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Rodomiro Ortiz and Dirk R. Vuylsteke

Few genetic markers are available in Musa spp. as a result of a lack of inheritance studies. Full-sib diploid (2n = 2x = 22) plantain-banana hybrids of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture were selfed or outcrossed with other diploid bananas, one of which is an improved selection from Central America. Three populations having albinos (complete lack of chlorophyll in any plant tissue) were produced. The segregation ratios for albinism suggested that this deleterious trait is controlled by one or two recessive alleles. The small sample sizes (a problem inherent in the low reproductive fertility of cultivated parthenocarpic Musa) in two of these three populations did not allow for conclusiveness between the one or two genes model. However, a distinction was possible with the third population, consisting of 64 seedlings, of which four were albinos. The segregation ratio for albinism fit the 15:1 ratio (χ2 = 0.07, P = 0.79) and not the 3:1 ratio (χ2 = 11.02, P < 0.01), suggesting that albinism in Musa spp. is under the genetic control of at least two independent recessive alleles with complementary gene action. This finding also demonstrates that deleterious recessive alleles are present in the cultivated AAB plantain gene pool and in cultivated and advanced AA banana breeding populations. The latter suggests that population improvement through phenotypic recurrent selection for agronomic traits might be based on the elimination of deleterious recessive genes.

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Dirk R. Vuylsteke and Rodomiro Ortiz

In vitro-propagated plants of plantain (Musa spp., AAB group) did not manifest consistently superior horticultural performance compared to conventional propagules. Tissue culture plants grew vigorously and taller than sucker-propagated plants, but higher yield was not obtained, probably because of severe disease and suboptimal husbandry input. Phenotypic variation was higher in tissue culture plants, although this increase was not always statistically significant. There were no other detrimental effects of in vitro propagation on field performance. Botanical seed set rates for the two types of propagules were similar. The advantages of tissue-culture-derived plants as improved planting material would be most relevant for establishing field nurseries for further clean, conventional propagation of newly bred or selected genotypes.

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Rodomiro Ortiz and Dirk R. Vuylsteke

Apical dominance, i.e., the inhibition of lateral bud growth due to growth substances released by the terminal bud, has been considered as a limiting factor for the perennial productivity of plantains (Musa spp., AAB group). Segregation ratios in F1 and F2 plantain-banana hybrids suggest that inheritance of apical dominance is controlled by a major recessive gene, ad. The dominant Ad allele improved the suckering of plantain-banana hybrids, as measured by the height of the tallest sucker at flowering and harvest. At harvest, the ratoon crop of the diploid and tetraploid hybrids had completed 70% to 100% of its vegetative development, whereas the ratoon of the plantain parents, due to high apical dominance, was only at 50% of total pseudostem growth. Sucker growth rates are generally the result of gibberellic acid (GA3) levels, and it is suggested that the Ad gene regulates GA3 production. However, the Ad gene has incomplete penetrance, genetic specificity, and variable expressivity. Increased frequency of the Ad gene and a commensurate improvement in the suckering behavior of the diploid populations may be achieved by phenotypic recurrent selection.

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Dirk R. Vuylsteke, Rony L. Swennen, and Edmond A. De Langhe

Four types of morphologically distinct somaclonal variants were identified in a population of False Horn plantain (Musa spp., AAB group) plants produced by in vitro shoot-tip culture. Field performance of these variants was compared with true-to-type plantain to evaluate their horticultural traits. Significant variation was observed for plant and fruit maturity, leaf size, yield and its components, but not for leaf number, plant height, or suckering. Three of the four somaclonal variants were horticulturally inferior to the original clone from which they were derived. Yields of these variants were very poor due to inflorescence degeneration or abnormal foliage. Only the `French reversion' variant, which resembled an existing cultivar, outyielded the true-to-type clone. However, its fruit weight and size were lower. Somaclonal variation through micropropagation is of limited use in plantain improvement as it mostly mimics naturally occurring variation along with the observed poor horticultural performance of somaclonal variants.