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Fun with Black Raspberry Genetics

Posted by Peter Tallman 
Fun with Black Raspberry Genetics
January 25, 2013 02:09PM
I have been working with primocane-fruiting black raspberries for some time now. My first attempt at a cultivar was 'Explorer', documented as U.S. Plant Patent #17,727. Unfortunately, 'Explorer' was found to be not self-fruitful in isolation from other raspberry plants, which was not the case for my back yard, so I didn't experience the problem in my own plantings. (My commercialization attempts are now shifted to a newer, better self-fruitful selection of mine I call PT-2A4. Selection PT-2A4 is undergoing evaluation trials under strict non-distribution agreements.)

I found a recent research article out of the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) office and National Clonal Germplasm Repository (NCGR), both in Corvallis, Oregon. The article was very interesting as regards the 'Explorer' cultivar. The article is “Genetic diversity in wild and cultivated black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis L.) evaluated by simple sequence repeat markers”, by Michael Dossett, Nahla V. Bassil, Kim S. Lewers, Chad E. Finn (Springer Science & Business Media Dordrecht, 26 February 2012.) This article is available on the internet and is easily found by an internet search on three terms together: Dossett Tallman Explorer. The research was based on the NCGR black raspberry collection and a collection of black raspberry plants from around the U.S organized by Michael Dossett. I can understand barely half of the technical details the paper is presenting, but what is clear is that Dossett et. al. found that the collection of recognized currently available commercial cultivars, such as Jewel, Bristol, Cumberland, Munger, etc., are genetically tightly grouped. This is likely the result of the black raspberry breeding programs of several different research facilities using a very small genetic base for all of the cultivar breeding. However, my 'Explorer' black raspberry appeared in a completely different area of the genetics tree from the currently available commercial cultivars. This was a fascinating result to me. The paper explained this wide difference was because 'Explorer' was the cross of two different selections from the wild from different areas, Arkansas and New York.

The black raspberry genetic base that is available in the Corvallis collections has barely begun to be exploited. Among these traits are primocane fruiting, spineless and nearly spineless canes, aphid resistance, and general disease resistance of one sort or another. The aphid resistance may be one of the keys to solving the generally experienced problem of "black raspberry decline". The spineless trait would be quite interesting to me for breeding.

It is likely that the current interest in black raspberries because of the newly documented health benefits, together with the identification of new, valuable black raspberry traits, will lead to some really remarkable new black raspberry cultivars in the decades ahead.

Pete Tallman
Longmont, CO
Email: pete_tallman at hotmail dot com
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