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Rose breeding blooms from backyard to genetics lab

COLLEGE STATION The backyard garden of a mathematician has rejuvenated Texas rose research in a way that could lead to improvements not only for the flowering bush but for some berry crops.

The late Dr. Robert Basye's estate re-established a breeding program that had withered away at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station and added the goal of examining roses at the genetic level.

"One trait we are extremely interested in is the everblooming ability of roses," said Dr. David Byrne, Experiment Station horticulturist. "We want to see if it is possible to put it in other crops. Imagine a blackberry that would fruit throughout the summer."

Byrne learned from Basye, a longtime Texas A&M University math professor who spent the 10 years prior to his death in 2000 telling the horticulturist how he had bred roses on at least 10 acres behind his home.

"He wanted a carefree rose," said Byrne. "Every Friday I would visit him to learn more and to continue his goal of developing landscape roses that are essentially carefree."

Bayse's vision was on par with U.S. gardeners. In November 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed orders making the rose, which grows in all 50 states and five territories, the national flower emblem. And, the American Rose Society has declared 2002 the Year of the Rose. And more people are giving the rose with its multitude of colors, sizes, shapes and fragrances a chance.

Roses are a high dollar U.S. crop, valued at about $50 million a year in Texas alone. v "It is one of the more important plants because it blooms repeatedly," Byrne said. "That is a trait we got out of China and when we did, the rose really blossomed, quite literally, as a crop."

Still, though research has improved roses to the point of making them easier for even the novice gardener to grow, much research is needed to understand roses from the genetic level so new varieties can be developed.

Byrne said germplas
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Contact: Kathleen Phillips
ka-phillips@tamu.edu
979-845-2872
Texas A&M University
17-Jul-2002


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