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Christopher S. Cramer and Todd C. Wehner

Recurrent selection has been used as a breeding method to improve traits having low heritability such as fruit yield, earliness, and fruit shape. The objective of this study was to measure the progress of recurrent selection in four slicing cucumber populations in terms of hybrid performance when crossed with a common tester. The four populations, North Carolina wide-base slicer (NCWBS), medium-base slicer (NCMBS), elite slicer 1 (NCES1), and Beit Alpha 1 (NCBA1) populations, which differed in their genetic diversity and mean performance, were developed using modified intrapopulation half-sib recurrent selection to improve fruit yield and quality. Eleven S0 families were taken randomly from each of three selection cycles (early, intermediate, and advanced) from each population. Those families were self-pollinated to form S1 families, and the S1 families were crossed to `Poinsett 76', a popular slicing cucumber cultivar. The experiment was a splitplot treatment arrangement in a randomized complete-block design with 22 replications per population, with the four populations as whole plots and the three cycles as subplots. When 10% of fruit were oversized (>60 mm in diameter), plants were sprayed with paraquat to defoliate them for once-over harvest. Plots were evaluated for total, early, and marketable yield and fruit shape. Recurrent selection for improved fruit yield and shape per se resulted in improved hybrid performance of the NCWBS and NCBA1 populations for fruit yield and shape rating when tested in the selected or nonselected environment. The NCWBS population had the largest gain (21%) in hybrid performance averaged over all traits. In addition, early yield was improved an average of 18% from early to late cycles for each population. Even though the fruit yield and shape rating of `Dasher II' was greater than the hybrid performance of each population mean for the same traits, several F1 families within each population exceeded the fruit yield of `Dasher II'.

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Todd C. Wehner and Christopher S. Cramer

Fruit yield, earliness, and quality have low to moderate heritability, but are traits of major importance in cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.). The objective of this study was to determine the changes made in those traits using recurrent selection in three slicing cucumber populations (NCMBS, NCES1, and NCBA1). During population improvement, one or two replications of 200 to 335 half-sib families were evaluated in the spring season for five traits: total, early, and marketable fruit per plot, fruit shape rating, and a simple weighted index (SWI = 0.2(total yield)/2 + 0.3(early yield) + 0.2(% marketable)/10 + 0.3(fruit shape). Families from each population were intercrossed in an isolation block during the summer season using remnant seeds of the best 10% selected using the index. Response was evaluated using a split-plot treatment arrangement in a randomized complete block design with 32 replications in each of two seasons (spring and summer). Whole plots were the three populations, and subplots were the 11 cycles (cycles 0 to 9 plus checks). We measured improvement in performance of the populations in a selected (spring) and unselected environment (summer). Significant gains were made for all traits in all populations over the 9 to 10 cycles of recurrent selection. Greatest progress was made for the NCMBS population, with an average of 37% gain from cycle 0 to 9 over all five traits. The trait where most progress was made was early yield, with an average of 63% gain from cycle 0 to 9 over the three populations.

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Theodore J. Kisha and Christopher S. Cramer

The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System is one of the world's largest national genebank networks focusing on preserving the genetic diversity of plants by acquiring, preserving, evaluating, documenting, and distributing crop-related germplasm to researchers worldwide. Maintaining viable germplasm collections is essential to world food security but comes at a cost. Redundancy within the collection can incur needless expense and occurs as a result of donations of similar material under different names from different donors. Alternatively, similarly named accessions from different donors can actually be genetically distinct. We evaluated 35 short-day onion (Allium cepa) accessions using microsatellite and targeted region amplified polymorphic (TRAP) molecular markers to compare newly acquired germplasm with existing accessions in the collection to determine differences and redundancies and to compare the use of each marker type in distinguishing the onion accessions. Both marker types distinguished differences and found similarities, but the results did not always agree. TRAP markers found one of the Italian Torpedo entries to be different, whereas the 10 microsatellite loci analyzed found no differences. In contrast, microsatellite analysis found all three Red Grano entries to be different, whereas TRAP analysis distinguished only one accession. The eight White Grano entries were separated into four groups by microsatellite markers and five groups by the TRAP markers. Discriminating among closely related accessions using molecular markers can require a large number of random marker loci, especially when differences may be limited to a single trait. TRAP markers were more efficient, uncovering ≈10 random polymorphic loci per primer pair, whereas microsatellite markers each uncovered differences at a single locus.

