The large number of horticultural crops represents a great genetic diversity. This diversity is important in numerous ways such as in pollination control, product use, and environmental requirements for the production and handling of seeds, propagules, and the commercial product, to name only a few. The diversity is reflected further in the business structure of horticulture and, most relevant to our discussion, to relationships at the interface between the public and the private sectors in crop improvement.
Breeders of horticultural food crops are usually concerned with multiple traits related to yield and quality as well as other traits such as biotic and abiotic stresses. Yield in these crops is not solely tonnage of biomass produced in the field. Rather, it is the proportion of the crop that can be harvested and brought to market in a condition and at a price acceptable to the consumer. Quality may include flavor, color, shape, size, degree of damage, nutrient levels, and traits that permit greater perceived food safety or environmental sustainability. Some traits may exhibit phenotypic associations. Traits with unfavorable associations will be of concern to the breeder if the cause is unfavorably correlated genetic effects, especially those resulting from pleiotropy. Several multiple trait selection schemes have been developed, including independent culling levels, tandem selection, and index selection. These schemes can result in improvement even for traits with unfavorable associations. However, the breeder must have a strong rationale for each trait addressed in a breeding program because each additional trait necessitates larger breeding populations and more resources. Thus, the breeder's first challenge for each crop is to determine which traits are most important and which issues are most amenable to a breeding solution.
Progenies from a partial diallel mating scheme using 17 highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum L.), lowbush (V. angustifolium Ait.), and half-high (V. corymbosum/V. angustfolium hybrid) parents were subjectively evaluated for fruit color, picking scar, and firmness in two seasons. General combining ability (GCA) mean squares were significant (P ≤ 0.01 for all traits), but specific combining ability was significant for no traits (P > 0.05). However, the correlation coefficients between the GCA effects and the parental phenotype scores were low, indicating that selection of parents within this material based on their phenotype may not be indicative of progeny performance. GCA effects depended to some extent on the species ancestry. Vaccinium angustifolium parents produced progeny with relatively dark, soft fruit with large scars. Lowbush parents having light-blue fruit produced segregating progenies that were heavily skewed toward dark fruit, regardless of the color or species ancestry of the other parent. When the highbush and half-high parents were crossed with one another, segregation patterns were typical of predominately additive gene action.
The commercially successful apple (Malus pumila Mill.) cultivar Honeycrisp is known for its high degrees of crispness and juiciness. This cultivar has been incorporated into numerous breeding programs in an effort to duplicate its desirable texture traits in conjunction with such other traits as reduced postharvest disorders, disease resistance, and improved tree vigor. This study characterizes variability and estimates heritability for several apple fruit texture traits within a large breeding population over several years. Five full-sib families, all sharing ‘Honeycrisp’ as a common parent, were assayed with respect to crispness, firmness, and juiciness using sensory evaluation panels and total work required to fracture tissue using instrumental methods. The incomplete block design of the sensory panels, coupled with best linear unbiased prediction, facilitated the evaluation of a large number of genotypes with small numbers of fruit per genotype while accounting for individual sensory panelist effects. Broad-sense heritability estimates exceeded 0.70 for all four traits. Principal component analysis, applied to the phenotypic data, characterized ‘Honeycrisp’ as having average crispness and low firmness (53rd percentile relative to its offspring) but also as being a relatively extreme example of high juiciness and low work to fracture (first percentile). The improved characterization of desired fruit texture phenotypes and the high levels of broad-sense heritability provide valuable tools for the further development of new, high-quality apple cultivars.
Root sections of cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait. cv. Searles) were microscopically examined to document the typical anatomy of cranberry roots and changes in root anatomy in response to N-form and solution pH. Cranberry cuttings were rooted, then established in hydroponic conditions with three N and two pH regimes. The three N regimes with equal N levels were 1) NH4-N alone, 2) NH4/NO3-N in combination, or 3) NO3-N alone. pH was maintained at 4.5 or 6.5. Root apical regions were examined using phase contrast, bright field, and epifluorescence microscopy. The cranberry root tip develops with a closed apical organization with the tetrarchal vascular cylinder, cortex, and root cap traceable to independent meristem cell layers. The most obvious treatment difference was an accumulation of unidentified “granules” in the subepidermal layer, readily visible with epifluorescence microscopy with NO3-N alone. Roots produced at pH 4.5 branched less than those at 6.5 and had more “quiescent” root initials; at pH 6.5, these developed more frequently into branch roots.
The effects of pH and N form on growth and nutrition of blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L. × V. angustifolium Ait. cv. Northblue) and cranberry (V. macrocarpon Ait. cv. Searles) were tested in separate greenhouse hydroponic experiments. A factorial treatment arrangement of two pH levels (4.5 and 6.5) and three N forms (NO3-N, NH4-N, and NH4-N/NO3-N) was used for each clone. Blueberry shoot growth and final dry weight were greatest at pH 4.5, regardless of N form. In contrast, cranberry fresh weight accumulation and final dry weight were higher with NH4-N/NO3-N or NH4-N than with NO3-N alone. Cranberry plants receiving NO3-N alone accumulated low levels of tissue N and grew relatively poorly at both pH levels. Differences in N response by these two species may be due partially to the environments in which they were selected. Soil from the site where `Northblue' blueberry was selected contained relatively high NO3-N and low NH4-N levels; soil from commercial `Searles' cranberry bogs had relatively low NO3-N and high NH4-N levels. Both species accumulated relatively high levels of root Fe, regardless of pH or N form. Levels of Fe in the root were as much as 100 times higher than in the shoot. Based on X-ray microanalysis of cranberry roots, most of the Fe appeared to be precipitated on the root surface as iron phosphate. Concentrations of Mn in shoots and roots depended on N form and pH. In general, root Mn was highest at pH 6.5 and apparently was precipitated with Fe.