Phenolic compounds have numerous beneficial effects on human health. In consequence, the development of new varieties with higher content of phenolics is of interest for the improvement of the nutritional quality of eggplant (Solanum melongena L.). However, the oxidation of eggplant phenolics causes browning of the cut surfaces of the fruit and reduces its apparent quality. The authors investigated the relationship among, as well as the variation and heritability of, the content of phenolics, ascorbic acid, and soluble solids; pH; and the degree of browning and color difference of the cut surface of the fruit flesh in a collection of 69 eggplant varieties. These included landraces from different origins, commercial varieties, experimental hybrids, and four accessions of the related S. aethiopicum L. and S. macrocarpon L. species. Analyses of variance revealed significant differences among the materials studied for all traits considered. The concentration of phenolics in S. melongena spanned a threefold range, although the highest (1122 mg·kg−1) and lowest (134 mg·kg−1) concentrations of phenolics were found in S. macrocarpon and S. aethiopicum respectively. Concentrations of ascorbic acid were very low, a mean 27 times lower than those of phenolics, and soluble solids content ranged from 3.60% to 6.60% with a pH that ranged from 5.01 to 5.93. Commercial varieties had, as a mean, a 20% lower concentration of phenolics than landraces, as well as a lower degree of browning and color difference. Positive correlations existed between phenolic concentration and degree of browning (r = 0.388) and color difference (0.477), although only 15.1% and 22.8% of the total variation in degree of browning and color difference, respectively, could be attributed to variation in phenolics. Ascorbic acid, soluble solids content, and pH were not correlated to either degree of browning or color difference. The heritability was moderate for phenolic concentration (0.50) and high for degree of browning (0.71) and color difference (0.82). The information obtained indicates that there are opportunities for the development of new varieties with a high concentration of phenolics and low or moderate browning.
Plant breeding programs involve multiple steps, and their complete development cannot be experienced by students in a single academic year. Tools of communication and information technologies offer a great opportunity to improve students' skills, but only a few software are available for training undergraduate students in plant breeding programs. Here we present a student-friendly software tool, Retromelon, for simulating the backcross breeding method. We also evaluate its suitability and performance as a learning tool. This software is designed to recreate a real melon (Cucumis melo) backcross breeding program aimed at introgressing the resistance to melon vine decline from the tolerant melon cultivar Pat81 into the susceptible cultivar Piel de Sapo. The software simulates the most important steps and decisions that must be made by a plant breeder in a backcross breeding program, including the number of individuals to evaluate in each generation, evaluation of agronomic traits, and selection of individuals. This software is being used by undergraduate horticulture students. Our results have shown that the use of this tool in the classroom increases the motivation of the students, and therefore, benefits the learning process. This software is available upon request both in English and Spanish versions.
Wild relatives represent a source of variation for many traits of interest for eggplant (Solanum melongena) breeding, as well as for broadening the genetic base of this crop. However, interspecific hybridization with wild relatives has been barely used in eggplant breeding programs. As initiation of an introgression breeding program we performed 1424 interspecific hybridizations between six accessions of eggplant from the Occidental and Oriental groups and 19 accessions of 12 wild species from the primary (Solanum incanum and Solanum insanum), secondary (Solanum anguivi, Solanum dasyphyllum, Solanum lichtensteinii, Solanum linnaeanum, Solanum pyracanthos, Solanum tomentosum, and Solanum violaceum), and tertiary (Solanum elaeagnifolium, Solanum sisymbriifolium, and Solanum torvum) genepools. Fruit set, hybrid seed, and seed germination were obtained between Solanum melongena and all wild species of the primary and secondary genepools. The highest fruit set percentage and quantity of seeds per fruit were obtained with the two primary genepool species S. incanum and S. insanum as well as with some secondary genepool species, like S. anguivi, S. dasyphyllum, or S. lichtensteinii, although some differences among species were observed depending on the direction of the hybridization. For small-fruited wild species, the number of seeds per fruit was lower when using them as maternal parent. Regarding tertiary genepool species, fruit set was obtained only in interspecific hybridizations of eggplant with S. sisymbriifolium and S. torvum, although the fruit of the former were parthenocarpic. However, it was possible to rescue viable interspecific hybrids with S. torvum. In total we obtained 58 interspecific hybrid combinations (excluding reciprocals) between eggplant and wild relatives. Some differences were observed among S. melongena accessions in the degree of success of interspecific hybridization, so that the number of hybrid combinations obtained for each accession ranged between 7 (MEL2) and 16 (MEL1). Hybridity of putative interspecific hybrid plantlets was confirmed with a morphological trait (leaf prickliness) and 12 single nucleotide polymorphism markers. The results show that eggplant is amenable to interspecific hybridization with a large number of wild species, including tertiary genepool materials. These hybrid materials are the starting point for introgression breeding in eggplant and in some cases might also be useful as rootstocks for eggplant grafting.