American Pomological Society Heading with apple graphic

2005 Wilder Silver Medal to Dr. Schuyler Korban

The American Pomological Society (APS) awarded the Wilder Silver Medal for 2005 to Dr. Schuyler Korban (University of Illinois) in recognition of his outstanding contributions to pomology. The Medal was presented at the annual APS Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada in July 2005. The Wilder Silver Medal was established in 1873 in honor of Marshall Pinckney Wilder, the founder and first president of APS. It is presented to individuals who have rendered outstanding service to horticulture in the area of pomology.

Dr. Schuyler Korban is currently a professor of molecular genetics and biotechnology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the American University of Beirut in 1974 and 1976, respectively, and completed his Ph.D. degree at the University of Nebraska in 1980. He pursued his postdoctoral training at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, and in 1982 he began his professional career as an assistant professor in the Department of Horticulture (now the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences) also at the University of Illinois. He has since been promoted to associate professor (1988), and then to full professor (1995).

Dr. Korban has been leading the apple breeding program at the University of Illinois since 1982. In collaboration with colleagues at Purdue and Rutgers universities, Schuyler has selected, named, and released 12 new disease-resistant apple cultivars including ‘Dayton’, ‘Williams’ Pride’, ‘McShay’, ‘GoldRush’, ‘Enterprise’, ‘Pristine’, ‘Primeira’, ‘Primevére’, ‘Scarlet O’Hara’, ‘Juliet’, ‘Pixie Crunch’, and ‘Sundance’ (patents received or pending). Earlier releases (‘Dayton’, ‘Williams’ Pride’, ‘McShay’) are mid-summer high-quality apples; while, subsequent releases are characterized with high fruit quality, late ripening, and long keeping quality. For example, ‘GoldRush’, ‘Enterprise’, and ‘Juliet’ can remain in cold storage (4 C) for 8-10 months and yet retain their firmness and flavor throughout storage. Schuyler has also been involved in the development and testing of 21 Co-op selections and hundreds of advanced apple selections. These disease resistant apple selections have been released as potential cultivars, and/or for use as advanced germplasm in breeding programs around the world. All this apple material is characterized with their genetic resistance to apple scab, along with varying degrees of resistance to powdery mildew, cedar-apple rust, and fire blight.

Dr. Korban began his research work by conducting classical genetic studies whereby he identified single major genes in Malus species as well as cultivated apples for resistance to powdery mildew and cedar-apple rust. He also investigated the polygenic resistance to the bacterial disease fire blight, and the differential interaction of two races of the bacterium with the apple genome. But then Schuyler began using molecular biology techniques to clone and characterize the first structural gene involved in photosynthesis in apple. The complete sequence of a light-harvesting chlorophyll a/b-binding protein gene, Lhcb1*Md, was determined and characterized. He used this information to clone a similar gene from peach, and found some interesting unique features about these genes in woody plants. Thereafter, he focused his efforts on the molecular characterization of the Vf gene for apple scab resistance that has been incorporated into the apple breeding program. He used a map-based positional cloning strategy to isolate and clone the Vf gene. His rapid success in achieving this goal can be measured by his identifying 18 molecular markers linked to this gene, establishing a high-density linkage map, converting linked markers into robust PCR-based markers, constructing two bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) libraries of the apple genome containing large apple DNA inserts, establishing a 1.1 Mb sequence-ready map, and constructing a 290 kb BAC contig containing the Vf gene. He then identified four receptor-like resistance gene homologues present within the Vf region. Three of these four genes have now been transferred to scab-susceptible apple cultivars, and some have been found to confer resistance to apple scab.

Dr. Korban is currently leading a team of scientists from four institutions (Illinois, Cornell, Purdue, and Washington University) to develop an apple EST database of 120,000 sequences from leaf, flowers, and fruits at different stages of development as well as pathogen-challenged tissues. This NSF-funded project is generating data that is being made publicly available to the worldwide apple and Rosaceae communities. So far, over 100,000 apple EST sequences have been generated, and deposited in Genbank. This apple genomics project will have a significant impact on our knowledge and characterization of myriad genes involved in growth and development in apple, other fruit crops, as well as other members of the Rosaceae family. Moreover, this large apple sequence information will aid in conducting comparative studies among various groups of plant species and uncovering evolutionary relationships in higher plants.

Dr. Korban has served as an associate editor for the Journal of American Society for Horticultural Science (1994-1997), In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology-Plant (1998-present), and Plant Cell, Tissue, and Organ Culture (1998-2005). He has led the effort to establish an apple Malus core collection in the U.S. for evaluation of various horticultural traits while chairing the Apple Crop Germplasm Committee back in 1990. Throughout his career, he has organized various symposia and/or workshops at both national and international conferences. He is currently serving on the ‘US Rosaceae Genomics, Genetics, and Breeding Executive Committee’ and the ‘Steering Committee for the United States Rosaceae Genomics, Genetics, and Breeding Initiative’, among others. He has been a sought-after speaker at various institutions in the US and abroad. He has given over 60 invited presentations in the U.S. and around the world. He has garnered significant research grants. In the past five years alone, he has brought over $8.3 million to support his research program from both public and private funding sources. He has a career total of over 105 refereed scientific articles, 17 book chapters and review articles, 45 proceedings and research reports, and 95 abstracts. He has taught courses in ‘Tree Fruit Science’ (undergraduate level), ‘Horticultural Plant Breeding’ (graduate level), and ‘Ethics in Biotechnology’ (graduate level), and has made it to the University of Illinois List of Teachers Rated Excellent by their students on five separate occasions. He has received the 2002 ASHS Outstanding Researcher Award, and elected Fellow of ASHS (2002) and the American College of Nutrition (2003). He has received the 2004 Paul A. Funk Recognition Award and the 2005 Spitze Land-Grant Professorial Career Excellence Award, both from the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois, among other recognitions.

- July 2005