University of Tennessee develops disease-resistant Dogwood trees

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)  A research foundation that began more than a decade ago to develop disease-resistant dogwood trees was started by the University of Tennessee Research Foundation.

In the late 80s up to the mid-90s, two fungal diseases, Dogwood anthracnose, and powdery mildew hit the dogwood population. These diseases left such a big effect on the nursing industry, it forced some small nurseries out of business.The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture developed Creative Agricultural LLC in 2005 to help researchers study and potentially solve the growing problem of exotic pathogens attacking dogwood trees in Tennessee.

Researchers with UTIA began looking for dogwood tree specimens that showed resistance to the diseases. They discovered one specimen, known as the Appalachian Spring, that was highly tolerant to the dogwood anthracnose and resistant to powdery mildew.

The brought it back to Tennessee and cloned it. The researchers also cultivated five other flowering dogwood specimens, each with different characteristics, that were resistant to powdery mildew. Three other Chinese dogwood tree specimens were developed and made available to nurseries.

The University of Tennessee Research Foundation exclusively licensed all the intellectual property and patent rights to these trees to CAT according to Dr. Robert Trigiano, CAT co-founder and Institute Professor, Ornamental Plant Biotechnology and Plant Pathology, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at UTIA.

“Our collaboration with UTRF is a true partnership,” Trigiano said. “When CAT started in 2005, few university entities were taking the initiative to advance technologies and products to market. UTRF was different. They gave us assistance in the commercialization process.”

Researchers with CAT continue to study and look for new traits for dogwood trees. They plan to release two new dogwood cultivars within the next two years; a red dogwood that seems to be resistant to powdery mildew and a Chinese dogwood with an inverted base and fused bracts that give the tree a fuller, more colorful appearance.

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