Root architecture and root function to improve quality of apples.

Project description:

Rootstocks are an essential component for successful tree fruit production, yet the below ground root systems are little understood. This project will aim to identify the genetic basis of root system architecture in apple rootstocks and to associate root type with nutrient use efficiencies in this woody perennial species.

Recent studies at NIAB EMR have identified several different types of root system associated with commercial rootstocks utilised in apple orchards. With new advances in molecular marker development including the availability of genome sequences for several commercially available rootstocks, it is now crucial to understand how root system architecture can be optimised for both anchorage and nutrient use efficiencies, and how these important traits can then be deployed in breeding programmes to aid rootstock selection for new improved rootstocks.


To advance this work and further our understanding of root system architecture, we have developed four main objectives within this proposal:

Strategic rootstock crosses and phenotypic analyses of root system architecture (RSA) in rootstock progeny.
Selection of segregating populations for genotyping for quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis; mapping of root architecture traits.
Comparative genomics of genetic factors controlling root architecture and the relationship to nutrient use efficiency in plants.
Assess root function in relation to Nitrogen Use Efficiency.



Harrison N, Harrison RJ, Barber-Perez N, Cascant-Lopez E, Cobo-Medina M, Lipska M, Conde-Ruiz R, Brian P, Gregory PJ and Fernandez-Fernandez F. (2016). A new three-locus model for rootstock-induced dwarfing in apple revealed by genetic mapping of root bark percentage. J Exp Bot 67: 1871-1881.


CTP PhD Student: Magdalena Cobo Medina

PhD Supervisors: R. Harrison, F. Fernandez, N. Harrison & A. Rasmussen (University of Nottingham)

Duration: 4 years (2017-2021)

Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 19.09.50

Root bark microscopy images depicting the root bark percentages for the two parents of the M432 mapping population, ‘M.27’ and ‘M.116’.

Rhizotrons images showing the differences between the root systems architecture of a dwarfing rootstock (M27) and a semi-invigorating rootstock (M116).

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