The inheritance of antioxidant activity (AOA) and its association with seedcoat color was investigated in cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.]. Four advanced cowpea lines, ARK95-356 (black seedcoat) and ARK98-348 (red seedcoat), which were high (H) in AOA, and ARK96-918 (cream seedcoat) and LA92-180 (cream seedcoat), which were low (L) in AOA, were selected from the 2002 Regional Southernpea Cooperative Trials. They were crossed in a complete diallel mating design, generating F1, F1′ (1st generation and 1st generation reciprocal cross, respectively), F2, F2′ (2nd generations from F1, F1′), BC1, and BC2 (backcrosses to parents 1 and 2, respectively) populations. Individual seeds were ground and samples were extracted in methanol and analyzed for AOA using the free radical 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) method. Combining ability tests using Griffing's Method I Model I indicated presence of highly significant general combining ability (GCA), specific combining ability (SCA), and reciprocal (RE) and maternal (MAT) effects, with pigmented lines exhibiting positive GCA and MAT, while nonpigmented lines exhibited negative GCA and MAT. AOA in the F1 was not significantly different from the maternal parent, with seedcoat color also resembling the maternal parent. Segregation for seedcoat color was observed in the F2 and F2′. Additive, dominance, and epistatic effects were significant. The broad sense heritability estimate was 0.87. Minimum number of genes responsible for AOA was estimated at five. Factors governing high AOA appeared to be the same as those responsible for seedcoat color, with apparent pleiotropic effects. In conclusion, breeding for high AOA in cowpea is possible using highly pigmented parental lines.
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