Genome database to aid fruit growers, scientists

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Scientists and growers can use a new genome database developed in part by University of Florida researchers to help make fruit trees more disease- and pest-resistant and enhance crop quality.

Researchers who study citrus, rosaceae and vaccinium crops will be the primary users of the portal, said Mercy Olmstead, assistant professor of horticultural sciences at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, but agricultural producers will also reap the benefits.

Rosaceae include apples, cherries, peaches, strawberries, pears and ornamental roses. Vaccinium fruits include blueberries and cranberries.

Olmstead, Fred Gmitter, a genetics and breeding professor at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred and Jim Olmstead, assistant professor of horticultural sciences, both also at UF/IFAS, helped create what they and other scientists are calling the Tree Fruit Genome Database Resources. Dorrie Main, associate professor of bioinformatics at Washington State University, leads the project. 

The portal, found at, will help explain the genetic database and show how the information can be used to grow better fruit, Mercy Olmstead said.

The website provides data about 22 horticultural crops: almond, apple, apricot, blackberry, blueberry, cherry, clementine, cranberry, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mandarin, nectarine, orange, peach, pear, plum, pummelo, raspberry, rose, strawberry and tangerine.

The site also features videos and articles that highlight the role genomics, breeding and these databases play in solving industry problems in fruit production. 

“It’s important that growers and industry stakeholders understand how these data can be used to solve production issues, improve breeding efforts and find sources of disease and pest resistance,” she said. “This website will help to connect the dots and show how scientists are taking genetic data and improving fruit varieties for sustainable production.”

The website also describes an upcoming project that Main’s laboratory is developing – the Growers Toolbox ─ an online decision-making tool.

This resource will provide weather, soil and environmental information to help growers decide which fruit varieties are most suited to their growing conditions.

Researchers at UF/IFAS, Washington State, Clemson, North Carolina State and Cornell universities created the new website and will keep it updated.

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