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Breeding Program

Dr. Nick Vorsa

Nicholi Vorsa is Director at the Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension. His research and breeding program focuses on the genetic enhancement and phytochemistry of cranberry and blueberry, with the foundation of the program based on the establishment and utilization of a broad germplasm collection for breeding and genetic studies.

Vorsa has extensively studied the flavonoids, considered to be the constituents beneficial to human health, as well as the bioactivities of cranberry and blueberry.

Dr. Nick Vorsa
Dr. Nick Vorsa holding cultured cranberries

The cranberry breeding program has released six patented cranberry varieties with increased productivity and fruit quality. As of 2018, over 5,000 acres worldwide of Rutgers varieties have been planted. The cultivars have received wide acceptance and are being extensively planted and grown in all U.S. cranberry growing states and Canadian provinces, as well as in Chile and New Zealand.

Currently Vorsa's program is focused on the development of cranberry varieties with enhanced disease resistance, insect resistance, and adaptation to stresses, such as heat, in addition to genetic modification of fruit chemistry profiles. His research has led to the sequencing of the cranberry genome and identification of genes impacting fruit chemistry, e.g. flavonoids and fruit acids, as well as disease resistance.

In collaboration with the USDA, seven blueberry cultivars have been released. Currently his breeding program in blueberries focuses on machine-harvestable cultivars.

Impacts of his research include:

Zoom in Scarlet Knight cranberries
Scarlet Knight® cranberries
  1. Genome sequencing and genetic map development of cranberry
  2. Genetics of fruit rot resistance in cranberry, and fruit organic acids and flavonoids in cranberry and blueberry.
  3. Identified A-type proanthocyanidins as E. coli bioactive compounds from cranberry3. Developed high yielding cranberry varieties with modified fruit chemistry attributes.
  4. Identified QTLs (SNPs and SSR) for fruit rot resistance, organic acids, and flavonoids
  5. Developed a PCR based DNA fingerprinting method and DNA fingerprint database for cranberry varietal identification.