Identification of novel genetic regions associated with resistance to European canker in apple

Amanda Karlström*, Antonio Gómez-Cortecero, Charlotte F. Nellist, Matthew Ordidge, Jim M. Dunwell, Richard J. Harrison

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: European canker, caused by the fungal pathogen Neonectria ditissima, is an economically damaging disease in apple producing regions of the world – especially in areas with moderate temperatures and high rainfall. The pathogen has a wide host range of hardwood perennial species, causing trunk cankers, dieback and branch lesions in its hosts. Although apple scion germplasm carrying partial resistance to the disease has been described, little is still known of the genetic basis for this quantitative resistance. Results: Resistance to Neonectria ditissima was studied in a multiparental population of apple scions using several phenotyping methods. The studied population consists of individuals from multiple families connected through a common pedigree. The degree of disease of each individual in the population was assessed in three experiments: artificial inoculations of detached dormant shoots, potted trees in a glasshouse and in a replicated field experiment. The genetic basis of the differences in disease was studied using a pedigree-based analysis (PBA). Three quantitative trait loci (QTL), on linkage groups (LG) 6, 8 and 10 were identified in more than one of the phenotyping strategies. An additional four QTL, on LG 2, 5, 15 and 16 were only identified in the field experiment. The QTL on LG2 and 16 were further validated in a biparental population. QTL effect sizes were small to moderate with 4.3 to 19% of variance explained by a single QTL. A subsequent analysis of QTL haplotypes revealed a dynamic response to this disease, in which the estimated effect of a haplotype varied over the field time-points. Conclusions: This study describes the first identified QTL associated with resistance to N. ditissima in apple scion germplasm. The results from this study show that QTL present in germplasm commonly used in apple breeding have a low to medium effect on resistance to N. ditissima. Hence, multiple QTL will need to be considered to improve resistance through breeding.

Original languageEnglish
Article number452
JournalBMC Plant Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2022


  • Apple
  • Disease resistance
  • European canker
  • Malus x domestica
  • Neonectria ditissima


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