Research in the Department of Pomology

Our Research Projects

Project start: 01.04.2023
Project end: 30.09.2026
Sponsor: Federal Office for Agriculture and Food

German apple production is facing a variety of challenges. In order to meet these demands and to promote all forces involved in apple breeding in Germany, an association of institutional breeders and many of the currently existing private breeding initiatives, the Fachgruppe Obstbau im Bundesausschuss Obst und Gemüse and the Fördergemeinschaft Ökologischer Obstbau e.V. (FOEKO) is aspired, which want to face the challenges together. In this project new sources of powdery mildew and scab resistance are to be identified through phenotypic evaluations and genotyping of genetic resources in apple, Breeding cultivars with pyramidized resistance to both pests also using columnar apple cultivars, which allow increased resilience to drought stress, is seen as a way to address the above challenges. The goal is to develop low-cost and easy-to-implement molecular markers: KASP assays that can be combined and used by all partners independently, depending on their own breeding strategy. The implementation of the analyses can then be contracted to independent providers.

Project start: 01.04.2023
Project end: 31.03.2026
Sponsor: , European Commission

More frequent heat and dry spells as a consequence of climate change are even in fruit growing regions with high natural rainfall like the Lake Constance area (800-1300 mm annually) are becoming more frequent. As a consequence, many fruit growers are investing in irrigation equipment. However, scheduling irrigation using a rough guess leads to overirrigation. Also, applied irrigation amounts are often not documented. The aim of the current Interreg porject is an innovative approach to schedule irrigation in a way to only apply the minimally needed additional water amounts. Objective criteria for a resource saving water management shall be established using digital technologies ready to use for the growers.

Project start: 01.02.2019
Project end: 31.12.2023
Sponsor: European Commission, Hessisches Ministerium für Landwirtschaft und Umwelt, Weinbau, Forsten, Jagd und Heimat

The main aim of this very applied project is to increase the proportion of regionally produced apples for cider production in the state of Hessia. The regional fruit juice companies are supporting new plantations, especially meadow orchards, and their management with a divers range of measures. However, the delivery of apples for juice prodcution is decreasing constantly. This is in contrast to the consumers wish for more regional products. Currently, only 20% of the total demand by the companies comes from regional meadow orchards. In order to increase this, commercial apple production for fruit juice and cider shall be introduced in Hessia. For this, the project should define the requirements for a commercially successful production of high quality apples for fruit juice production. A map to identify possible production areas in Hessia is to be produced. Aspects of biodiversity and landscape development are to be included. By this new growers should have a good basis for a decision towards developing new plantations. In addition, commercial plantations shall be evaluated against tradtional meadow orchards.

Project start: 16.03.2020
Project end: 15.05.2023
Sponsor: Federal Office for Agriculture and Food

The project "Apple4.NULL" aims to improve the sustainability of German apple production through automation and digital technologies. To this end, a network of non-destructive sensors will be set up to use data for targeted model-based control of various processes in apple production and storage. In addition to seasonal weather conditions, the most important factors influencing fruit quality and storage life, during the pre- and post-harvest periods, can be monitored with sensors. Control mechanisms and modelling related to water usage and fruit stress will be developed and the management of the orchard and storage adapted accordingly. In the "Apple4.NULL" orchard, the sprayer will be equipped with a digital assistant to optimise plant protection product usage, to reduce spray drift and access weather data and GIS information with the legal spray boundary requirements. The sprayer will use LiDAR sensor technology to assess the tree canopies. Existing sensors controlling CA storage rooms will be enhanced with intelligent defrosting algorithms for the refrigeration system. In storage changes in fruit quality will be continuously monitored and storage systems controlled via an intuitive software interface that will also enable other partners in the fruit value chain to access information. New technologies developed in the project will be directly implemented in commercial fruit growing practice via a number of industry project partners. Our focus will be on the integration of irrigation management in the decision support system.

Project start: 01.06.2018
Project end: 31.01.2021
Sponsor: Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Project start: 01.08.2017
Project end: 30.06.2020
Sponsor: Hessian Agency for Nature Conservation, Environment and Geology

Climate change effects may foster the development of new pests of high societal importance in the state of Hessia (Klimaschutzkonzept Hessen 2012). However, in some cases the developmental rate may also be greatly reduced. Own research suggests that the developmental rate of two insect species of high medical and economical relevance, the asian bush mosquito (Aedes japonicus japonicus) and the spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii), may be largely reduced or even stopped under conditions of high summer temperature. This may result in a largely reduced damage or risk of infection. However, the effects of a changing climate and temperature regime on population dynamics of the asian bush mosquito and the spotted wing drosophila are largely unknown. In this project we will identify frequency, length and regions in the state of Hessia with a higher or lower risk of a high population build up of these two insect species using phenological modelling in combination with climate change scenario ensembles.The parallel project PEST will deliver data on the effects of daily temperature variations and extreme weather situations on the development of the two insect species to allow an improved phenological modelling approach. The synergy between the two projects will allow a realistic estimate as a basis for the respective governmental agencies in Hessia.

