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CAHNRS Department of Horticulture Genomics Lab


Cherries, Pear, Bienertia cell.

The Dhingra lab conducts research in the area of plant genomics and biotechnology. We aspire to serve the community, the Ag industry, and society at large through creative problem solving and education. We exemplify teamwork. We are leaders. We are mavericks. We are contrarians. We are self-motivated. We are multicultural. We are a family. We are here for personal and collective intellectual growth to transform ourselves into capable scientists and individuals with the skills and mindsets to mentor and support others, foster meaningful advances in our field, and create positive societal impact.

With the sequencing of several genomes, genomics research in non-model plant species has entered a new era. The US West Coast and the State of Washington produce some of the best fruit crops globally. Research in the program focuses on basic and applied aspects of the non-model specialty crops and bioenergy crops for their improvement.


The importance of being . . . green?

Development of a fruit is accompanied by changes in pigment and several secondary metabolic processes are in full swing at this transitional phase. Organelles, namely chloroplast and mitochondria, are the major centers of activity during this period. The basic research emphasis in the program is to understand plastid development and function in Rosaceae fruit and non-model crops. Mature fruit plastids have been found to be involved in the synthesis and storage of important phytonutrients such as carotenoids and tocopherols as well as precursors to volatiles that play a role in organoleptic properties as well as pre- and postharvest fruit quality. Evaluation of diverse plastidial functions in fruit and bioenergy crops is expected to provide clues about energy transduction that can enable understanding and alleviation of several physiological disorders as well as improvement of photosynthetic function for improved productivity.

The applied research in the program is centered on using physiology and phenomics-guided omics (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics) investigations to identify genes underlying economically important traits in horticultural and specialty crops. Further, as candidate genes are discovered, reverse and forward genetics approaches are used to confirm gene-trait relationships. The information generated from this approach can be practically utilized in developing physiological and chemical-based solutions for existing varieties and new varieties can be developed through accelerated plant breeding and biotechnology approaches.

Plant Genomics Perspectives

The Pear Revival Journey

March 12, 2013

Soon after arriving at WSU in 2006, I embarked on a journey with a passionate set of individuals to revive an industry that has remained in suspended animation since the early 1900s. An email from a pear farmer in Yakima urged me to apply for funding to do pear research. That was my first introduction to a segment of the Pacific Northwest fruit industry that, while long an underdog relative to apples, has long sought to reinvent itself for the 21st century marketplace. Read more.

Issues Facing the Pacific Northwest Pear Industry

December 4, 2011

Watch video.

Innovation Crucial to Pear’s Future

September 2, 2011

This just in from The Packer: “Innovation crucial to pear’s future” In general, the pear industry is making money but is fragile because of a lack of innovation, said Amit Dhingra, a Washington State University horticultural genomicist. Read more.


Latest News

WSU researchers receive the 2021 Commercialization Gap Fund
The Office of Commercialization has awarded 10 Washington State University researchers with the Commercialization Gap Fund (CGF). Amit Dhingra received an award for  “Field Evaluation of Fruit Quality with Glycine Betaine:” The patented innovation is the novel use of glycine betaine, a natural certified organic plant metabolite, as a pre-harvest or at harvest technology to delay the development of pear fruit. To enable commercial-scale application, there is a need for farm-scale replicated trials. Funding will enable the collection of generation farm-level data and market adoption. Read more about the 2021 Commercialization Gap Fund projects here.
Restart the Ripening Clock
A genetic discovery leads to a new compound that could kick-start pear ripening and shows potential in sliced pears. For more than a decade, Washington State University geneticist Amit Dhingra has been trying to figure out the underlying genetics of pear ripening in order to design postharvest products that could deliver consistent fruit quality. A series of research projects that began with trying to understand the seemingly unpredictable impacts of 1-MCP (1-methylcyclopropene, which blocks ethylene receptors) on pears and find postharvest products that would deliver consistent fruit quality are now starting to fit together like the pieces of a puzzle, Dhingra said, with new tools to spur ripening and a genetic understanding of how and why they work. Read the full story by Kate Prengaman here.
Interim chair’s past experience influences path to horticulture
Amit Dhingra was recently named interim chair for the horticulture department. His two-year term started on June 1. He has served as a horticulture professor at WSU since 2006. This link connects to the original story.