Blackberry Breeders

Dr. Margaret Worthington

Dr. Margaret Worthington is an assistant professor of fruit breeding and genetics in the University of Arkansas Department of Horticulture. Her primary research interest is the development of improved blackberry, peach, nectarine, and muscadine grape cultivars. She also leads research on fruit genetics and molecular breeding and is especially interested in answering questions that lead to the development of molecular tools and modern breeding methods which will accelerate genetic gain and strengthen applied cultivar development programs. Modern blackberry varieties have come a long way from the thorny, sour, and bitter varieties of the past, but all our gains have been made through classical phenotypic selection. Genomic breeding in blackberry is still in its infancy. Blackberry breeders are currently working to develop the first dense linkage maps and map loci for major qualitative traits. Dr. Worthington is participating as the lead blackberry breeder in the ‘Tools for Polyploids: Development of a Community Resource’ project. She plans to leverage existing datasets for genome-wide association mapping (GWAS), linkage and quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping, and genomic selection (GS) to validate new computational tools developed in the project and identify new markers and strategies for genomics-assisted breeding in blackberries.