(230) Genetic Differences in Sweet Cherry Fruit Size Are Determined by Cell Number and Not Cell Size

in HortScience
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  • 1 1Michigan State University, Department of Horticulture, East Lansing, MI, 48824
  • | 2 2Washington State University, Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center, Prosser, WA, 99350

Although maximizing fruit size is critical for profitable sweet cherry (Prunusavium L.) production, little is known about the cellular differences among and between cultivars that contribute to fruit size differences. A wide range of fruit size exists among sweet cherries, and, due to cultural and environmental differences, significant variation exists among genetically identical fruit from the same cultivar. To determine the relative contributions of flesh cell number and cell size to final fruit size in sweet cherry, equatorial sections of three cultivars with a wide range in final average fruit size [`New York 54' (NY54; 1.4 g fresh weight, 11.8 mm diameter), `Emperor Francis' (EF; 6.1 g, 21.0 mm), and `Selah' (12.8 g, 25.5 mm)] were created from mature fruit. Cells intersecting a transverse line were counted and average cell length was calculated. The average cell numbers were significantly different (P ≤ 0.05) between `NY54', `EF', and `Selah' (26.7, 47.4, and 83.2, respectively), indicating that flesh cell number is the major contributor to differences in fruit size between cultivars. Flesh cell numbers of `NY54', `EF', and `Selah' were similar at bloom and increased rapidly for a short duration after fertilization, suggesting a key developmental period for fruit size differences. To determine the contribution of cell number differences to variation in fruit size within a cultivar, fruit from `Bing' and `Regina' trees exhibiting a range of size due to cultural and environmental differences were measured. In both cases, average cell number was not significantly different (P = 0.9, P = 0.3, respectively), while average cell size was (P ≤ 0.05), further indicating fruit flesh cell number is a genetically controlled trait.

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