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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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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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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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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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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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Roots impact plants’ capacity to absorb water and nutrients and thus play a vital role in tolerance to drought, salinity, and nutrient stress. In tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) breeding programs, wild tomato species have been commonly used to increase disease resistance and fruit quality and yield. However, tomato has seldom been bred for water/nutrient use efficiency or resilience to abiotic stress. Meanwhile, little knowledge of the genetic control of root traits in tomato is available. In this study, a mapping population consisting of 181 F2 progenies derived from a cross between an advanced breeding line RvT1 (S. lycopersicum) and a wild species Lche4 (Solanum cheesmaniae) was evaluated for root and shoot traits in the greenhouse. Root phenotypes were studied for the early seedling stage. Heritability estimates show that root traits are moderately or highly heritable. Root mass was highly correlated with root size (length, surface area, and volume). Shoot mass and chlorophyll content (SPAD) were moderately correlated with root mass and size. Genotyping-by-sequencing was applied to discover single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers. Seven hundred and forty-two SNPs were successfully mapped, and a medium-dense linkage map was created that covered 1319.47 centimorgans (cM) with an average distance of 1.78 cM between adjacent markers. Using composite interval mapping, multiple quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping and nonparametric mapping, 29 QTLs were identified for 12 root and shoot traits on eight chromosomes. Those QTLs of major and minor effect were involved in the differences among the F2 population. Two QTL hotspot regions associated with root mass, size, shoot mass and SPAD were identified on chromosomes 1 and 4, which was consistent with the correlation among traits. Five QTLs for shoot length and eight QTLs for SPAD were accounting for 40.01% and 55.53% of the phenotypic variation. Two QTLs were associated with 18.26% of the total variation for specific root length. The wild parent Lche4 has been characterized as a potential genetic donor of higher specific root length and might be a good parent to modify the root system of cultivated tomato.

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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.

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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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Our objectives were to construct a randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) marker-based linkage map using an F2 population derived from the melon (Cucumis melo) cross of ‘Deltex’ × TGR 1551, and map quantitative trait loci (QTL) for sucrose, total soluble solids (TSS), ratio of sucrose to total sugars (RSTS), and ascorbic acid as well as the ms-3 locus for male sterility previously reported in other muskmelon crosses. Due to the dominant character of RAPD markers, we scored 192 ‘Deltex’- and 158 TGR 1551-derived markers. One hundred eighty (94%) of the 192 markers fit the expected 3:1 ratio. On the basis of the 180 markers, we constructed a ‘Deltex’ linkage map of 171 markers distributed on 12 linkage groups (LGs) with a total map distance of 1182 cM. One hundred fifty (95%) of the 158 markers were identified to be nondistorted. We developed a TGR 1551 linkage map of 138 markers distributed on 12 LGs with a total distance of 1163 cM. A combined map of 12 LGs with a total map distance of 1394 cM was made from 82 marker pairs expressing codominance. Nine LGs were integrated into those of the existing composite map by 17 anchor markers. We mapped the ms-3 locus for male sterility on LG 9, which corresponds to LG 10 of the classical map and LG VII of the composite map. Six QTL for sucrose were located on LGs 2, 3, 4, 6, and 11. Three on LGs 3, 4, and 6 and four on LGs 2, 3, 6, and 11 of the six QTL for sucrose were also noted to be QTL for TSS and RSTS, respectively. A single QTL for ascorbic acid was placed on LG 5. This map will also be used to identify QTL for fruit sweetness, quality, size, and shape traits, as well as disease resistance.

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