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Dean A. Kopsell, William M. Randle, and Harry A. Mills

Brassica species are important economic vegetable crop, and it is possible to enrich them with selenium (Se) to supplement human diets. The health benefits associated with increased Se consumption include cancer suppression, reduced heart disease, and immune system enhancement. Vegetables enriched with Se can serve as excellent delivery systems of organic Se forms, which are more beneficial than traditional Se supplements. The vegetable Brassicas are consumed not only for their flavor, but also for their nutritional content. A heterogeneous population of rapid-cycling B. oleracea was used as a model system to study the effects of added selenate-Se on other plant micro- and macronutrients. Plants were grown in nutrient solutions amended with sodium selenate at 0.0, 3.0, 6.0, and 9.0 mg·L–1. Leaf tissues were then analyzed for nutrient content. Boron (P = 0.001) and iron (P = 0.01) content decreased, while selenium (P = 0.001), sulfur (P = 0.001), and potassium (P = 0.001) increased with increasing selenate-Se. Significant quadratic responses were found for calcium (P = 0.02), copper (P = 0.05), magnesium (P = 0.01), and molybdenum (P = 0.01). No differences in leaf fresh or dry weight were detected. Changes in plant nutrient content can be expected when Brassicas are enhanced for delivery of beneficial organic Se.

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Mark G. Lefsrud and Dean A. Kopsell

Chlorophyll and carotenoid pigments were measured with high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) during leaf development in kale (Brassicaoleracea L. var. acephala D.C). Lutein and β-carotene are two plant-derived carotenoids that possess important human health properties. Diets high in these carotenoids are associated with a reduced risk of cancer, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration. Kale plants were growth-chamber grown in nutrient solution culture at 20 °C under 500 μmol·m-2·s-1 of irradiance. Pigments were measured in young (<1 week), immature (1-2 weeks), mature (2-3 weeks), fully developed (3-4 weeks) and senescing (>4 weeks) leaves. Significant differences were measured for all four pigments during leaf development. Accumulation of the pigments followed a quadratic trend, with maximum accumulation occurring between the first and third week of leaf age. The highest concentrations of lutein were recorded in 1- to 2-week-old leaves at 15.1 mg per 100 g fresh weight. The remaining pigments reached maximum levels at 2-3 weeks, with β-carotene at 11.6 mg per 100 g, chlorophyll a at 251.4 mg per 100 g, and chlorophyll b at 56.9 mg per 100 g fresh weight. Identifying changes in carotenoid and chlorophyll accumulation over developmental stages in leaf tissues is applicable to “baby” leafy greens and traditional production practices for fresh markets.

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Prem Nath

The world produces adequate food for everyone, but unequal distribution has created a gap between the countries that produce more food than they consume and those countries with deficit production. About 815 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition, mostly in the developing world. By 2020, the developing world is expected to face the overwhelming challenge of a 97.5% increase in population; moreover, developing countries will face serious challenges with the trend of a major shift in population from rural to urban areas, where 52% of the people will live in megacities—all asking for more food, land, and infrastructure. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 334 million children in developing countries are malnourished. In 2020, one out of every four children in these countries will still be malnourished. It is recognized that modern agriculture must diversify production and achieve sustainable higher output to supplement food security. In order to reduce pressure on cereals as well as to improve human nutrition through the consumption of other nutritious crops, diversification in cropping patterns can provide better options. The increased production and consumption of fruits and vegetables, with their wide adaptation and providers of important nutrients (especially vitamins and minerals), offer promise for the future. Fruits and vegetables as food and diet supplements are gaining momentum in most countries. In addition, recent experimental evidence has shown the growing importance of fruits and vegetables in the prevention of noncommunicable diseases. Further, horticulture would play an important role in urban and peri-urban agriculture and development.

