Seed World

MSU to Lead $6.5 Million Research on Disease Resistance in Cucurbits

A national team of 20 scientists, led by Michigan State University, has been awarded $6.5 million grant to accelerate the development of disease-resistant cucurbit crops through leveraging applied genomics.
Rebecca Grumet, MSU horticulture professor, will lead the team of researchers in developing breeder-friendly genomic tools to help with the production of watermelon, melon, cucumber and squash. The grant was issued by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative.
Using genomics is the most cost effective as well as the most environmentally favorable solution to the problems of disease resistance since it allows growers to apply less fungicide. Cucurbit producers and processors consistently identify diseases as a primary constraint, causing severe reductions in yield, quality and profitability.
Grumet said that rapid advances in genomic technology and recent genome sequencing of the four cucurbit species make them ideally poised for genomics-assisted breeding.
“With the advent of next generation DNA sequencing technologies, we can approach problems in ways that were not possible before and can use those methods to identify genetic regions within the crop that are associated with disease resistance,” said Grumet. “The primary limitation for growers of cucurbit crops is losses due to disease, especially fungal and viral. And in some cases, these can completely wipe out a crop.”
For more information on the project, visit the Michigan State University website.