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Haofeng Chen, Vanessa E.T.M. Ashworth, Shizhong Xu and Michael T. Clegg

The authors report a quantitative genetic analysis of avocado (Persea americana Mill.) growth rate, flower abundance, and fruit set. The data are based on a total of 204 different genotypes of progeny of ‘Gwen’ avocado. Each was replicated four times, with two replicates planted in each of two locations in southern California (Irvine and Riverside). Data were collected over 4 years (consecutive) on tree height, canopy diameter, and trunk diameter, representing three distinct measures of growth rate. Growth data were found to fit a linear regression over years, so the slope (growth rate) was used in the analyses. In addition, 2 years of data on flower abundance and 1 year on fruit set were also collected. Quantitative genetic analyses of these data showed that broad-sense heritability (H) was 35.5%, 30.3%, and 26.6% for tree height, canopy diameter, and trunk diameter respectively; and 33.8% and 23.0% for flowering abundance and fruit set respectively. No genotype-by-location effect was noted for growth rate; however, flower abundance and fruit set showed a relatively weak genotype-by-location effect (21.9% and 17.1% respectively). The H estimates are low, probably as a result of sources of uncontrolled environmental error associated with variation in initial planting dates, but fall within the range that should permit quantitative trait locus analyses. The authors also found a moderate positive correlation between tree growth rates and fruit set, but none between growth rates and flower abundance. Different pollen parents have significantly different impacts on tree growth rates, flower abundance, and fruit set.

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Vanessa E.T.M. Ashworth, Haofeng Chen, Carlos L. Calderón-Vázquez, Mary Lu Arpaia, David N. Kuhn, Mary L. Durbin, Livia Tommasini, Elizabeth Deyett, Zhenyu Jia, Michael T. Clegg and Philippe E. Rolshausen

The glossy, green-fleshed fruit of the avocado (Persea americana) has been the object of human selection for thousands of years. Recent interest in healthy nutrition has singled out the avocado as an excellent source of several phytonutrients. Yet as a sizeable, slow-maturing tree crop, it has been largely neglected by genetic studies, owing to a long breeding cycle and costly field trials. We use a small, replicated experimental population of 50 progeny, grown at two locations in two successive years, to explore the feasibility of developing a dense genetic linkage map and to implement quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis for seven phenotypic traits. Additionally, we test the utility of candidate-gene single-nucleotide polymorphisms developed to genes from biosynthetic pathways of phytonutrients beneficial to human health. The resulting linkage map consisted of 1346 markers (1044.7 cM) distributed across 12 linkage groups. Numerous markers on Linkage Group 10 were associated with a QTL for flowering type. One marker on Linkage Group 1 tracked a QTL for β-sitosterol content of the fruit. A region on Linkage Group 3 tracked vitamin E (α-tocopherol) content of the fruit, and several markers were stable across both locations and study years. We argue that the pursuit of linkage mapping and QTL analysis is worthwhile, even when population size is small.