The cucumber is of course a staple of many salads, and is crunched by millions in the form of a pickle. In fact according to ARS (agricultural research service) statistics, the average American ate about 12 pounds of processed cucumbers last year. But while the vegetable offers a crisp and refreshing taste, its narrow genetic base means that it is susceptible to disease. Jack Staub, a plant geneticist with the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Vegetable Crops Research Unit in Madison, is working to remedy this. One of only two non-private cucumber breeders in the country, Staub is attempting to give cucumber's DNA a boost by infusing it with wilder varieties. According to the ARS website, Staub is cooperating with Chinese scientists who have already successfully crossed an unusual wild cucumber species from China with a domestic one. "What's so attractive about this wild cucumber is that it possesses resistance to gummy stem blight and, possibly, to nematodes and certain viruses--some of cucumber's biggest foes," said the ARS. "Fortunately, the hybrids that Staub and his colleagues are developing cross readily with domestic cucumbers. He's still evaluating them for their horticultural potential but plans to eventually share the new and unique plant material with breeders all over the world." Packaged fresh-cut fruits and vegetables are showing up in more and more consumer markets, according to USDA research. Indeed, the FSA said that fresh cut produce is the fastest growing sector of the fresh produce industry.