Vegetables are a rich source of dietary carotenoids and tocopherols, powerful antioxidants that have the capacity to protect cells against oxidative damage caused by free radical reactions. There is evidence for a negative correlation between the incidence of certain types of cancer, age-related macular degeneration, cataract development, and cardiovascular disease with increased carotenoid and tocopherol intake. Development of elite vegetable germplasm with enhanced levels of these phytochemicals will potentially promote health among the consuming public. To assess the feasibility for genetic improvement in phytochemical content, it is necessary to partition the phenotypic variability into its component sources (genotype, environment, and genotype by environment interaction). To provide data for comparison and partition of phenotypic variation, 41 sweet corn and 13 broccoli genotypes were grown and harvested in one location for 3 years and analyzed for phytochemical content by HPLC. The most abundant form of carotenoids and tocopherols were lutein and gamma-tocopherol in sweet corn and beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol in broccoli. Analysis of variance showed that, in sweet corn, the differences among genotypes described most of the phenotypic variation (76% for lutein, and 78% for gamma-tocopherol). Genotype by year interaction was a second significant factor, while variation affiliated with the year was found to be a minor component. In contrast, in broccoli, the three sources of variability contributed equally to describe the total phenotypic variation for beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol. These results suggest that elite sweet corn and broccoli germplasm with improved carotenoid and tocopherol levels can be developed using conventional breeding protocols.
If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.