Current Research

Development and Application of High-Throughput Phenotyping Methods to Advance American Cranberry Genetics

The American cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon), a crop known for its many health benefits, has a limited history of genetic improvement. This is in part due to a long breeding cycle as a consequence of lengthy establishment periods (2–4 yr) followed by long evaluation periods (4–5 yr). My research intends to shorten the evaluation period by providing technological tools to advance phenotyping efficiency and accuracy, providing higher resolution and lower
error data on cranberry traits. Moreover, its goal is to provide efficient selection on new cranberry lines using early trait markers. Using an unoccupied aerial vehicle (UAV), I have captured high resolution images on elite-line breeding populations for the field seasons of 2018 and 2019. Traits to be assessed include ecto- and endo-dormancy transitions of population genotypes, flowering, berry ripening, development, coloring, and yield. Models are currently being trained to ground-truth data to see the value of using such an approach to efficient collection of traits on
populations in the field. In addition, I have begun construction of an open-source, powerful, flexible, and extensible UAV to be outfitted with more advanced sensors to expand research capabilities and provide new collaboration opportunities. Last, design and construction of phenotyping systems on seedling vigor are in development for lab experimentation, with the goal of using higher-spectral imaging systems to assess intrinsic and extrinsic stress responses, their impact on vigor, and provide high-efficiency, early-selection of elite inbred lines. This system should not only advance the quality of cranberry germplasm moving forward but will also allow assessment and selection of higher numbers of individuals critical to advancing genetics studies and breeding.