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  • Author or Editor: John L. Coffey x
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Selection for and incorporation of host plant resistance into cultivars is a fundamental strategy to control insects and diseases and may help reduce reliance on synthetic pesticides. The sweetpotato whitefly, Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius), is an important pest of watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunberg) Matsum. and Nakai var. lanatus] and is among the most damaging pests in many agricultural systems worldwide. Citrullus colocynthis L., a perennial melon species indigenous to arid regions of northern Africa, the Mediterranean region, and southwestern Asia, is a valuable source of resistance to insect pests and diseases of watermelon. Laboratory and greenhouse experiments were conducted to evaluate selected C. colocynthis genotypes for sources of resistance to B. tabaci. Thirty genotypes of C. colocynthis, collected in different geographic regions, were evaluated against the heirloom cultivar Calhoun Gray using first a horizontal Y-tube olfactometer in the laboratory. A selected subset of the genotypes was evaluated in a second experiment in the laboratory using a vertical monitoring assay. In this assay, whiteflies could freely move upward to feed and oviposit on leaves placed in the upper portion of a Y-tube. In a third experiment, a choice assay was conducted on selected genotypes in cages in the greenhouse. Of the 30 C. colocynthis genotypes evaluated, PI 346082 (collected in Afghanistan) exhibited the highest level of resistance against B. tabaci based on all three experiments. PI 537277 (collected in Pakistan) exhibited a significantly high level of whitefly resistance based on low survival of adult whiteflies and a low ratio of nymphs to eggs. PI 346082 and PI 537277 should be a useful source for breeding projects aiming to improve whitefly resistance in watermelon cultivars.

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Citrullus colocynthis (CC) is a viable source of genes for enhancing disease and pest resistance in common cultivated watermelon [Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus (CLL)] cultivars. However, there is little information about genetic diversity within CC or the relationship of CC accessions to C. lanatus. In this study, we examined genetic diversity and relationships among 29 CC accessions collected in northern Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and their relationships to 3 accessions and 3 cultivars of CLL, 12 accessions of citron melon [C. lanatus ssp. lanatus var. citroides (CLC)], and 1 accession representing the desert perennial Citrullus ecirrhosus (CE). Twenty-three high-frequency oligonucleotides-targeting active gene (HFO–TAG) primers were used to produce a total of 431 polymorphic fragments that target coding regions of the genome. Cluster and multidimensional scaling plot analysis, separated the CC into five groups, in general agreement with their geographic origins. CC genotypes admixed with CLL and CLC also were identified. Major reproductive barriers resulted in significantly reduced fertility in CC × CLL hybridizations. However, several of the U.S. PIs of CC were successfully crossed with watermelon cultivars using traditional breeding procedures, and the seeds produced from these crosses were viable. This suggests that CC can be a viable source to introduce biotic and abiotic stress resistance genes into cultivated watermelon.

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