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  • Author or Editor: James W. Lorbeer x
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Greenhouse and field methods were developed to screen Allium spp. for resistance to botrytis leaf blight (causal agent Botrytis squamosa Walker). In greenhouse evaluations, plants were sprayed with laboratory-grown mycelial fragment inoculum and were incubated at 20C in a chamber with an atomizing fogger. For field inoculations, a portable fog system with windbreaks was erected around experimental plots, and the plants were sprayed with the inoculum on evenings when windless, temperate (18 to 22C) conditions were forecasted. The most effective mycelial fragment inoculum was <21 days old and had ≈45 to 50 colony-forming units/μl, resulting in an absorbance at 450 nm of 0.2 to 0.3. Rubbing the wax cuticle from leaves was essential to disease development in greenhouse but not in field experiments. Evaluations of eight Allium species, including 55 A. cepa L. accessions, were in agreement with previous studies.

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Greenhouse and field methods were developed to screen Allium spp. for resistance to Botrytis leaf blight (caused by Botrytis squamosa Walker). In the green-house, plants were sprayed with laboratory-grown inoculum and incubated in a temperature-controlled enclosure containing an atomizing mist system. For field inoculations, a portable misting system with windbreaks was erected, and the plants were sprayed with laboratory-grown inoculum. Greenhouse and field incubation conditions maintained leaf wetness without washing inoculum from the leaves. Botrytis leaf blight symptoms in greenhouse and field evaluations were identical to symptoms in commercial onion fields. A total of 86 selected USDA Allium collection accessions were evaluated using these methods. All A. fistulosum accessions and A. roytei were highly resistant to immune, as were most accessions of A. altaicum, A. galanthum, A. pskemense, and A. oschaninii. Nearly all of the A. vavilovii and A. cepa accessions were susceptible. However, one A. cepa accession (PI 273212 from Poland) developed only superficial lesions, which did not expand to coalesce and blight leaves. This work confirms previous reports of Botrytis leaf blight resistance in Allium spp., and suggests that strong resistance exists with A. cepa.

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All current onion cultivars are susceptible to Botrytis squamosa (BLB), in varying degrees. The wild onion relative Allium roylei possesses strong BLB resistance. To control this disease, BLB resistant onion populations are being created through backcross breeding using A. roylei. Interspecific sexual barriers reduce fertility and seed set, impeding gene transfer. It is relatively easy to make the interspecific F1 between A. roylei and Alliumcepa; however, sexual barriers severely limit seed production in subsequent generations. Nevertheless, we were able to select BC1F2 plants capable of generating high levels of BC2F1 seed. The BC2F1 plants had horticultural characteristics much closer to onion, and segregated for both BLB resistance and fecundity. One particular BC2F1 population gave the highest proportion of resistant plants in a field screen, and nearly all plants of this population produced true bulbs. 120 selected BC2F1 bulbs were retested for BLB resistance in a chamber assay and the most resistant plants were used to advance the transfer of BLB resistance. In 2004, BC2F2 and BC3F1 populations derived from the BC2F1 selections were screened for BLB resistance and used for seed production. 132 plants were selected in the field screen. The level of resistance in BC2F2 and BC3F1 is similar to BC1F2 and BC2F1, with no evidence of reduction in level of resistance with generations. Molecular screens for markers associated with resistance are routinely used in vegetable crops to transfer resistance genes. The creation of a molecular assay for BLB resistance would accelerate its transfer and release of resistant varieties. We are using AFLP and SSRs in a search for DNA markers associated with BLB resistance in our materials.

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