Gennaro Fazio


USDA-ARS Plant Genetic Resources Unit 

School of Integrative Plant Sciences at Cornell University


Plant breeder and research geneticist

Adjunct Associate Professor 


Apply genomics, transcriptomics and root phenomics to enhance classical breeding processes of apple rootstocks

Why did you choose this career?

It was a unique opportunity at the time that offered working with a wealth of genetic diversity Tthe Geneva, NY apple collection, at the time being one of five breeding programs in the world,

How did you get your start?

The program had been active since 1968, so I had a bit of legacy behind me – steep learning curve from cucumber and tomato (3 generations per year) to apple rootstocks (one generation in 15 years)

What is the coolest thing about your job?

While apples from rootstocks don’t taste that good, I get to taste all kinds of new experimental apples from all over the world that are grafted on our root systems and other fruit (peaches, strawberries, grapes, blueberries, etc.) developed by my fruit breeding colleagues.

What challenges are you working to address through your work?

The focus of our research is to develop new apple rootstocks that are more productive than current commercially available varieties and that are resistant to devastating diseases like fire blight (caused by Erwinia amylovora) and replant disease caused by a complex of soil pathogens.  Part of the research focus is directed toward developing marker-assisted breeding protocols for the breeding program, therefore conducts basic and applied research on apple genetics/genomics, particularly in the area of disease resistance, root and tree architecture, rootstock mediated plant nutrition, tolerance to climate change and dwarfing mechanisms of apple rootstocks.