Breeding Disease Resistant Roses

Roses are among the most important ornamental crops worldwide. In the United States alone, garden roses account for $300,000,000 in annual sales to 23,000,000 households. Current total United States’ annual production of roses is about 60,000,000 plants. The market for rose cut flowers is worth $200 million. There are approximately 20,000 commercial rose cultivars, most of which are complex tetraploid or triploid hybrids derived from eight to ten wild diploid and a few tetraploid rose species. Rose breeding has exploited the specific ability to produce cultivars with the desired combinations of color, form, fragrance, and hardiness.

The greatest danger for cultivated roses in the world is disease and insect infestations. Diseases and insect infestations in commercial roses are generally controlled with pesticides at substantial expense to the grower. The incorporation of particular disease resistances, especially to the Blackspot fungus (Diplocarpon rosae [Lib.] Wolf), powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca pannosa (Wallr. [ex Fr.] Lev), rust (Phragmidium spp.) and rose mosaic virus (PNRSV), into heterozygous rose genotypes is greatly desired.

For the last 200 years rose breeders have made tremendous advances in the development of better rose flower types and plant growth types. A rainbow of colors and a wide spectrum of flower and plant forms are available. We owe much to those who created this cornucopia of beauty. However, extensive research remains to be done. Little sustained effort has been devoted to developing plants which are resistant to diseases and pests. Resistant plants would not require constant sprays to maintain their beauty. This is the type of plant the rose bloom deserves!

The Rose Breeding and Genetics Program will use a multidisciplinary team to combine the traditional sciences of breeding, genetics, plant pathology, entomology and plant physiology with the newly developing tools of biotechnology. The major objective is to develop unique sources of disease resistant germplasm that other breeders and hybridizers can use in developing disease and pest resistant rose cultivars.

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