Over the last 3 decades, broccoli (Brassica oleracea L., Italica Group) hybrids made by crossing two inbred lines replaced open-pollinated populations to become the predominant type of cultivar. The change to hybrids evolved with little or no understanding of heterosis or hybrid vigor in this crop. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to determine levels of heterosis expressed by a set of hybrids derived by crossing relatively elite, modern inbreds (n = 9). A total of 36 hybrids formed by crossing nine parents were evaluated for horticultural characters, including head weight, head stem diameter, plant height, plant width (in a row), and maturity (e.g., days from transplant to harvest) in four environments. When averaged across all four environments, roughly half of the hybrids exhibited high parent heterosis for head weight (1 to 30 g) and stem diameter (0.2 to 3.5 cm). Almost all hybrids showed high parent heterosis for plant height (1 to 10 cm) and width (2 to 13 cm). Unlike other traits, there was negative heterosis for maturity, indicating that heterosis for this character in hybrids is expressed as earliness. With modern broccoli inbreds, heterosis for head characteristics appears less important than for traits that measure plant vigor.
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