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Anfu Hou, James R. McFerson and Warren F. Lamboy

Molecular DNA markers based on the RAPD (random amplified polymorphic DNA) assay are gaining use in germplasm assessment. RAPD markers are simple, relatively inexpensive, and highly informative. We used five primers to assess 26 Brassica oleracea breeding lines from the IVF and nine accessions from the PGRU. The test array included eight subspecies of B. oleracea. We generated 90 RAPD markers and were able to unambiguously discriminate among all 35 test entries, but could not separate subspecies within B. oleracea. Genetic similarity between subspecies ranged from 0.629 to 0.738. Average similarity within accessions was 0.96, confirming the suspected homogeneity of breeding lines. Nevertheless, significant genetic diversity was found among kohlrabi, broccoli, and cabbage accessions. Similarity analysis of breeding lines and hybrids confirmed their pedigree relationships. Interestingly, B. o. subsp. costata `Couve Nabica' showed closer similarity to B. napus subsp. oleifera `Jet Neuf' than to other B. o. materials and B. o. subsp. italica `Packman' showed higher similarity to some cabbages than to other broccolis. Results provide further evidence that diversity assessment using RAPDs is broadly applicable and useful in germplasm conservation and utilization.

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Martin C. Goffinet, James R. McFerson and Alan N. Lakso

In 2002 in New York State, we collected king fruit of `Gala' and `Red Delicious' on fruiting spurs from 0 to 66 days after full bloom (DAB). In 2003 in Washington State, we collected king fruit of these cultivars from 14 to 62 DAB. At each collection we determined radial cell number across the fruit cortex and developmental stage of the embryo and endosperm in seeds. Fruit diameter was slightly greater in Washington fruit than in New York fruit until about 40 DAB; thereafter, New York `Delicious' outgrew Washington `Delicious', while `Gala' in the two climates (and two different years) grew identically. The New York fruits had a much earlier rise in fruit growth rate and maintained a slightly higher rate throughout the period. The cortex thickness of Washington fruit was greater than that of New York fruit for both cultivars. Most rapid cell division in the cortex occurred between 10 and 28 DAB and, by 40 DAB, most cell proliferation had ceased. The Washington fruit formed more cells across the radius than did New York fruit. Cortex thickness increased with respect to increase in cortex cell number about 30% to 40% faster in Washington fruit than in New York fruit. Developmental stages of embryos and endosperm followed a sigmoid time pattern for both cultivars in both states. By 60 DAB, embryos and endosperm reached their maximum stage of development. In both cultivars and states, cell divisions were nearly completed by the time the embryo and endosperm approached stage 3: for embryos this is the heart-shaped stage, for endosperm it is near completion of cell wall formation. The completion of wall formation in the endosperm, the near completion of cortex cell division, and the generation of the cotyledons and apical meristems in the embryo are highly correlated processes. We saw no evidence that endosperm development precedes embryo development.

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R. Karina Gallardo, Diem Nguyen, Vicki McCracken, Chengyan Yue, James Luby and James R. McFerson

Over 60 rosaceous crop breeding programs exist in North America, but no information has been available on which traits are targeted for selection or how breeders make such decisions. We surveyed all active rosaceous fruit breeding programs in the United States and Canada to determine: 1) the relative importance of over 50 plant traits that breeders select for 2) the likelihood of selection for the most important traits; and 3) the factors influencing breeders’ decisions. A double-bounded Tobit model was used to investigate the effect of supply chain parties, technical and socioeconomic challenges, and crop characteristics on the likelihood of selection for trait clusters. We found that consumer-driven forces positively impact the likelihood of selection for traits more than producer forces and a breeder’s own experience. Technical factors are as important as socioeconomic factors but less important than market-related factors. Our findings provide the first ever evidence that a socioeconomic approach in specialty crop breeding programs can contribute to an improved understanding of the effects of different supply chain factors on breeding programs’ trait priority setting.

