Our work in the development of sustainable roses began in the early 1990s when Dr. Robert E. Basye established the Endowed Chair in Rose Genetics. His goal in all of his rose breeding was to develop well-adapted rose bushes focusing on black spot resistance. Funding was obtained from the American Rose Society Trust Fund for the rose breeding work at Texas A&M University as well as work in the management of the rose rosette disease (RRD) at the University of Tennessee at the Plateau AgResearch and Education Center in Crossville, TN which was vital in doing the preliminary research needed for developing a proposal for a large federal program. In 2008, the Farm Bill established the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) program under the USDA to accelerate the ongoing research in horticultural crops. This opened up opportunities for funding research in the ornamental crop area where there was little or no funding.
Combating Rose Rosette Disease
The first successful SCRI rose proposal took shape after an industry-organized conference (Star Roses and Plants and Garden Rose Council) about rose rosette disease brought together all the stakeholders to better define the problem and chart out a plan to resolve it. The first SCRI project, “Combating Rose Rosette Disease” (2014-2019), was focused on the rose rosette disease. During this project, we developed the diagnostics for the RRV, basic knowledge about the biology of both the virus and the vector mite (Phyllocoptes fructiphilus), management approaches to control RRD, evaluated hundreds of roses for their resistance to RRD, created genetic populations to identify the genetic basis of resistance, developed molecular tools to accelerate the breeding of RRD resistant roses, and established this web site with maps of the distribution of and the best information available for the identification and management of RRD. The results from this project, as well as those from “RosBreed: Combining disease resistance with horticultural quality in new Rosaceous cultivars” (2014-2019) and “Tools for Genomics-Assisted Breeding for Polyploid Crops” (2020-present), were combined to create the SCRI “Developing Sustainable Roses” project with the long-term goal of developing sustainable rose landscapes based on cultivars resistant to RRD and black spot.
Developing Sustainable Roses
- Characterize the host plant interaction with RRV and vector mite (Phyllocoptes fructiphilus)
- Establish a breeding platform to enable the development of adapted and commercially acceptable RRD and black spot-resistant roses
- Assess the socioeconomic impact of RRD management approaches
- Develop comprehensive research demonstration and education programs for RRD management
Now that we know there is resistance to this disease, we need to know how it is inherited. The goal is not only to identify the genes or QTL (quantitative trait loci) that condition resistance to this disease but also to create useful molecular markets in the breeding of RRD-resistant roses and employ DNA sequence data to accelerate the breeding process.