European apple canker in relation to endophytes

BBSRC is funding  a LINK project on understanding the potential role of endophytes in affecting the symptom development of European canker (Neonectria ditissima). Several industry partners provided cash and in-kind contributions to this LINK project: AHDB Horticulture, Frank P Matthews Ltd, Avalon Produce Ltd, Adrian Scripps Ltd, Worldwide Fruit Ltd, and ENZA (T&G global subsidiary). This project will start from 1 October 2017 and lasts for four year.

In the LINK project, we aim to investigate whether cultivar differences in tolerance to N. ditissima are associated with specific endophytes and, if so, identify the organiPicture1sm(s) and conduct further in vitro and in vivo biocontrol assays to assess of specific endophytes against N. ditissima. As well as the direct effect against the canker pathogen we shall study whether these specific endophytes could reduce canker development via inducing host defence system against the pathogen. To improve breeding for canker resistance, we shall determine to what extent the recruitment of specific endophytes is genetically controlled by hosts by mapping QTLs (quantitative trait loci) and to determine the extent of overlaps of these QTLs with those mapped for anker resistance. Then we will conduct experiments to assess (1) to what extent recruitment of endophytes is influenced by soil characteristics, soil microbiota, and host genotypes, and (2) whether canker symptom expression is related to the abundance of specific endophytes across a number of orchards. Finally, to assist in canker management, we will investigate the extent to which endophyte profiles of a specific apple genotype can be influenced by management practices (irrigation and soil amendment).

This project is led by Prof Xiangming Xu, with Dr Robert Saville and Dr Louisa Robinson-Boyer responsible for the majority of research activities. Dr Richard Harrison and Dr Mark Else will provide necessary assistance in plant genetics and physiology.

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