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Shuoli Zhao, Chengyan Yue, James Luby, Karina Gallardo, Vicki McCracken, James McFerson and Desmond R. Layne

This study investigates U.S. peach producers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for potential improvement of peach fruit attributes. Data were collected from 124 U.S. peach producers. The choice experiment and socioeconomic data were analyzed using mixed logit (ML) models to estimate the producer WTP and preferences for peach attributes. The results indicate that the WTP for attribute values vary across peach producers from different production regions (California and eastern United States), with different selling targets (fresh and processed) and different orchard sizes (smaller or larger than 15 acres). These results provide useful information for peach breeders in prioritizing traits in their breeding programs.

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Torrance R. Schmidt, Don C. Elfving, James R. McFerson and Matthew D. Whiting

Gibberellins inhibit flowering in apple (Malus domestica) and show promise as tools to promote annual bearing. The authors validated the efficacy of gibberellic acid (GA) to reduce return bloom dramatically in two biennial cultivars. ‘Honeycrisp’ fruit treated in 2004 with GA4+7 at 0, 200, 400, or 600 mg·L−1 demonstrated advanced maturity in terms of starch levels, flesh firmness, and titratable acidity, whereas ‘Cameo’ fruit showed variable treatment effects. In 2005, 0, 300, 600, 900, or 1200 mg·L−1 GA4+7 was applied to ‘Cameo’, and fruit maturity was once again unaffected. Two commercial GA products (GA4, GA4+7) were applied in 2005 to ‘Honeycrisp’ at 400 mg·L−1. Both formulations caused fruit to have less flesh firmness and acidity, and increased levels of starch conversion compared with the untreated control at harvest and after 140 d of common storage. All GA treatments in all four trials profoundly diminished flowering in the season after treatment. Results demonstrate differences in sensitivity to GA between the two cultivars.

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Ruchen Zhou, Chengyan Yue, Shuoli Zhao, R. Karina Gallardo, Vicki McCracken, James J. Luby and James R. McFerson

Consumer preferences for attributes of fresh peach fruit in the United States are largely unknown on a national basis. We used a choice experiment to explore market segmentation based on consumer heterogeneous preference for fruit attributes including external color, blemish, firmness, sweetness, flavor, and price. We collected the data using an online survey with 800 U.S. consumers. Using a latent class logit model, we identified three segments of consumers differing by different sets of preferred quality attributes: experience attribute-oriented consumers, who valued fruit quality (48.8% of the sample); search attribute-oriented consumers, who valued fruit appearance (33.7% of the sample); and balanced consumers, who considered search attributes and experience attributes but who valued each in a balanced way (17.5% of the sample). Each group demonstrated differentiated demographics and purchasing habits. The results have important marketing implications for peach breeders and suppliers.

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Chengyan Yue, R. Karina Gallardo, Vicki A. McCracken, James Luby, James R. McFerson, Lan Liu and Amy Iezzoni

Rosaceous crops (e.g., almond, apple, apricot, caneberry, cherry, pear, peach, plum, rose, and strawberry) contribute to human health and well-being and collectively constitute the economic backbone of numerous North American rural communities. We conducted a survey of U.S. and Canadian rosaceous fruit crop breeders to assess priority setting in their programs, sources of information for setting priorities, and challenges in making technical and management decisions. Input from producers and consumers was most important in establishing breeding program targets, although respondents’ direct interaction with consumers was not frequent. Breeding targets and management decisions were mostly associated with the breeder’s type of organization, scope and range of crops, and intended use of the crop (fresh, processed, or both).

