- Fruits: berries (blueberries)
- Crop Production: biological inoculants
Inoculation with mycorrhizal fungi is known to promote plant growth. Studies have demonstrated this benefit using arbuscular mycorrhizae but the effect of Ericoid Mycorrhizal Fungi (EMF), which forms beneficial associations with blueberry roots is poorly understood. Blueberries are classified as "superfoods" because they contain antioxidants such as anthocyanins which help the immune system to fight disease. To address consumer interests in superfoods, decrease phosphate run-offs and reduce fertilizer inputs; farmers have turned to sustainable practices such as inoculation with commercial EMF but lack information on whether inoculation will influence the healthful attributes of blueberry fruits. The objective of this project is to determine the anthocyanin content and antioxidant activity of blueberry fruits in EMF-inoculated and non-inoculated plants and identify the anthocyanin related genes altered in response to EMF inoculation. I hypothesize that the anthocyanin content and antioxidant activity of blueberry fruits will differ, and this difference will be further understood by changes in the expression of anthocyanin related genes. Using biochemical analysis and RNA sequencing data, my results will provide an insight into the role of EMF on fruit quality and give farmers adequate facts to make informed decisions about the short- and long-term effects of inoculation. The results of the project will be presented at meetings with the Vermont vegetable and berry growers association, American Society of Plant Biologists, NOFA-VT and the academic community.
Project objectives from proposal:
The goal of this research is to examine whether inoculation of blueberry roots with beneficial fungi can affect berry anthocyanin content that promotes good health and makes it a superfood. This information will be useful for farmers to make informed decisions about sustainable practices that influence fruit quality and improve plant growth. Using laboratory experiments, the proposed research will address two objectives:
Objective 1: Determine the anthocyanin content and antioxidant activity in blueberry fruits from both EMF-inoculated and non-inoculated plants. This will enable me to examine whether there is an impact of EMF inoculation on fruit quality.
Objective 2: Identify anthocyanin related genes whose expression is altered in response to EMF inoculation. I will conduct an RNA sequencing experiment on blueberry fruits obtained from inoculated and non-inoculated plants. This will enable me to indicate what genetic factors are driving the phenotypic changes we may observe.