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Kevin M. Crosby

Improving melon root systems by traditional breeding is one component of the program to develop multiple-stress-resistant melons at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Weslaco. Ten diverse melon lines representing four horticultural groups were intercrossed utilizing a Design II mating scheme. The male parents were: `PI 403994,' `Perlita,' `Doublon,' `Caravelle', and `PI 525106.' The female parents were: `Créme de Menthe,' `Magnum 45,' `BSK,' `PI 124111 × TDI', and `Deltex.' F1 progeny were grown in pasteurized sand in the greenhouse using a randomized complete-block design with four reps. After 4 weeks, root systems from all plants were carefully washed to remove the sand. Each root system was then placed onto a glass, plated, and scanned into the computer software Rhizo Pro 3.8 (Regent Instruments, Quebec). This software calculated root lengths of various diameter classes, root area, and root tip number. All data was input into Agrobase software for calculation of genetic variances based on Design II analysis. Significant differences of contributions by male parents to progeny variation were few. Only length of roots with 1.0- to 1.5-mm-diameter and vine length were significantly different. Differences in contributions by female parents to all traits except root tip number were highly significant. No significant interaction effects were observed for any trait. Narrow-sense heritability estimates were moderate to high for all traits. The range was from 0.56 for root tip number by males to 0.81 for both length of 0.5- to 1.0-mm-diameter roots and vine length for females. Estimates for total root length (0.76) and root surface area (0.77) were high. The lack of male by female interaction suggests very low dominance genetic variation and contributed to high heritability estimates, which represent predominantly additive gene action. Additive genetic variation allows more-efficient progress by selection, making the potential for root system improvement favorable.

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Kevin Crosby*, Daniel Leskovar and Kil Sun Yoo

The Habanero pepper, a distinct cultigen of Capsicum chinense, has become increasingly popular in American markets due to its unique flavor and aroma. It is extremely pungent compared to other commonly cultivated hot peppers. This attribute restricts its culinary uses. The objective of the Habanero pepper improvement project was to breed for important flavor compounds in the absence of genes involved in capsaicin synthesis. Intensive selection in large breeding populations was carried out to identify individual plants producing fruit with good aroma and flavor and low capsaicin concentrations. An initial cross was made between a non-pungent selection of C. chinense out of PI 543188 and a highly pungent, typical Habanero pepper from Yucatan. A series of sib-selections following a single backcross of a non-pungent F2 individual to the Habanero line were carried out in field and greenhouse plantings at Weslaco. Six subsequent generations of inbreeding resulted in a highly uniform, novel variety-TAM Mild Habanero (TMH). The fruit of TMH is very similar in size and shape to the recurrent parent. Color is yellow-orange as opposed to the deep orange of the Yucatan Habanero (YH), but aroma and flavor are extremely similar. In contrast, total capsaicin concentration of TMH fruit at Weslaco averaged 154 μg·g-1, compared to 12,704 μg·g-1 for the YH. Field trials conducted in south Texas showed that TMH consistently matured about 10 days earlier, had significantly higher levels of beta-carotene (7.6 μg·g-1 compared to <0.5 μg·g-1 in YH) and out-yielded YH by 25%. These traits make TMH an ideal cultivar for Fall production in south Texas.

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Soon O. Park* and Kevin M. Crosby

Mature fruit size and shape are important traits of most melon types. Our objective was to identify RAPD markers associated with major QTL affecting fruit weight, length, diameter and shape by means of bulked segregant analysis in an F2 population from the ananas melon cross of Deltex (larger fruit size) × TGR1551 (smaller fruit size). Clear separations for fruit weight, length, diameter, and shape between Deltex and TGR1551 were observed. Continuous distributions for fruit weight, length, diameter and shape were found in the F2 population indicating quantitative inheritance for the fruit traits. Significant positive correlations were detected between fruit weight and shape traits (r = 0.73 to 0.80). A significant positive correlation was observed between fruit weight and glucose (r = 0.35) or fructose (r = 0.25), whereas no correlation was noted between fruit weight and sucrose or total soluble solids. Two small and large bulks for fruit weight and shape were developed from F2 plants. A total of 240 primers were used to simultaneously screen between the small and large bulks, and between Deltex and TGR1551. Twenty-six RAPD markers were polymorphic for the small and large bulks. Ten markers were found to be significantly and consistently associated with fruit size and shape traits on the basis of simple linear regression. Of the 10 markers associated, four displayed an amplified DNA fragment in the small bulk, while six showed an amplified DNA fragment in the large bulk. The associated marker OJ07.350 explained 15% to 27% of the phenotypic variation for the fruit traits. These markers associated with QTL for melon fruit size and shape are expected to be useful in melon breeding programs for modifying fruit size.

