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Beiquan Mou

The entire USDA spinach (Spinacia oleracea) germplasm collection (338 accessions) and 11 commercial cultivars were screened for oxalate concentration. There were significant differences in oxalate concentration among the genotypes evaluated, ranging from 5.3% to 11.6% on a dry weight basis. The low-oxalate genotypes identified in our experiments are all S. oleracea. None of the two S. tetrandra and four S. turkestanica accessions screened had low levels of oxalate. Two accessions from Syria, PI 445782 (cultivar name Shami) and PI 445784 (cultivar name Baladi), consistently had low oxalate concentration. When expressed on a fresh weight basis, oxalate concentration may be affected by the moisture content of the plant. Oxalate concentration had little correlation with leaf types (flat or savoy) and leaf weight per plant. With the genetic variation and sources of low oxalate concentration found, breeding of spinach for a low level of oxalate seems feasible.

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Beiquan Mou

Leafminer (Liriomyza spp.) is a major insect pest of many important agricultural crops, including spinach (Spinacia oleracea). Genetic variability in leafminer resistance has not been studied for spinach. The purposes of the present experiments were to evaluate differences in leafminer damage among spinach genotypes, to compare results obtained from insect cage and field experiments, and to study the association among different resistant traits. We screened 345 accessions of the U.S. spinach collection for leafminer resistance in an outdoor insect cage and putative resistant genotypes were further tested in the cage and in the field over 2 years. Although no genotype was immune to leafminers, significant genotypic differences were found for leafminer stings per unit leaf area, mines per plant, and mines per 100 g plant weight. PI 274065 had the lowest sting density, whereas PI 174385 showed the fewest mines per unit plant weight among genotypes in the field. Rank order of stings per square centimeter leaf area did not significantly change for the genotypes in the cage and field tests, and the sting results from different tests were also highly correlated, suggesting that a cage test could be used to screen germplasm for fewer leafminer stings, and sting density is a reliable trait for the selection of leafminer feeding nonpreference. Stings per unit leaf area were not correlated with mines per plant or per 100 g plant weight, which suggests that feeding nonpreference does not necessarily mean oviposition–nonpreference for a spinach genotype and these two traits can be improved independently. Stings per square centimeter leaf and mines per 100 g plant weight had little correlation with plant weight in cage and field tests, suggesting that leafminer sting and mine densities are not associated with plant biomass, and it is possible to improve and combine the leafminer resistance and yield traits in a spinach cultivar. From these findings, the genetic improvement of spinach for leafminer resistance seems feasible.

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Beiquan Mou

There is increasing medical evidence for the health benefits derived from dietary intake of carotenoid antioxidants, such as β-carotene and lutein. Enhancing the nutritional levels of vegetables would improve the nutrient intake without requiring an increase in consumption. A breeding program to improve the nutritional quality of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) must start with an assessment of the existing genetic variation. To assess the genetic variability in carotenoid contents, 52 genotypes including crisphead, leaf, romaine, butterhead, primitive, Latin, and stem lettuces, and wild species were planted in the field in Salinas, Calif., in the Summer and Fall of 2003 with four replications. Duplicate samples from each plot were analyzed for chlorophyll (a and b), β-carotene, and lutein concentrations by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Wild accessions (L. serriola L., L. saligna L., L. virosa L., and primitive form) had higher β-carotene and lutein concentrations than cultivated lettuces, mainly due to the lower moisture content of wild lettuces. Among major types of cultivated lettuce, carotenoid concentration followed the order of: green leaf or romaine > red leaf > butterhead > crisphead. There was significant genetic variation in carotenoid concentration within each of these lettuce types. Crisphead lettuce accumulated more lutein than β-carotene, while other lettuce types had more β-carotene than lutein. Carotenoid concentration was higher in summer than in the fall, but was not affected by the position of the plant on the raised bed. Beta-carotene and lutein concentrations were highly correlated, suggesting that their levels could be enhanced simultaneously. Beta-carotene and lutein concentrations were both highly correlated with chlorophyll a, chlorophyll b, and total chlorophyll concentrations, suggesting that carotenoid content could be selected indirectly through chlorophyll or color measurement. These results suggest that genetic improvement of carotenoid levels in lettuce is feasible.

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Beiquan Mou

Leaf miner(Liriomyza spp.) is a major insect pest of many important vegetable crops, including spinach (Spinacia oleracea). Chemical control is not long lasting, and it is well documented that leafminers can develop a high degree of resistance to insecticides. Resistant varieties remain the most economical means of insect control. The purposes of the present experiments were to evaluate differences in spinach genotypes to leafminer damage, to compare results obtained from insect cages and from the field, and to study the association among different resistant traits. We screened 345 spinach genotypes from the USDA germplasm collection and 441 genotypes from CGN (Holland) and IPK (Germany) spinach collections for leafminer resistance in an outdoor insect cage and in the field. Significant genotypic differences were found for leafminer stings per unit leaf area, mines per plant, and mines per 100 g of plant weight. The sting result from the field was highly correlated (r = 0.770) with the result from the insect cage, demonstrating that a cage test could be used to screen for leafminer resistance in the field. Mines per plant were not correlated with plant weight, suggesting that leafminer flies did not lay their eggs randomly and oviposition-nonpreference occurred in these plants. Stings per unit leaf area was not correlated with mines per plant or per 100 g plant weight, which suggests that feeding-nonpreference does not necessarily mean oviposition-nonpreference for a spinach genotype and these two traits can be improved independently. These findings suggest that genetic improvement of spinach for leafminer resistance is feasible. A phenotypic recurrent selection method is used to increase the level of leafminer resistance in spinach.

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Chenping Xu and Beiquan Mou

Chitosan has become of interest as a crop biostimulant suitable for use in sustainable agriculture since it is biocompatible, biodegradable, environmentally friendly, and readily available in large quantity. Short-term (35 d after transplanting) effects of chitosan, applied as a soil amendment at 0%, 0.05%, 0.10%, 0.15%, 0.20%, or 0.30% (w/w), on lettuce (Lactuca sativa) growth, chlorophyll fluorescence, and gas exchange were evaluated in a growth chamber study. Chitosan at 0.05%, 0.10%, and 0.15% increased leaf area from 674 to 856, 847, and 856 cm2, and leaf fresh weight from 28.6 to 39.4, 39.1, and 39.8 g, respectively. Only chitosan at 0.05% and 0.10% increased leaf dry weight from 3.42 to 4.37 and 4.35 g, respectively, while chitosan at 0.30% decreased leaf number, area, fresh and dry weight. Chitosan at 0.10%, 0.15%, 0.20%, and 0.30% increased leaf chlorophyll index from 29.8 to 34.4, 35.4, 37.5, and 41.4, respectively. Chitosan at 0.20% and 0.30% increased leaf maximum photochemical efficiency and photochemical yield, and chitosan at 0.10%, 0.15% 0.20%, and 0.30% increased leaf electron transport rate. Leaf photosynthesis rate and stomatal conductance (g S) increased from 9.3 to 12.7, 14.0, and 16.6 μmol·m−2·s−1 carbon dioxide, and from 0.134 to 0.183, 0.196, and 0.231 mol·m−2·s−1, under chitosan at 0.15%, 0.20%, and 0.30%, respectively. The results indicated that chitosan, at appropriate application rates, enhanced lettuce growth, and might have potential to be used for sustainable production of lettuce.