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Angela R. Davis and Stephen R. King

The Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture announces the release of MSW-28, a watermelon [Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai)] line that exhibits medium sugar content (brix) and full flavor of heirloom varieties combined with the lycopene content and crisp texture of modern cultivars. Most heirloom cultivars of watermelon have a full flavor but typically lower sugar content compared with modern cultivars. Many people report a preference for heirloom varieties, citing flavor as the primary reason. Unfortunately, heirloom varieties often have low yield, poor disease resistance, and inferior flesh texture and

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Angela R. Davis, Amnon Levi, Todd Wehner, and Michel Pitrat

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Antonia Y. Tetteh, Todd C. Wehner, and Angela R. Davis

Information on the mode of inheritance of powdery mildew resistance in watermelon is important for designing a breeding strategy for the development of new cultivars. Resistance in the watermelon accession PI 270545 was investigated by generation means analysis by crossing it with susceptible PI 267677. The analyses showed involvement of two genes, a recessive resistance gene, pmr-1, and a dominant gene for moderate resistance, Pmr-2. Resistance to powdery mildew in the leaf had a large dominance effect and a heritability of 71%. The additive-dominance model was inadequate in explaining variation in leaf resistance as revealed by the joint scaling test. However, nonallelic interactions could not be detected by the nonweighted six-parameter scaling test. For stem resistance, the additive-dominance model was adequate, and inheritance was controlled mainly by additive effects. A high narrow-sense heritability of 79% suggested that selection for stem resistance in early generations would be effective.

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Amnon Levi, Angela Davis, Pat Wechter, Alvaro Hernandez, and Jyothi Thimmapuram

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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Stephen R. King, Angela R. Davis, Wenge Liu, and Amnon Levi

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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Angela R. Davis, Penelope Perkins-Veazie, Julie Collins, and Amnon Levi

Increasing percent fruit total soluble solids (TSS) content has been a priority for many breeding programs. Perkins-Veazie et al. (2006) reported that the TSS content of modern watermelon [Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai] cultivars are significantly higher than their heirloom counterparts (≈11% TSS compared with less than 10% TSS, respectively). Because of their high TSS and low fiber content, watermelons are considered high-glycemic index foods (Foster-Powell et al., 2002). Several countries recommend low-glycemic index foods for people with diabetes to prevent postprandial glycemia and weight gain (Foster-Powell et

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Yunyan Sheng, Feishi Luan, Faxing Zhang, and Angela R. Davis

Genetic diversity among 95 watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) ecotypes was evaluated and compared with representative Chinese, American, Japanese, and Russian watermelon cultigens, landraces, and a wild watermelon relative (Trichosanthes kirilowii). Open-pollinated, hybrid, and inbred lines were included for most of the ecotypes and are hereafter collectively referred to as cultigens unless an ecotype group is being discussed. Morphological characteristics (including days to flower, female to male flower ratio, branch number, fruit length and diameter ratio, fruit soluble solid content, fruit yield, and simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers were used to estimate genetic diversity. Of 398 watermelon primer pairs tested, 9.5% (38) produced polymerase chain reaction amplicons in watermelon. Of these 38 primer pairs, the average number of polymorphic bands among the 96 cultigens was 2.4, even with 12 primer pairs demonstrating monomorphic banding patterns. Based on the SSR data, the genetic similarity coefficients were calculated and a dendrogram constructed. All cultigens were clustered to six groups. The wild species and landraces formed distant clusters from the cultivated watermelon. The genetic similarity coefficients within the Chinese cultigens ranged from 0.37 to 0.99, but except for a wild relative to watermelon, most cultigens were closely related. The genetic distance among non-Chinese cultigens ranged from 0.67 to 0.91 with an average of 0.88. When combined morphological traits and molecular traits were assessed, Russian and U.S. fruit were more genetically similar to each other than to Chinese and Japanese cultigens. Crossing Russian and/or U.S. cultigens with Chinese or Japanese cultigens should thus improve genetic diversity and introduce new traits for the resulting watermelon cultigens.

