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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2008

  • Title: Genetic variation in blueberry phenolics and their role in disease resistance
  • Primary Author: Holly Baltzer (UMASS Amherst)
  • Abstract:

    I will be conducting two experiments using several species of blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) that I collected from The Harvard Forest in the fall of 2007. First, I will be a common garden study on wild Vaccinium corymbosum (the progenitor of cultivated highbush blueberry) and a wild relative V. palladium. I collected 5 cuttings each from 60 genotypes of V. corymbosum and 19 genotypes of V. palladium from several sites in western Massachusetts, two of which were in The Harvard Forest. Common garden studies using multiple clones of each genotype allow for the identification of traits under genetic control by eliminating much environmentally based variation. I will record plant growth and reproduction, pollinator attraction, herbivore damage, disease incidence and phenolic levels, which are a group of compounds shown to act as defensive chemicals in other plants. From these data I will determine if phenolics vary genetically, and correlate them with herbivore and disease resistance, pollinator attraction, and other plant attributes. I also collected 80 Vaccinium angustifolium (lowbush blueberry which is grown as a crop in the Northeast) plants from the same two sites in The Harvard Forest, and I will use these in an inoculation experiment with a major fungal pathogen of blueberry, Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi. I will inoculate the leaf buds and half the flowers of 40 plants with spores of the pathogen. The other 40 will be non-diseased controls. I will again record growth, reproduction and analyze phenolic levels. From these data I will determine if infection by M. vaccinii-corymbosi reduces growth or reproduction, and induces the production of phenolics in blueberry. Overall, my work will provide insight into the chemical ecology of a native group of plants already highly valued for their agricultural and ecological roles.

  • Research Category: Physiological Ecology, Population Dynamics, and Species Interactions