Developing robustness to biotic stress in fruit crops

Strawberries contribute to a nutritious and healthy diet and are an important UK crop. Increasing restrictions in chemical disease controls mean that existing varieties will soon be unsuitable for sustainable production in the soil.

Verticillium wilt is one of the main destructive strawberry pathogens in Western Europe and can cause major crop losses. The virulence of the fungal pathogen Verticillium dahliae (the causative agent of this wilting disease) can be amplified by the presence of the root lesion nematode, Pratylenchus penetrans. This project will develop a novel technique to screen for disease resistance traits in Strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa). Specifically, the use of rhizotrons will allow below ground phenotyping of wilt and nematode disease symptoms and thus permit the study of potential synergistic interactions between the two pathogens.

Roots of the cultivar Redgauntlet

Ultimately, the image analysis of below ground disease symptoms can produce a quick and comprehensive disease phenotyping system. This technique can be used to aid the identification of disease resistant genes and traits, which can assist breeders in the production of robust strawberry cultivars.

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