Squash is a major crop for vegetable growers in the northeastern United States, with New York and New Jersey accounting for roughly 14% of the U.S. production in 2015 (USDA, 2016). Growers have identified the breeding of high-quality winter squash with powdery mildew resistance as a major priority. This was a goal of the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC), a project to evaluate and develop regionally appropriate seed for organic vegetable growers (eOrganic, 2016), and was echoed in a recently conducted needs assessment of organic vegetable growers in the Northeast (Hultengren et al., 2016).
In the United States, infection by powdery mildew (Podosphaera xanthii, syn. Sphaerotheca fuliginea) causes yield losses in squash (McCreight, 2004) due to reduced number of fruit and also causes lower fruit quality (Zitter et al., 1996). Powdery mildew can be managed through fungicide application in conventional systems, but the increased occurrence of fungicide resistance and the lack of options for organic systems highlight the continued need for host resistance as a priority trait in breeding programs (Pérez-García et al., 2009).
‘Honeynut’ is a miniature butternut with exceptional color, high percent soluble solids, and high percent dry matter, which make it a sweet squash with good texture in a convenient size for consumers. It has become highly popular among consumers and growers (Barber, 2014) and represents a novel type of squash that has been prioritized by growers for future cultivar development, specifically through enhancing the powdery mildew resistance in a ‘Honeynut’-type squash.
In this study, we evaluated the yield, disease resistance, and fruit quality characteristics of new small butternut squash from our breeding program that combine ‘Honeynut’ and ‘Bugle’ (a powdery mildew resistant butternut) in their pedigrees. These new squash were compared with their two parents and ‘Waltham’, a commercial standard butternut squash, under both conventional and organic management systems.
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