Nutritional Improvement of Horticultural Crops through Plant Breeding

in HortScience
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  • 1 Dept. of Pomology, Univ. of California, Davis, CA 95616

Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of the micro mineral elements and vitamins often lacking in diets based on cereals, grain legumes, and starchy roots and tubers, but void of animal products. When embarking on a breeding program to improve nutritional compounds, the way the fruit or vegetable is consumed in mixed diets must be considered. To alleviate nutritional problems, the nutrients must not only be present in the plant parts consumed, but also absorbed efficiently in the body. In some cases, it may be necessary to modify compounds to improve absorption as well as increase the concentration. Breeding to improve nutritionally related traits can be approached in a manner similar to that for other traits; i.e., identification of genetic variability, selection for enhanced levels using either individual phenotype or family mean values, and testing for field performance. In addition to improving amount and availability, avoidance of undesirable correlated responses due to genetic or physiological linkages between the trait of interest and other traits deleterious to either plant growth or the consumer is critically important during selection. The growing number of molecular marker-based linkage maps should prove especially useful for identifying genes of interest and employing marker-aided selection. When insufficient variability for amount or type of compound is present in the gene pool, strategies using transgenic plants may be useful.

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