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Constance L. Falk, Pauline Pao, and Christopher S. Cramer*

In January 2002, an organic vegetable garden on the New Mexico State Univ. (NMSU) main campus was initiated to expose students to organic production practices and agricultural business management. The project named, OASIS (Organic Agriculture Students Inspiring Sustainability), is funded by a USDA Hispanic Serving Institution Grant and operated as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) venture. Students enroll in an organic vegetable production class during spring and fall semesters to help manage and work on the project. The CSA model of farming involves the sale of shares to members who receive weekly allotments of the farm's output. The objectives of the project are to provide students with a multi-disciplinary experiential educational opportunity, to investigate the feasibility of small scale organic drip irrigated farming in the Chihuahuan desert, to demonstrate the CSA model to the local community, to trial vegetable varieties, and to provide a site where faculty can conduct research or student laboratory exercises. This is the first organic vegetable garden on the NMSU main campus, the first organic vegetable production class, and the first CSA venture in southern New Mexico. The project has grown about 230 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers in the first two years of production, and has grossed at total of $32,000 in revenues from both years on 2/3 of an acre of land. In the first year, 32 members purchased 18.5 full share equivalents, and in 2003, 69 members purchased 39.5 full share equivalents.

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Christopher S. Cramer, Jose L. Mendoza, and Joe N. Corgan

Current emphasis of onion breeding programs has been to develop male-sterile, maintainer, and pollinator inbred lines for the production of hybrid cultivars. Five short-day, male-sterile inbred lines from the New Mexico State Univ. Onion Breeding Program were crossed to four short-day, pollinator inbred lines in all possible combinations. In addition, six intermediate-day male-sterile inbred lines were crossed with seven intermediate-day, pollinator inbred lines in all possible combinations. The resulting hybrid lines from all crosses were evaluated for maturity, bolting resistance, pink root resistance, Fusarium basal rot resistance, percentage of marketable bulbs, marketable yield, average bulb weight, and percentage of bulbs with single centers. The average performance among male-sterile and among pollinator lines within each group was determined by averaging over hybrid lines that pertained to the respective male-sterile or pollinator line. Among the short-day inbred lines, NMSU 97-28-2 and NMSU 97-109-2 as female parents produced the best hybrid lines, while NMSU 96-17-1 and NMSU 96-51-1 as male parents produced the best hybrid lines. The best hybrid combinations among the short-day parents were NMSU 97-28-2 × 96-17-1 and 97-46-2 × 96-51-1. Among the intermediate-day inbred lines, NMSU 96-196-2 and 96-300-2 as female parents produced the best hybrid lines, while NMSU 96-280-1, NMSU 96-274-1 and 96-395-1 as male parents produced the best hybrid lines. Some of the best intermediate-day hybrid combinations included NMSU 96-300-2 × 96-335-1 and NMSU 96-300-2 × 96-274-1.

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Neel Kamal, Ashish Saxena, Robert L. Steiner, and Christopher S. Cramer

Black mold, caused by the fungus Aspergillus niger, is one of the major postharvest onion (Allium cepa) diseases causing qualitative and quantitative losses. To screen autumn-sown onion cultivars for black mold resistance, 12 cultivars were sown in 2004 and 2005 in Las Cruces, NM. Percent sporulated area, disease severity, and disease incidence were recorded after 2 and 4 weeks of storage. ‘Texas Early White’ exhibited less disease symptoms than other cultivars tested. For all cultivars, disease symptoms in terms of severity and incidence increased as bulbs were stored for longer periods of time.

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Jessica A. Gutierrez, Ramon Molina-Bravo, and Christopher S. Cramer

Fusarium basal rot (FBR), caused by Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cepae, is a soilborne fungal disease that affects bulb onions (Allium cepa) worldwide. Winter-sown onion cultivars that are resistant to FBR are lacking. The goal of this project was to screen winter-sown onion germplasm for FBR resistance using a mature-bulb field screening at harvest and after 4 weeks in storage. The project was conducted for 2 years, and in each year, 22 winter-sown onion lines were grown in a field known to produce a high incidence of FBR-infected bulbs. At maturity, the basal plates of 20 randomly selected bulbs were cut transversely and each plate was scored for disease severity on a scale of 1 (no diseased tissue) to 9 (70% or more diseased tissue). Bulbs were stored and scored again at 4 weeks after harvest. Severity and incidence increased in storage for both years. NMSU 99-30, `NuMex Arthur', and `NuMex Jose Fernandez' showed the lowest disease severities and incidences in both years. For fields that produce a high incidence of FBR-infected bulbs, these cultivars could be grown with less loss to FBR at harvest and after storage than more FBR-susceptible cultivars. When developing FBR-resistant cultivars, breeding lines should be evaluated over multiple years and bulbs should be stored for 4 weeks before being screened.