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Kevin Crosby, David Wolff and Marvin Miller

The fungus Monosporascus cannonballus Pollock and Uecker infects melon (Cucumis melo L.) roots and causes root rot/vine decline disease, which has reduced productivity of commercial muskmelon and honeydew cultivars in South Texas. To assess the impact of the fungus on several root traits, two greenhouse experiments were carried out over two seasons. A comparison of inoculated vs. control root systems was carried out with four melon cultivars representing both susceptible (`Magnum 45' and `Caravelle') and tolerant types (`Deltex' and `Doublon'). The sand medium was inoculated with 50–60 colony forming units (CFUs) per gram of the severe Monosporascus strain, TX90-25. After a 30-day growth period, the control and inoculated root systems were carefully cleaned and evaluated. Roots were scanned by a computer and the data were analyzed by the Rhizo Pro 3.8 program. The traits of interest included total root length, average root diameter, number of root tips, number of fine roots (0–0.5 mm), and number of small roots (0.5–1 mm). Significant differences existed between the two tolerant cultivars and the two susceptible ones for four of the traits. Total root length, fine and small root length, and root tip number were greater for `Deltex' than for both susceptible cultivars and greater for `Doublon' than for `Caravelle'. The results suggest that tolerance to this pathogen is closely linked to the integrity of the root structure. The potential for improving root vigor to combat root rot/vine decline merits further investigation.

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Gene E. Lester and Kevin M. Crosby

Two important chemicals and an essential mineral (phytonutrients) for human health and well-being are ascorbic acid, 5-methyl-tetrahydrofolic acid (folic acid) and potassium. The influence of cultivar, fruit size, soil type and year on these compounds in [Cucumis melo L. (Inodorous Group)] was determined. Fully mature (abscised) commercial size fruit: 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9 (fruit/0.031 m3 shipping box) from three commercial cultivars: Mega Brew, Morning Ice, and TAM Dew Improved (TDI); and one experimental hybrid `TDI' × `Green Ice' were grown on both clay loam and sandy loam soils. Total ascorbic acid and folic acid content increased with an increase in fruit size up to a maximum (size 6 or 5), then decreased with further fruit size increase. Total ascorbic acid and folic acid content for most fruit sizes were higher when grown on clay loam versus sandy loam soils. The experimental hybrid compared to the commercial cultivars contained generally higher total ascorbic acid levels and significantly higher folic acid levels regardless of fruit size or soil type. Free ascorbic acid and dehydroascorbic acid contents were generally higher from clay loam versus sandy loam soils and in the experimental line versus the commercial cultivars. However, free ascorbic acid content was high in small fruit and remained unchanged with an increase in fruit size until size 6 or 5 then significantly decreased; while dehydroascorbic acid content linearly increased with an increase in fruit size. Potassium content averaged 1.7 mg·g-1 fresh weight for each line and did not significantly differ due to fruit size, but did for soil type and year. Analyses of variance for the phytonutrients assayed demonstrated that cultivar (genetics) always was very highly significant (P = 0.001), whereas, soil and year (environment) were not.