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Harvey E. Arjona and Frank B. Matta

Passion fruit has become a popular addition to our diet and is currently grown in the United States. Passion fruit shelf life could be extended if green mature fruit can be induced to ripen after exposure to ethylene. Greenhouse grown purple passion fruits were harvested in a green mature stage 55 and 60 days after anthesis (DAA) and stored for 10 days at 10°C. After storage half of the fruits were treated with 10 ppm ethylene for 35 hours and stored at room temperature (21°C) for 48 hours. The juice of treated and non-treated fruit was analyzed for comparison with juice of vine-ripened fruit. Total soluble solids and pH of the juice did not differ in green mature fruits harvested 55 and 60 DAA.. compared to vine-ripened fruits (70-80 DAA). Sucrose content decreased and fructose and glucose increased after storage, regardless of ethylene treatment. Fruits harvested 55 and 60 DAA, with or without ethylene and stored for 10 days, developed the same sugar content, soluble solids and pH as those that ripened on the vine.

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C.L. Murphy, N.W. Hopper, C.B. McKenney, and D.L. Auld

The oil extracted from seed of selected accessions of Oenothera, also known as the wildflower evening primrose, has documented medical applications. Evening primrose oil contains from 0.0 to 12.0% gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) (C 18:3, delta 6, 9, 12). This unique fatty acid, which occurs in only a few plant species, can correct deficiencies in the delta 6 desaturase enzyme. Low levels of this enzyme prevent formation of the long chain fatty acids responsible for the production of prostaglandins and thromboxanes. Supplementation of the diet with evening primrose oil rich in GLA ensures adequate levels of these essential products. Inconsistent seed germination, poor emergence, and small seed size of accessions containing higher levels of GLA have limited commercial production of this crop. Currently, most producers establish their field through transplants. In this project, methods of improving seed germination have been explored. Seed coatings using diatomaceous earth were shown to facilitate handling and improve germination in the laboratory. Osmotic priming and red light exposure were also evaluated as means of improving germination.

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Carlos G. Vaz, Domingos de Oliveira, and Orlando S. Ohashi

Cowpea, Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp., is a very important legume in the diet of the population of the Amazon. Although it is autogamous, this species has a cross-pollination rate of ≈10%. Over several years, the mean productivity of cowpea has declined. We suggest that this is linked to a decrease in or an absence of pollinating insects in the fields. The objective of this study is to ascertain the pollinator contribution to cowpea production, as well as to determine the pollination type of the `BR3-Tracuateua' cultivar. In an experimental design, four treatments were compared: no pollination, with flowers in cages to prevent insect visits; open-pollination, with flowers exposed to all visiting insects; self-pollination, with flowers pollinated with their own pollen; and cross-pollination, with emasculated flowers being pollinated manually with pollen from another plant. We observed higher fruit set in the presence of pollinators (83%) than in their absence (77%, caged flowers). However, cross-pollination reduced both the number of seeds per pod and fruit set relative to self-pollination. This result suggests that pollinators have a complementary role in the yield of cowpea, by creating a mixed pollination system where self-pollination dominates.

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Dean A. Kopsell, Scott McElroy, Carl Sams, and David Kopsell

Vegetable crops can be significant sources of nutritionally important dietary carotenoids and Brassica vegetables are sources that also exhibit antioxidant and anticarcinogenic activity. The family Brassicaceae contains a diverse group of plant species commercially important in many parts of the world. The six economically important Brassica species are closely related genetically. Three diploid species (B. nigra, B. rapa, and B. oleracea) are the natural progenitors of the allotetraploid species (B. juncea, B. napus, and B. carinata). The objective of this study was to characterize the accumulation of important dietary carotenoid pigments among the genetically related Brassica species. The HPLC quantification revealed significant differences in carotenoid and chlorophyll pigment accumulation among the Brassica species. Brassica nigra accumulated the highest concentrations of lutein, 5,6-epoxy lutein, violaxanthin, and neoxanthin. The highest concentrations of beta-carotene and total chlorophyll were found in B. juncea. Brassica rapa accumulated the highest concentrations of zeaxanthin and antheraxanthin. For each of the pigments analyzed, the diploid Brassica species accumulated higher concentrations, on average, than the amphidiploid species. Brassicas convey unique health attributes when consumed in the diet. Identification of genetic relationships among the Brassica species would be beneficial information for improvement programs designed to increase carotenoid values.