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Christopher S. Cramer, Narinder Singh, Neel Kamal, and Hanu R. Pappu

Iris yellow spot is an economically important disease of onion that reduces bulb size and yield and is difficult to control. The disease is spread by Thrips tabaci (onion thrips) and disease symptoms are exacerbated by hot, dry climatic conditions that also favor rapid thrips multiplication and make control programs less effective. Currently, no onion cultivar is resistant to the disease and/or thrips. Certain onion foliar characteristics have shown nonpreferential feeding activity by thrips and may be the first step in developing Iris yellow spot (IYS)-tolerant onion cultivars. Seventy-five onion PI accessions from the U.S. germplasm collection were evaluated for leaf color, waxiness (bloom), and axil pattern; thrips number per plant; and IYS disease severity under conditions that favored thrips and disease buildup. Plants of PI 289689 were less attractive to thrips and had a lower number of thrips per plant than plants of most other accessions. These plants were rated as having light green to green-colored foliage and a relatively low amount of epicuticular leaf wax. Plants of PIs 239633 and 546192 generally exhibited less severe IYS disease symptoms than those of other accessions. Individual plants, that exhibited less leaf area exhibiting IYS disease symptoms, were selected at bulb maturity from 22 different accessions with PI 546140 producing the largest number of selected bulbs. Physiological plant development, environmental conditions, and tolerance to plant stress may influence the degree of disease symptom expression. Further work that examines the role of plant maturity and host plant tolerance to stress with respect to disease expression is needed.

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Parminder S. Multani, Christopher S. Cramer, Robert L. Steiner, and Rebecca Creamer

Identification of resistant or tolerant onion (Allium cepa L.) cultivars is crucial for the development of integrated management strategies for Iris yellow spot virus (IYSV). Exclusively vectored by onion thrips (Thrips tabaci), IYSV is a potentially devastating tospovirus of onion that has been confirmed to be present in 15 countries all over the world. In this study, 18 winter-sown onion entries were screened for IYSV symptom expression over two seasons. Over the growing season, straw-colored, necrotic lesions typical of IYSV infection were observed and rated for disease severity. Entries, NMSU 03-52-1, NMSU 04-41, NMSU 04-44-1, and ‘NuMex Jose Fernandez’, exhibited fewer symptoms than many other entries tested. ‘Caballero’, NMSU 04-57-1, NMSU 04-78-1, and ‘Cimarron’ exhibited more symptoms. Disease progression over time was rapid for entries exhibiting more symptoms and slow for entries exhibiting fewer symptoms. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) optical densities correlated poorly with the severity of disease symptoms. Trends in the disease progression over time emphasize the importance of rating IYSV symptoms late in the crop's development and to search for delayed disease progression rather than early symptom expression to determine IYSV susceptibility.

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Mohsen Mohseni-Moghadam, Christopher S. Cramer, Robert L. Steiner, and Rebecca Creamer

Iris yellow spot virus (IYSV) causes a foliar disease in onion (Allium cepa L.) that results in a reduction in bulb size. Currently, no IYSV-tolerant or -resistant cultivar exists and a genetic source for tolerance or resistance has not been identified. Because other disease control methods are limited, host plant resistance offers the best hope to combat this disease. In this study, 13 winter-sown onion entries were screened for iris yellow spot (IYS) symptoms during the 2007 and 2008 cropping seasons. Twenty plants from each plot were observed and rated weekly during the growing seasons for straw-colored, necrotic lesions, typical of IYSV infection. Collected plant samples were assayed for IYSV by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Visual rating was done using a scale of 1 to 9 with 1 representing no symptomatic tissue and 9 representing more than 50% tissue damage. Two different plant sampling methods were used in disease rating to determine their effect on mean severity and to correlate disease severity with absorbance values. Of the entries tested, plants of NMSU 05-33-1 exhibited a delay in symptom expression and lower IYSV levels relative to plants of other entries. Plants of ‘Denali’ and ‘Gelma’ appeared to be more susceptible to IYSV than plants of other entries. Plant selection within the plot over time did not influence disease rating values. When the same plants were rated and sampled for IYSV using ELISA, there was a strong, positive correlation between rating and absorbance values.