The ‘Marketmore’ series has long been a standard for disease resistance in cucumber. ‘Boothby's Blonde’ is a cucumber heirloom praised by growers for its distinctive appearance, earliness, and eating qualities but is highly susceptible to fungal diseases. We report the development of the monoecious open-pollinated cucumber ‘Salt and Pepper’ that combines the desirable qualities of ‘Marketmore 97’ and Boothby's Blonde’. The fruit of ‘Salt and Pepper’ is white with black spines like that of ‘Boothby's Blonde’ but has foliar powdery mildew resistance. Selection of ‘Salt and Pepper’ was performed on USDA-certified organic ground, making it one of the first commercially available modern vegetable cultivars adapted specifically (but not exclusively) for organic production.
Cucumber, probably originating from India, has been domesticated for over 3000 years (Bates and Robinson 1995). In modern times plant breeders have selected for a diversity of fruit shapes and colors, sex expression, growth habits, and disease resistances (Wehner and Robinson, 1991). A long history of breeding at Cornell University and elsewhere has resulted in the development of cucumber cultivars that are resistant to a number of plant diseases (Cavatorta et al., 2007; Peterson, 1975). Resistance breeding began in the 1920s to address Cucumber mosaic virus (Porter, 1929) and now includes a number of virus, fungal, and bacterial diseases (McGrath and Zitter, 2011). However, many farmer-developed heirloom cultivars continue to be grown that have novel appearances or high-quality fresh market characteristics such as taste but that lack disease resistances. Recognizing that private companies typically do not pursue improvement of such cultivars because they are grown on small acreage, the USDA-funded Public Seed Initiative (<http://www.plbr.cornell.edu/psi>) and subsequently the Organic Seed Partnership (<http://www.organicseedpartnership.com>) were set up at Cornell to address these underserved markets. As part of this work we have developed ‘Salt and Pepper’, a monoecious cucumber inbred that is adapted to Northeast growing conditions and combines disease resistances from Cornell germplasm with the eating qualities of the cold-tolerant heirloom cultivar Boothby's Blonde.
Bates, D. & Robinson, R. 1995 Cucumber, melons and water-melons, p. 89–96. In: Smartt, J. and N. Simmonds (eds.). Evolution of crop plants. 2nd Ed. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York, NY.
Cavatorta, J., Moriarty, G., Henning, M., Glos, M., Kreitinger, M. & Jahn, M. 2007 ‘Marketmore 97’: A monoecious slicing cucumber inbred with multiple disease and insect resistances HortScience 42 707 709
McGrath, M. & Zitter, T. 2011 Resistant varieties. Cornell University Vegetable MD Online. 15 Aug. 2011. <http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu/Tables/TableList.html>.
Wehner, T. & Robinson, R. 1991 A brief history on the development of cucumber cultivars in the U.S. Cucurbit Genet. Coop. Rpt.14:1–4. 15 Aug. 2011. <http://cuke.hort.ncsu.edu/cgc/cgc14/cgc14-1.html>.