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  • Author or Editor: Amnon Levi. x
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Genetic diversity and relatedness were assessed among 46 American cultivars of watermelon (Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus), and 12 U.S. Plant Introduction accessions (PIs) of Citrullus sp. using 25 randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) primers. These primers produced 288 distinct reproducible bands that could be scored with high confidence among cultivars and PIs. Based on the RAPD data, genetic similarity coefficients were calculated and a dendrogram was constructed using the unweighted pair-group method with arithmetic average (UPGMA). The cultivars and C. lanatus var. lanatus PIs differentiated at the level of 92% to 99.6% and 88% to 95% genetic similarity, respectively. In contrast, the C. lanatus var. citroides, and C. colocynthis PIs were more divergent and differentiated at the level of 65% to 82.5% and 70.5% genetic similarity, respectively. The low genetic diversity among watermelon cultivars in this study emphasizes the need to expand the genetic base of cultivated watermelon.

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A cDNA library was assembled using mRNA of watermelon fruit. The cDNA library was normalized and subtracted by hybridization with leaf cDNA of the same watermelon cultivar (Illini Red). 1,046 cDNA clones were sequenced to identify genes associated with fruit development and quality. Of 1,046 cDNA clones sequenced, 832 were unique sequences and designated as expressed sequenced tags (ESTs). Of the 832 ESTs, 205 (24.6%) have not been reported in any other plant species. Additionally, 186 ESTs (22.4%) correspond to genes with unknown function, while 441 ESTs (53.0%) correspond to genes with known function in other plant species. These ESTs are mainly associated with primary metabolism, membrane transport, cytoskeleton synthesis and structure, cell wall and cell division, signal transduction, nucleic acid binding and transcription factors, and defense and stress response. Differential expression of the ESTs was examined using microarray analysis. About 200 (24%) of the 832 ESTs showed differential expression during the development and ripening of watermelon fruit. The ESTs were also screened for simple sequence repeat (SSR) motifs. Of 832 ESTs screened, 177 contain SSR motifs. Primer pairs are being designed for these ESTs, and will be used for development of EST-SSR markers and for mapping on a genetic linkage map constructed for watermelon. This study provides valuable information on genes controlling watermelon fruit development and quality.

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Watermelon [Citrullus lanatus v. lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum & Nakai] seed exudates are inhibitory to germination and seedling growth of other plant species. A miniature bioassay experiment that measured proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.) radicle growth was used to assess the inhibition caused by seed exudates of 125 genotypes of watermelon and related Citrullus species. Exudates of most genotypes were not inhibitory; however, exudates of 53 accessions reduced radicle growth in comparison with the control. In subsequent proso millet radicle growth experiments, genotypes were found to vary in inhibitory potential, and concentration response curves generated using filtered, pasteurized exudates were different among genotypes. Filter-sterilized seed exudates of Citrullus accessions also varied in the level of inhibition in a bioassay that measured their effect on sporangia formation by the watermelon pathogen, Phytophthora capsici. These observations suggest that constituents in Citrullus seed exudates affect organisms in the spermosphere and that the inhibitory potential of seed exudates varies among genotypes. Differences in concentration response curves in the millet bioassay and differences in the relative inhibition of genotypes in the millet and fungus bioassays indicate that the inhibitory constituents in seed exudates vary among genotypes.

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Fusarium wilt (FW) is a major disease of watermelon in North America and around the world. Control of this disease is difficult because the soilborne causal agent Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. niveum (Fon) produces chlamydospores that remain infectious in the soil for many years. Although various levels of resistance to Fon Races 0 and 1 exist in watermelon cultivars, no resistance to Race 2 or 3 has been reported. In this study, we used seed and seedling inoculation procedures to screen 110 U.S. PIs of wild watermelon (Citrullus lanatus var. citroides) for resistance to Race 2 FW. Of these 110 accessions, 15 showed significantly higher resistance to Fon Race 2 than that found in the watermelon cultivars Sugar Baby or Charleston Grey as well as in the C. lanatus var. citroides PI 296341 that was reported to contain resistance to FW. PI 271769, another C. lanatus var. citroides that was previously reported as containing resistance to FW, is among the 15 resistant accessions described here. These 15 accessions are potential sources for resistance to Race 2 FW in watermelon breeding.

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Clomazone herbicide is registered for use in watermelon; however, crop tolerance is marginal, and the recommended use rates (0.17 to 0.28 kg a.i./ha) are lower for watermelon than for other crops. In a greenhouse germplasm evaluation experiment including 56 germplasm accessions and watermelon cultivars, three Citrullus lanatus var. citroides PI accessions (PI 482324, PI 5003540, and PI 532624) were not injured by clomazone, whereas most of the other accessions and cultivars were moderately or severely injured. A greenhouse concentration response experiment demonstrated that the clomazone concentration required to cause moderate injury to the tolerant ‘PI 500354’ was approximately three times the concentration required to cause similar injury to the susceptible citroides accession ‘PI 244017’, and the concentration required to cause 50% shoot biomass reduction was approximately five times greater for ‘PI 500354’ than for ‘Charleston Gray’ watermelon. Subsequent field experiments demonstrated that two tolerant accessions (‘PI 500354’ and ‘PI 482324’) were injured less initially by clomazone and recovered more rapidly from clomazone injury than two susceptible accessions (‘PI 244017’ and ‘PI 271773’) and two watermelon cultivars (‘Charleston Gray’ and ‘Crimson Sweet’). Tolerant germplasm accessions like ‘PI 482324’ and ‘PI 500354’ may be useful as sources of clomazone tolerance in watermelon breeding. Chemical name used: clomazone {2-[(2-chlorophenyl)methyl]-4,4-dimethyl-3-isoxazolidinone}.

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The primary purpose of grafting vegetables worldwide has been to provide resistance to soilborne diseases. The potential loss of methyl bromide as a soil fumigant combined with pathogen resistance to commonly used pesticides will make resistance to soilborne pathogens even more important in the future. The major disease problems addressed by grafting include fusarium wilt, bacterial wilt, verticillium wilt, monosporascus root rot, and nematodes. Grafting has also been shown in some instances to increase tolerance to foliar fungal diseases, viruses, and insects. If the area devoted to grafting increases in the future, there will likely be a shift in the soil microbial environment that could lead to the development of new diseases or changes in the pathogen population of current diseases. This shift in pathogen populations could lead to the development of new diseases or the re-emergence of previously controlled diseases. Although grafting has been demonstrated to control many common diseases, the ultimate success will likely depend on how well we monitor for changes in pathogen populations and other unexpected consequences.

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A simple and efficient protocol is reported for the isolation of RNA from embryos and leaves of pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch]. The method relies on suppression of the polyphenols from interaction with the RNA and their rapid removal from the homogenate by chloroform extraction. This method produced abundant amounts of high-quality RNA. This protocol is likely to be useful for Juglandaceous species and other recalcitrant plants with high levels of phenolic compounds.

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