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CAHNRS Department of Horticulture Genomics Lab

Of 130+ applicants, 25 undergraduates receive awards to pursue research

PULLMAN, Wash. – Twenty-five students from a record pool of applicants for Washington State University awards in undergraduate research, scholarship and creative activities will each receive $1,000 to support their work.

Zachary Reeves, a freshman in electrical engineering mentored by Amit Dhingra is among the award recipients. He will research custom algorithms to execute programs and analyze data in the genomics and biotechnology lab.

Read the article at WSU News.

Pear Industry Ripe for Change

When Dr. Amit Dhingra joined Washington State University seven years ago as a plant genomicist, one thing immediately struck him about the tree fruit industry.

Apples were a 2-billion-dollar high-tech industry, and the cherry industry was also advancing quickly, propelled by new varieties and ­rootstocks.

“These industries are on the move,” he noticed. “But in pears, we had not seen much advance in the last 100 years. It’s an industry which requires more application of knowledge so we can bring in change and transition.” Read the rest of the article by Geraldine Warner at Good Fruit Grower.

WSU scientists make genomes available for research

PULLMAN, Wash. – Anyone who has bought a hard pear at the supermarket can probably attest to the fruit’s unpredictable ripening process. But that unpredictability, one of the many traits stored in the plant’s genetic code, could be a thing of the past now that Washington State University scientists have sequenced four new Rosaceae crop family genomes, including the Comice pear. Read more at WSU News.

The Pear Revival Journey

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. » More …

Encouraging the Next Generation of Scientists

Sequoia Leuba (left) explaining her research at the recent Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Eighteen-year-old Sequoia Leuba was already a seasoned researcher when she came to work this summer in the lab of WSU horticultural genomicist Amit Dhingra. In ninth grade, while her peers were just starting to classify the unseen world of microbes, Leuba was conducting research at a University of Pittsburgh microbiology lab.

Read the rest of the article by Nella Letizia on WSU Agricultural Science News website.

Regenerating Pixie a crucial step in grasping grape genetics

PULLMAN, Wash. – Understanding the grape genome in all its vast variety will translate into sustainable viticulture practices and a deeper understanding of wine quality.

Wine grape growers have been plagued by an economically devastating pest, phylloxera, which has necessitated the replacement of almost all vines with new ones grown on pest-resistant rootstocks. Fungal diseases are not only an economic threat but an environmental one as well, since heavy fungicide treatments are required to beat back the spread of powdery mildew.

Getting a grip on grape genetics requires not just the sequencing of entire genomes but detailed pictures of which genes do what. To get that information, scientists need a way to quickly grow sample plants that have been genetically transformed. Transformation means that a particular gene is silenced or added to the organism in order to learn what effect the change has on the plant.

Read the article in WSU News.

Four Grad Students Funded for Wine Research

PULLMAN, Wash. – Some of wine drinkers’ favorite grape varieties are originally from the Rhone River Valley of France. Now, though, syrah, grenache, viognier and a handful of other varieties are grown in vineyards all over the world, including Washington state.

That’s why a U.S.-based organization, Rhone Rangers, recently helped fund the research of four WSU graduate students working on issues related to Rhone grape varieties. Read more at WSU News.

MCP Alternative Tested

An organic compound that has the potential to enhance storability of pears and apples is being patented by the Washington State University Foundation.

Glycinebetaine, a natural product derived from sugar beet molasses, is sold in Europe under the tradename Bluestim to help plants overcome the environmental stresses caused by heat, drought, or cold, and osmotic stress. It is also used to prevent cherry cracking.

Dr. Amit Dhingra, molecular biologist at WSU, has discovered that when the product is applied to pears 30 days before harvest, it can help delay ripening in storage but in a different way from MCP (methylcyclopropene), a product widely used in the tree fruit industry to preserve fruit quality. Read the rest of the article at Good Fruit Grower.

New program funds undergraduate science research

PULLMAN, Wash. – A new program, funded by the National Science Foundation, will give eight undergraduate students from across the nation the opportunity to study plant biologREU studenty in cutting-edge labs at Washington State University.

The Research Experience for Undergraduate program is accepting applications from students wanting real-world experience in plant genomics and biotechnology. Applications are due by March 30 and winners will be notified by April 25. For more information on REU programs visit

Undergraduates accepted into the REU site will receive a $5,000 stipend for the 10-week session, free housing,and travel assistance to and from Pullman, Wash.

“We encourage students interested in everything from computer science to ecology to apply for this experience,” said Amit Dhingra, a WSU horticultural genomics professor and the leader of the new program. Read more at WSU News.

High-tech Nursery Launched

Dr. Amit Dhingra, genomicist with Washington State University, has set up a new company to produce fruit varieties, rootstocks, and nursery trees faster and cheaper through tissue culture. In addition, the identities of the plants are guaranteed through high-resolution genetic ­fingerprinting.

The company, called Phytelligence, is a spinoff of WSU. Dhingra and six of his graduate students at WSU developed micropropagation protocols as well as the technique and software for accurately verifying the genetic identity of the plantlets they produce. Read more at Good Fruit Grower.