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  • Author or Editor: Geoffrey Meru x
  • HortScience x
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Egusi watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai subsp. mucosospermus var. egusi (C. Jeffrey) Mansf.] is known for its distinctive fleshy-pericarp seed phenotype and high seed oil percentage (SOP). The seed is part of the daily diet in West Africa where it is used in soups and stews or processed for cooking oil. Genetic mapping studies have revealed that most of the variation in SOP between egusi and normal, non-egusi seed is explained by the egusi (eg) locus, which is also associated with the unique seed phenotype. However, variation in SOP is also observed within egusi and normal seed types although the basis of this variation remains to be elucidated. A high correlation between kernel percentage (KP) and SOP has been observed in watermelon and other crops, and recent data also suggest an association between seed size and SOP in watermelon. The aim of this study was to elucidate the relationship among SOP, KP, and seed size traits in watermelon and to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with the latter traits to facilitate marker-assisted selection (MAS) for traits correlated with SOP. KP showed a significant (α = 0.05) positive correlation with SOP in both egusi and normal seed types, whereas seed size traits showed significant negative correlations with SOP. QTL associated with KP and seed size traits in normal seed were colocalized with a previously mapped locus for SOP on linkage group (LG) 2, but in egusi seed, a QTL explaining 33% of phenotypic variation in KP was localized on LG 7. The results of this study show that SOP in watermelon is correlated with KP and seed size, but KP is associated with different loci in normal and egusi seed phenotypes.

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Phytophthora crown rot, caused by Phytophthora capsici Leonian, is a devastating disease in commercial squash (Cucurbita pepo L.) production across the United States. Current management practices rely heavily on the use of chemical fungicides, but existence of fungicide-resistant pathogen populations has rendered many chemicals ineffective. Host resistance is the best strategy for managing this disease; however, no commercial cultivars resistant to the pathogen are currently available. Resistance to Phytophthora crown rot in PI 181761 (C. pepo) is an important genetic resource for squash breeders worldwide; however, the underlying genetic basis of resistance in PI 186761 that would allow designing of sound breeding strategies is currently unknown. The goal of the current study was to determine the inheritance of resistance in breeding line #186761-36P, a resistant selection of PI 181761, using phenotypic data from F1, F2, and backcross populations derived from a cross between #181761-36P and a susceptible acorn-type cultivar, Table Queen. The results indicated that resistance in #181761-36P is controlled by three dominant genes (R4, R5, and R6). Introgression of these genes into susceptible cultivar groups of C. pepo will provide an important tool in the integrated management of Phytophthora crown rot.

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Phytophthora capsici Leonian, the causal agent of Phytophthora crown rot in squash (Cucurbita pepo L.), is an economically important pathogen worldwide. Currently, no C. pepo cultivars immune to the pathogen are commercially available, but sources of resistance to Phytophthora crown rot have been identified in a set of 16 C. pepo plant introductions (PIs). Knowledge of the genetic relationships among these accessions and their relatedness to economically important morphotypes of C. pepo would inform breeders’ best strategies for introgressing resistance; however, this information is currently lacking. The goal of the current study was to determine genetic diversity among the resistant accessions and their genetic relatedness to susceptible morphotypes of subspecies pepo (Zucchini and Pumpkin) and texana (Acorn, Straightneck, and Crookneck) using 39 SSR markers. The markers revealed 132 alleles averaging 4.40 alleles per locus and had a mean polymorphic information content (PIC) and gene diversity of 0.44 and 0.49, respectively. CMTp235 had the highest PIC and gene diversity of 0.80 and 0.82, respectively. Hierarchical clustering by UPGMA and principal coordinate analysis (PCOA) revealed grouping into two major C. pepo subspecies, texana and pepo, with all the resistant accessions grouping in the latter. In order of increasing genetic distance (GD), the resistant accessions were least distant to Zucchini (GD = 0.34), followed by Pumpkin (GD = 0.40), Crookneck (GD = 0.56), Acorn (GD = 0.60), and Straightneck (GD = 0.61) morphotypes. Mean GD among the resistant accessions was 0.31 and was highest between PIs 615142 and 615132 (0.61). Based on genetic similarity, PIs 174185 and 181761 (disease severity ≤1.4) would be the best sources of resistance for transfer into subspecies texana and pepo, respectively. Overall, the results presented here support a closer genetic relationship between the resistant accessions and morphotypes of subspecies pepo than those of subspecies texana.

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Summer squash (Cucurbita pepo L.) is a major vegetable crop produced in Georgia and Florida during the fall season. This production is vulnerable to whitefly (Bemisisia tabaci Genn.)-transmitted viruses that lead to severe yield losses. Over the past several years, whitefly populations have increased during the fall, thus leading to an increase in whitefly-transmitted viruses such as Cucurbit leaf crumple virus (CuLCrV) and Cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus (CYSDV). Whitefly management for summer squash relies on the use of insecticides and can be costly without providing adequate management of the viruses. Deployment of host resistance to whiteflies and their transmitted viruses (CuLCrV and CYSDV) is the best strategy for mitigating yield loss of summer squash; however, no resistant cultivars are commercially available. In the current study, resistance or tolerance to whiteflies, CuLCrV, and CYSDV was determined for squash germplasm from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), university breeding programs, and commercial companies in Georgia and Florida across 2 years. In both locations and years, visual virus symptom severity scores were collected and a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) was used to determine the CuLCrV viral load and CYSDV presence in Georgia. Whitefly-induced feeding damage was evaluated by directly assessing the intensity of silverleaf symptoms and visual counts of whitefly adults on the foliage in the field or in photographs. Virus symptom severity was lower in C. moschata Duchesne ex Poir. genotypes, namely, PI 550689, PI 550692, PI 550694, PI 653064, and Squash Betternut 900, than in other evaluated genotypes. Two C. pepo accessions were common between both locations for viral severity (PI 442294) or viral severity and viral load (PI 171625). Lower CuLCrV loads were identified in C. ecuadorensis Cutler & Whitaker (PI 540895), and C. okeechobeensis (Small) L.H.Bailey (PI 540900) than other evaluated genotypes. Four genotypes tested negative for CYSDV during both years: C. pepo (PI 507882), C. moschata (PI 483345), C. ecuadorensis (PI 390455), and C. okeechobeensis (PI 540900); they are potential sources of resistance. Six C. moschata accessions (PI 211999, PI 550690, PI 550692, PI 550694, PI 634982, and PI 653064) showed high tolerance to silverleaf disorder and had the lowest adult whitefly counts. Collectively, the accessions identified in the current study are potential sources of resistance or tolerance to whitefly and whitefly-transmitted viruses (CuLCrV and CYSDV).

Open Access