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  • Author or Editor: Cynthia Kung Man Yee x
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High temperature stress is a major limiting factor for pepper productivity, which will continue to be a problem under climate change scenarios. Developing heat tolerant cultivars is critical for sustained pepper production, especially in tropical and subtropical regions. In fruiting crops, like pepper, reproductive tissues, especially pollen, are the most sensitive to high temperature stress. Typically, pollen viability and germination are assessed through staining and microscopy, which is tedious and potentially inaccurate. To increase efficiency in assessing pollen traits of pepper, the use of impedance flow cytometry (IFC) has been proposed. We conducted three independent experiments to determine the most effective methodology to use IFC for evaluating pollen traits for heat tolerance in pepper. Seven floral developmental stages were evaluated, and stages 3, 4, and 5 were found to best combine high pollen concentration and activity. Flowers in development stages 3, 4, or 5 were then heat treated at 41, 44, 47, 50, and 55 °C or not heat treated (control). The critical temperature to assess heat tolerance using IFC was found to be 50 °C, with a reduction in pollen activity and concentration occurring at temperatures greater than 47 °C. Twenty-one entries of pepper were then accessed for pollen traits using the staining and IFC methods over 2 months, April (cooler) and June (hotter). Growing environment was found to be the greatest contributor to variability for nearly all pollen traits assessed, with performance during June nearly always being lower. PBC 507 and PBC 831 were identified as being new sources of heat tolerance, based on using IFC for assessing pollen. Pollen viability determined by staining and pollen activity determined using IFC were significantly positively correlated, indicating that IFC is an efficient and accurate method to assess pollen traits in pepper. This work provides a basis for further research in this area and supports more efficient breeding of heat-tolerant cultivars.

Open Access