Flavor Precursor [S-alk(en)yl-L-cysteine sulfoxide] Concentration and Composition in Onion Plant Organs and Predictability of Field White Rot Reaction of Onions

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
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  • 1 University of Wisconsin, Madison, Department of Horticulture, 1575 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706
  • | 2 University of Wisconsin, Madison, Food Science Department, Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706

Breeders have found field screening for white rot (Sclerotium cepivorum Berk.) resistance in onion (Allium cepa L.) to be unreliable since consistently moderate to high disease levels that significantly differentiate cultivars do not occur over field sites and years. The objective was to determine if differences in onion white rot resistance levels were associated with differing S-alk(en)yl-l-cysteine sulfoxide (ACSO) levels. A collection of onion breeding lines and hybrids were evaluated in field trials at six sites in 1999-2001. High performance liquid chromatography was used to analyze ACSOs in onion plant organs. Four main cysteine-sulfoxides exist in Allium L. species: methyl (MCSO), 2-propenyl (2-PeCSO), 1-propenyl (1-PeCSO), and propyl (PCSO). 1-PeCSO was predominant in onion leaves, bulbs, and roots. 2-PeCSO was found in trace amounts in onion leaves and roots. There was significantly more 2-PeCSO and total ACSO (roots only) and 1-PeCSO (roots and bulbs) in accessions that were more susceptible to white rot in the field trials. This is the first report of significant differences in ACSO contents among white rot susceptible and resistant onions. A covariance analysis was used to determine if the ACSO levels that significantly distinguished among accessions could predict field onion white rot reaction. 1-PeCSO from both roots and bulbs was the best predictor of field disease incidence in field sites that had low, moderate, and high disease levels. Although the ACSO concentrations were not assessed on an individual plant basis, breeders may be able to screen onions for resistance to S. cepivorum by comparing onion root or bulb 1-PeCSO levels based on the results from this research. White rot incidence in the field should be higher in those plants whose roots and bulbs have the highest levels of 1-PeCSO.

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