Functional Genomics of Fire Blight Disease on Apple:

A New Approach to an Old Problem



Dr. Jay Norelli

USDA - Agricultural Research Service

Appalachian Fruit Research Station

Kearneysville, WV



Tuesday, April 17th, at 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.

Main Classroom Building, Rm 3




Sequencing of the human genome has resulted in unprecedented advances in medicine. The power of genomics research is now being applied to agriculture. Using fire blight disease of apple as an example, this seminar will explore how genomics research can allow scientists to elucidate the poorly understood mechanisms responsible for disease resistance in plants and, thereby identify new opportunities for improving natural resistance. Fire blight disease was first reported in 1780 on pear and quince in the Hudson Valley of New York and since the mid-19th century has caused serious economic losses for apple and pear growers. After more than a century of research, a great deal is known about fire blight and its causal agent, Erwinia amylovora, yet the disease remains a serious threat to the fruit industry. Identifying apple genes responsible for resistance to fire blight disease and determining the biological function of those genes will facilitate new methods of marker-assisted selection to efficiently breed and/or genetically engineer superior apple varieties with improved fire blight resistance. This will result in: 1) reduced dependence on synthetic pesticides, 2) increased stability in production levels over time due to enhanced ability to tolerate fire blight, and 3) improved competitiveness of the US fruit industry in the global market due to increased tree fruit productivity and reduced inputs.



Dr. Jay Norelli is a plant pathologist with the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) at the Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, WV.  He studied plant pathology at Cornell University and the University of California, Berkeley where he received Bachelor and Master Degrees of Science, and a Doctorate of Philosophy. Prior to becoming a research scientist at the USDA-ARS, he worked for several years as a Research Associate at Cornell University’s Agricultural Research Station in Geneva, NY. The long-term goal of his research in plant-microbe interactions is to develop new strategies for managing plant diseases based upon the use of host resistance.


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