Project start: 01.03.2016
Project end: 29.02.2020
Sponsor: European Commission

Coordinated by the University of Málaga, GoodBerry is focusing on strawberry, raspberry and black currant as model crop species and will study among others the adaptability of cultivars to different climatic conditions and the impact of these conditions on fruit quality. Global warming influences induction and initiation of flowers and the fulfillment of chilling requirement of the plants. First impairments were already observed in strawberries and currants under German growing conditions in the last decade. By cultivating well established cultivars of the three species with varying adaption to diverse environments at different locations within Europe the project design simulates the influence of climate change on berry cultivation. GoodBerry will build on novel molecular tools to apply cutting-edge genomic and metabolomics based approaches to deliver holistic solutions addressing the challenges of increasing productivity efficiency, crop resilience and food quality in the light of climate changes.

Project start: 01.11.2016
Project end: 31.10.2019
Sponsor: Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture

The aim of the planned project is to accomplish an early and reliable selection of growth types of the columnar apple, that are best suited for commercial growing systems, on very young plants from crossings. To achieve this, a combination of a few molecular markers will be identified. In combination with other already known markers such as the one for the typical apple aroma (Rowan et al., 2009; Souleyre et al., 2014) an early selection system for the combination of valuable traits including the growth habit of the future trees will be established. To further develop the early selection system, a fast breeding approach will be adopted to allow for a very efficient development of new varieties for the growers. This will allow for a fast introduction of an effective and economically sound production system for a regional production of cider apples for the fruit juice industry. The very effective production system will allow for a production where both, grower and juice industry, work on an economically feasible basis providing income opportunities for both sides.

Project start: 10.07.2017
Project end: 31.03.2019
Sponsor: Development agency for agribusiness

Phytoplasmas (Candidatus Phytoplasma) are cell wall-less plant-pathogenic bacteria which can colonize the phloem of more than 700 plant species including many economically important crops. They cause a wide range of symptoms that vary depending on the phytoplasma strain, their host plant, and environmental factors, and usually include yellowing of leaves, proliferation of shoots and stunting. In grapevine (Vitis vinifera) phytoplasmas cause diseases referred to as grapevine yellows. In other fruit trees like apple (Malus domestica) they cause apple proliferation and in pear (Pyrus) they lead to pear decline. Phytoplasmas are spread by phloem-feeding insect vectors, grafting, or vegetative propagation of infected plants. Control strategies for phytoplasmas currently rely only on preventing their spread, as there are no effective chemical plant protection products against phytoplasmas. In addition, phytoplasma diseases have long incubation periods of up to several months before symptoms can be observed. Therefore, this project aims to develop a fast and reliable molecular detection method for phytoplasmas based on LAMP and TaqMan assays, respectively, to be used in the production of vegetatively propagated crops like grapevine, apple, or pear.

Hochschule Geisenheim
© Hochschule Geisenheim

Project start: 01.03.2013
Project end: 31.12.2016
Sponsor: Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Rubus stunt is considered the most important phytoplasmosis on raspberries and can cause yield losses of up to 100%. With the diagnostic methods available so far, latently infected but also symptomatic plants are not detected properly. In addition, potential vectors and possible transmission routes are unknown. The aim of the project is to develop a highly sensitive and rapid molecular on-site test system for the early diagnosis of this phytoplasmosis. In addition, findings on the species spectrum of potential vectors and further transmission routes are to be obtained, which will serve as a basis for the development of targeted and timely control measures. The development of a molecular method for the diagnosis of Rubus stunt will follow the establishment of an on-site sampling protocol based on TaqMan probes, LAMP assays and label-free detection. Investigations on the species spectrum and phenology of potential vectors, further transmission routes, the susceptibility of raspberry cultivars as well as on targeted control measures are to be carried out in a raspberry propagation farm or in yielding plants. Based on this, management strategies for the propagation and cultivation of raspberries will be developed. Finally, the methods developed for molecular phytoplasma diagnostics are to be validated under field conditions and transferred to other crops for the detection of phytoplasmas.

Project start: 01.05.2011
Project end: 31.10.2014
Sponsor: European Commission

Beside the traditional cultivation of raspberry in open field, they are now increasingly grown under rain protection or in high tunnels to extend the cropping period. The main used plastics are standard polyethylene foils to cover rainshelters and tunnels. However, different materials are available nowadays which vary in their transparency for UV radiation or have shading properties. Raspberry leaves and berries are rich in in vitamin C and polyphenols. They are synthesized at biotic or abiotic stress and their antioxidant action protect the plants against oxidative stress by free radicals. Moreover, these bioactive compounds play a crucial role in the prevention of a wide range of human diseases. The use of high tunnels alters the growing conditions for raspberries by changes of the microenvironment, mainly temperature. Photosynthesis is one of the most temperature-sensitive factors controlling plant growth. Beside photosynthesis, heat stress is negatively associated with a lot of physiological activities. However, less is known about changes of photosynthesis, carbohydrate synthesis and accumulation of nutritional ingredients in raspberry fruits grown under plastic tunnels. Therefore, the impact of different environments (light intensity and – quality, temperature and rel. humidity) on photosynthesis of raspberry plants and their carbohydrate and polyphenol compounds will be studied in a comparative trial between cultivating them in open field or in high tunnel with shading or different UV transparency properties.