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Angela R. Davis, Charles L. Webber III, Penelope Perkins-Veazie, Julie Collins, and Vincent M. Russo

Cultural practices have been reported to affect quality and phytonutrient content of watermelon. Knowing which varieties perform best under various production systems, and how these systems affect quality, yield, and phytonutrient content, is imperative to ensure high quality and yield. There is limited information on how watermelon [Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai] varieties perform when grown with organic practices. Production characteristics of six watermelon varieties from certified organic seed sources were compared under high-(black plastic and mechanical cultivation for weed control) and low-input (no-till) organic culture. The high-input method utilized black plastic mulch and mechanical cultivation for weed control. The low-input utilized no-till planting. `Triple Star' was the most productive seedless variety in terms of number of fruit and marketable yield when data were combined across locations. `Early Moonbeam' produced the largest number of fruit, and the smallest fruit, of the seeded varieties. `Allsweet', a seeded variety, had the best marketable yield due to its larger size. `Triple Star' had the best quality (lycopene and °Brix content) when data were combined across locations. Among the seeded varieties, `Allsweet' had the best quality at both locations; however, average lycopene content on a per-fruit basis under low input production was not significantly different when compared to `Sugar Baby'. High-input production methods almost doubled the number of fruit produced for all varieties, producing greater yields, and heavier average fruit weights, but lower °Brix and lycopene content compared to the low-input production method.

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Nan Wang, Shi Liu, Peng Gao, Feishi Luan, and Angela R. Davis

Citrullus lanatus (watermelon) is an excellent daily source of dietary lycopene and β-carotene. To investigate the transcriptional regulation of carotenoid biosynthesis genes relative to lycopene and β-carotene accumulation in watermelon fruit, six watermelon accessions with different flesh colors were examined in this study: white-fleshed PI 459074, pale-yellow-fleshed ‘Cream of Saskatchewan’, light-pink-fleshed PI 482255, orange-yellow-fleshed ‘WM-Clr-1’, and red-fleshed ‘LSW177’ and ‘MSW28’. The expression patterns of eight genes (PSY1, PSY2, PDS, ZDS, CRTISO, LCYB, NCED1, and NCED7) involved in lycopene and β-carotene biosynthesis and biodegradation were analyzed. The results confirmed the accumulation of large quantities of lycopene in red-fleshed ‘LSW177’ and ‘MSW28’, reflecting the elevated expression of PSY1 and the low transcriptional expression of NCED1. The relative expression levels of NCED1 likely play an important role in the color development of the light-pink-fleshed PI 482255, whereas the reduced transcriptional expression of PSY1 and the increased expression of NCED1 appear to be the main factors contributing to the formation of white flesh in the fruit of PI 459074. Low transcriptional expression of PSY1 results in the pale-yellow flesh of the ‘Cream of Saskatchewan’ fruit.

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Angela R. Davis, Todd C. Wehner, Amnon Levi, and Stephen R. King

Powdery mildew has been reported on Citrullus lanatus in Africa and Europe for the past 9 years, and in the United States for the past 6 years. During this time, it has occurred in the main watermelon production areas in the U.S. and has been documented in nine states (South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Maryland, New York, Arizona, and California). This is of great concern to the watermelon industry since powdery mildew is difficult to control and can have a severe impact on yield and fruit quality due to loss of photosynthetic area and sunscald. Finding resistant C. lanatus germplasm is needed for the development of commercial varieties containing this resistance. This report summarized the status of an ongoing project to screen the entire USDA–ARS C. lanatus germplasm collection. Currently, the collection is being screened for race 1 and race 2 Podosphaera xanthii (syn. Sphaerotheca fuliginea auct. p.p.), the causal agent of powdery mildew in C. lanatus in the United States. Resistance genes appear to exist for both races and the genes conferring resistance to race 1 appear to be different than race 2 resistance genes. Allelism tests are currently in process to determine the number of resistance genes present.