Carotenoids (provitamin A) and tocopherols (vitamin E) are powerful antioxidants in plants and in the human diet. Carrot (Daucus carota) has been selected for increased levels of carotenoids, contributing to its orange color and reported health benefits. Selection for increased tocopherol has shown success in seed oils, but little progress has been made in the edible portions of most vegetable crops. HPLC measurement following a simultaneous heptane extraction of both compounds has shown a significant (P ≤ 0.001) positive correlation of α-tocopherol with α-carotene (r = 0.65) and β-carotene (r = 0.52). To increase both the tocopherols and carotenoids in plants, 3 populations have been established from select open-pollinated varieties grown in 2002. These populations consist of half-sib families with these differing selection schemes: based strictly on increased α-tocopherol levels; an index to increase α-carotene, β-carotene and α-tocopherol; and a random population in which no selection is occurring. After one cycle of selection, populations were grown on muck soil during the summer of 2003. Compared with the random population, an increase of 24.68% in α-tocopherol concentration was recorded for the population selected strictly on α-tocopherol while increases of 8.47% in α-tocopherol, 9.31% in α-carotene and 7.31% in β-carotene were recorded for the population with index selection. The continuation of these carrot populations shows promise to produce carrot germplasm with improved human nutritive value.
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