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David R. Corbin, Frederick J. Perlak, David A. Fischhoff, John T. Greenplate, Zhen Shen, and John P. Purcell

Genetically modified potato and cotton crops that express insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) have recently been commercialized. These crops display autonomous resistance to specific insect pests, and thus offer major agricultural and environmental benefits. We have implemented a microbial screening program to discover new types of insecticidal proteins for use in transgenic crops. New proteins with diverse modes of action offer opportunities to control insect pests that are not susceptible to Bt insecticidal proteins and to delay or prevent the potential occurrence of resistance of insects to crops genetically modified with Bt genes. Cholesterol oxidase emerged from our screen as a new insecticidal protein with potent activity against the cotton boll weevil. Cholesterol oxidase was acutely toxic to boll weevil larvae, with an LC50 of 2–6 parts per million when ingested in artificial diet feeding assays, and caused marked reductions in fecundity when ingested by adult boll weevils. Cholesterol oxidase also exerted significant, though less severe, toxicity against several lepidopteran pests. The insecticidal action of cholesterol oxidase appears to be due to oxidation of midgut epithelial membrane cholesterol followed by membrane disruption. A cholesterol oxidase gene was cloned and expressed in transgenic tobacco plants to yield plant tissue that exerted potent activity against boll weevil. Expression of this cholesterol oxidase gene in cotton plants may offer significant protection against the cotton boll weevil and may also aid in the mitigation of resistance of cotton lepidopteran pests to Bt proteins.

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Marilyn Rivera-Hernández, Linda Wessel-Beaver, and José X. Chaparro

Squash and pumpkins (Cucurbita sp.) are important contributors of beta-carotene to the diet. Consumers of tropical pumpkin and butternut squash (both C. moschata Duchesne) prefer a deep orange mesocarp color. Color intensity is related to carotene content. Among the five domesticated Cucurbita species, C. moschata and C. argyrosperma Huber have a close relationship. In crosses between these two species, fertile F1 plants can be easily obtained when using C. argyrosperma as the female parent. This research studied the relationship between and within C. moschata and C. argyrosperma by sequencing three genes in the carotenoid biosynthesis pathway and generating gene trees. Genotypes used in the study differed in flesh color from very pale yellow to dark orange. In some cases, haplotypes were associated with a particular mesocarp color. Further study of these types of associations may improve our understanding of color development in Cucurbita. The frequency of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the sequenced fragments was low. There were more SNPs and more heterozygotes among C. moschata accessions than among C. argyrosperma accessions. Haplotypes of the outgroups (C. ficifolia C.D. Bouché and C. maxima Duchesne) were always distinct from C. moschata and C. argyrosperma. These later species had both distinct haplotypes and shared haplotypes. Haplotypes shared among species tended to be maintained in the same branch of the phylogenetic tree, suggesting either gene flow between the species or a common ancestral gene. Both explanations suggest a close genetic and evolutionary relationship between C. moschata and C. argyrosperma.

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Judith A. Abbott*

Demand for fresh fruits and vegetables is increasing worldwide in response to health concerns, wealth, and the desire for variety in the diet. However, consumption of produce is contingent on the ability of the industry to provide high quality fresh produce and on its convenience, as well as on consumer education and economics. Texture measurement is accepted by horticultural industries as a critical indicator of quality of fruits and vegetables. The fresh produce industry and, indirectly, consumers need methods for measuring produce texture to ensure the quality within a grade, and scientists need measurements to quantify the results of their treatments, whether treatments are genetic, chemical, or physical. The variety of attributes required to fully describe textural properties can only be fully measured by sensory evaluation by a panel of trained assessors. However, instrumental measurements are preferred over sensory evaluations for both commercial and research applications because instruments are more convenient, less expensive, and tend to provide consistent values when used by different people. Thus, instrumental measurements need to be developed that predict sensory evaluations of texture. Such instrumental measurements can then provide a common language among researchers, producers, packers, regulatory agencies, and customers. We compare sensory evaluations of specific critical textural attributes to instrumental force/deformation measurements on a wide variety of fruits and vegetables with relatively uniform bulk tissues, such as apples, bananas, carrots, jicama, melons, pears, potatoes, rutabagas, and several others.