$4M USDA NIFA SCRI grant involves MESA Lab crop phenotyping work

October 25, 2018

$4M USDA NIFA SCRI grant involves MESA Lab crop phenotyping work using both remote sensing and proximate sensing!

The PI is UC ANR Kearny Dr. Andreas Westphal, Assistant Nematologist, Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

Project title is "Putting phenotypic and genotypic tools to work for improving walnut rootstocks"




On 10/19/2018, Dr. Westphal gave an invited talk at UC Merced EECS SEminar Series.

Walnut Rootstock Development for Sustainable Nut Production: What Things Are, What They Look Like and Why Big DataDr. Andreas WestphalAssistant Cooperative Extension Specialist, Assistant Nematologist, Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center


Walnut is under constant attack by soil-borne plant pathogens including crown gall, root rots, and plant-parasitic nematodes. Because of the lifetime expectancy of walnut orchards of at least three to four decades, a high level of sustainable management and mitigation strategies for these soil-dwelling nematodes are paramount. Using rootstocks with elevated resistance and tolerance to all of these damaging organisms is an environmentally friendly and sustainable approach to reduce reliance on costly and possibly environment impacting management practices. Built on previous successes, a group of researchers from several UC campuses, USDA-ARS, the California State University of Fresno, and UCANR has formed to investigate the potential of walnut germplasm (Juglans spp.) to generate such rootstocks. Interspecific crosses within Juglans have been made, taken into tissue culture by embryo rescue, and regenerated into clonal plants. Recent efforts have focused on two breeding populations with ca. 300 genotypes of clonal offspring. These are characterized for responses against different soil-borne pathogens including Crown gall, Phytophthora root rots, and plant-parasitic nematodes. In parallel, each genotype is sequenced to create a genotypic map. As soon as phenotypic maps become available, these will be overlaid on the genotypic map to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL). Depending on the time necessary for the pathogen testing, progress varies among pathogen systems. Goals of these efforts are to improve breeding strategies, release new superior rootstocks, and to convey information on plant utility and economics to the walnut stakeholders.


Andreas Westphal is a native to Germany. He completed his College and early University training in Germany before pursuing his Ph.D. in the US. For two decades, he has been working in several nematode-host plant systems. His research endeavors encompass nematode management in several annual crops including maize, potato, small grains, soybean, sugar beet, watermelon and others. After a scientist role at the German resort research institute "Julius Kühn-Institut", he focused his research emphasis on host plant resistance and tolerance research in perennial crops. Since his employment with UC Riverside in 2015, he directs selection efforts for nematode resistance and tolerance in Walnut, Prunus, Pistachio, and grape. He also conducts management research in these crops.