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John Jifon, Kevin Crosby and Daniel Leskovar

High temperature stress is a major limitation to commercial production of habanero pepper (Capsicum chinense Jacq.) in tropical and subtropical regions. The ability to sustain physiological activity under stress is an important trait for newer varieties. We evaluated leaf thermotolerance [based on the cell membrane stability (CMS) test] of three habanero pepper varieties to: 1) determine genetic variability in CMS among the genotypes studied; and 2) to assess correlations between CMS, photosynthesis and chlorophyll fluorescence [(CF), an indicator of membrane-dependent photosystem II quantum efficiency, ΦPSII]. The genotypes evaluated were TAM Mild Habanero (TMH, a recently developed mild habanero pepper) and its closely related parents (Yucatan and PI 543184). Net CO2 assimilation rate (An) of intact leaves was measured in the field and leaf samples collected and exposed to heat stress (55 °C for 20 min) in temperature-controlled water baths under dim light conditions. The CF was assessed before and after the heat treatment. The CMS was highest in PI 543184, lowest in TMH and intermediate in Yucatan. All genotypes maintained high An rates in the field (25 ± 6 μmol·m-2·s-1); however, correlations between An and CMS were weak. The Φ values were similar among the genotypes (∼0.8) under nonstress conditions, but differed significantly following stress exposure. PI 543184 had the highest post-stress ΦPSII values (0.506 ± 0.023), followed by Yucatan (0.442 ± 0.023) and TMH (0.190 ± 0.025). Observed differences in CMS and ΦPSII indicate plasticity in the response to heat stress among these genotypes.

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Kevin M. Crosby, Daniel I. Leskovar and Kil Sun Yoo

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Alexandra B. Napier, Kevin M. Crosby and Soon O. Park

Muskmelons (Cucumis melo L.) play an important role in the American diet. Ranked as one of the top 10 most-consumed fruits by the USDA, cantaloupe melons have the highest amount of beta-carotene of all the ranked fruits. Beta-carotene, also called pro-Vitamin A, is an essential nutrient required for eye health, and may have the potential, as an antioxidant to reduce the risks associated with cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses. Breeding melons with increased levels of beta-carotene will benefit consumer health. Research has found phytonutrients are most bioavailable when consumed in their fresh form, rather than as vitamin supplements. The high level of beta-carotene found in some melons has a genotypic component, which may be exploited to breed melons high in beta-carotene. Molecular markers and marker-assisted selection (MAS) can be used to increase the efficacy of the breeding process, while lowering breeding costs. An F2 population was created using `Sunrise', the female parent, containing no beta-carotene crossed with `TAM Uvalde', a high beta-carotene variety. A field population consisting of 115 F2 individuals and a greenhouse population containing 90 F2 individuals were grown. The resulting fruit were screened phenotypically and ranked according to beta-carotene content. Chisquare values fit the previously reported model of a single dominant gene for presence of beta-carotene (orange-flesh) vs. absence (green or white flesh). A continuous distribution of beta-carotene concentrations from high to low suggested quantitative inheritance for this trait. Two eight-plant DNA bulks composed of either high or low beta-carotene F2 individuals were screened for polymorphic molecular markers using the amplified fragment-length polymorphism technique.

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Kevin Crosby, Daniel Leskovar, John Jifon and Kilsun Yoo

The Texas Agricultural Experiment Station/Texas A&M University announces the release of two new open-pollinated cultivars of long chile. The first, `TAM Ben Villalon,'(TBV) is a long green chile/Anaheim type, while the second, `TAM Valley Hot,' (TVH) is a large cayenne type. Both cultivars have complex pedigrees involving TAES potyvirus resistant germplasm developed by Ben Villalon. Consequently, they exhibit resistance to some strains of tobacco etch virus when mechanically inoculated. In addition, TBV exhibits resistance to several strains of pepper mottle virus. These new cultivars out-yielded their comparable commercial cultivars, `Sonora,' and `Mesilla', when grown with drip irrigation at Weslaco and Uvalde, Texas. TBV yielded 16,632 kg/ha of green pods, compared to 14,228 kg/ha for `Sonora.' Both cultivars had similar capsaicin concentrations of 30–40 ppm on a fresh-weight basis. TBV pods are significantly heavier than those of `Sonora' due to thicker flesh. It should be useful for the green chile processing and fresh market industries. TBV may also be dried at the red stage to produce chile powder, which is very similar in quality to that of `NM 6-4.' TVH pods are not significantly different from `Mesilla' for size or weight, but contain significantly more capsaicin (670 vs. 320 ppm) when grown at Weslaco. TVH should be well-suited to the cayenne mash industry for hot sauce production due to its high heat level. Both cultivars will be distributed through commercial seed companies after receiving approval for Plant Variety Protection Patents.