strawberry breeding program funded through the Experiment Station at UNH, which aims to release new varieties bred for local growers and markets while being resistant to disease and suitable for organic production," said Tom Davis, a professor of plant biology and genetics in the UNH College of Life Sciences and Agriculture.

UNH noted that the US is the world's leading producer of strawberries, with 3 billion pounds valued at $2.4 billion 2012, according to the USDA.

The NH Agricultural Experiment Station at the UNH College of Life Sciences and Agriculture is UNH's original research organization and was founded in 1887. It directs federal and state funding for research aimed at sustainable agriculture and foods, aquaculture, forest management, and related wildlife, natural resources, and rural community topics.