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Stan C. Hokanson, Amy K. Szewc-McFadden, Warren F. Lamboy and James R. McFerson

A diverse collection of 133 Malus species and hybrids from the USDA Plant Genetic Resources Unit's core subset collection was screened with five simple sequence repeat (SSR) primer pairs in order to determine genetic identities and overall levels of genetic variation. The number of amplification products (alleles) per locus (primer pair) in this collection ranged from 6 to 39, with some genotypes showing complex banding patterns of up to four products per locus, suggesting that duplication events may have occurred within the genome. Five primer sets unequivocally differentiated all but 10 pairs of genotypes in the collection, with seven of these 10 being pairs of the same species. Within three of the species holdings surveyed, M. honanensis, M. sargentii, and M. sikkimensis, no genetic variation was revealed with the SSR markers. The discrimination power for the combined loci in this collection was nearly one, which indicates that the likelihood of two genetically different accessions sharing the same alleles at all the loci included in this study would be nearly impossible. Coupled with results from a previous survey of M. × domestica accessions, this finding suggests that with five SSR primer pairs, the majority of the Malus holdings could be assigned a unique fingerprint identity. The average direct count heterozygosity over all loci was 0.620, ranging in value from 0.293 to 0.871 over individual loci. These heterozygosity counts will be compared with a survey of naturally occurring M. sieversii to determine whether current repository holdings are representative of the overall levels of diversity occurring in Malus. Information generated with this study, coupled with passport and horticultural data will inform curatorial decisions regarding deaccessioning of duplicate holdings and plans for future germplasm collections.

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Jianping Ren, James R. McFerson, Rugang Li, Stephen Kresovich and Warren F. Lamboy

Fifty-two germplasm accessions of Chinese vegetable brassicas were analyzed using 112 random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers. The array of material examined spanned a wide range of morphological, geographic, and genetic diversity, and included 30 accessions of Brassica rapa L. (Chinese cabbage, pakchoi, turnip, and broccoletto), 18 accessions of B. juncea (L.) Czern. (leaf, stem, and root mustards), and four accessions of B. oleracea L. ssp. alboglabra (Chinese kale). The RAPD markers unambiguously identified all 52 accessions. Nei-Li similarities were computed and used in unweighed pair group method using arithmetic means (UPGMA) cluster analyses. Accessions and subspecies were clustered into groups corresponding to the three species, but some accessions of some subspecies were most closely related to accessions belonging to other subspecies. Values for Nei-Li similarities suggest that Chinese cabbage is more likely to have been produced by hybridization of turnip and pakchoi than as a selection from either turnip or pakchoi alone. RAPD markers are a fast, efficient method for diversity assessment in Chinese vegetable brassicas that complements techniques currently in use in genetic resources collections.

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Tory Schmidt, Don C. Elfving, James R. McFerson and Matthew D. Whiting

Potential strategies against biennial bearing in apple [Malus × sylvestris (L.) Mill. var. domestica (Borkh.) Mansf.] include promotion of return bloom with an “on”-year application of ethephon or inhibition of return bloom with an “off”-year application of gibberellic acid (GA), but the influence of initial crop load on the efficacy of these bioregulators is poorly understood. In 2004 and 2005, six total trials were initiated in which whole trees were manually adjusted shortly before anthesis to one of three levels of crop load (100%, 50%, 0%) in ‘Cameo’, ‘Honeycrisp’, and ‘Fuji’; GA4 + 7 was overlaid on trees of each crop level in four trials and ethephon in two. In all trials, initial crop load was the primary determinant of return bloom; proportional influence on flower density, fruit density, and yield was generally most pronounced at the 50% crop level. GA4 + 7 consistently reduced floral initiation, whereas ethephon promoted it. Flowering responses from a historically alternating ‘Cameo’ trial site showed greater sensitivity to ethephon and less sensitivity to GA4 + 7 than did responses from parallel trials established in an annually bearing ‘Cameo’ block, suggesting a predilection of nascent buds to a specific fate before the influence of exogenous bioregulators or gibberellins from seeds produced in developing fruit. Light crop loads and GA4 + 7 applications generally promoted shoot extension, whereas heavy crops and ethephon had the opposite effect.