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Haiying Zhang, Shaogui Guo, Guoyi Gong, Yi Ren, Angela R. Davis and Yong Xu

Powdery mildew of cucurbits, incited by Podosphaera xanthii (Castagne) Braun & Shishkoff (syn. Sphaerotheca fuliginea auct. p.p.), is an economically important foliar disease. which is now common in watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Mastum. & Nakai]. This disease occurs in all watermelon-growing areas and can reduce yields by up to 30%. Finding and breeding for resistance to this disease is important to reduce dependence on fungicides and to use in combination with fungicides to limit the spread of fungicide-resistant P. xanthii. This is the first English report that race 2WF of P. xanthii can infect watermelon. It is the prevalent race of watermelon powdery mildew in Beijing.

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Haiying Zhang, Guoyi Gong, Shaogui Guo, Yi Ren, Yong Xu and Kai-Shu Ling

Because of the growing threat of global warming, drought stress could severely affect the normal growth and development of crop plants. To alleviate such an adverse effect, there is a need to screen watermelon germplasm collections to identify genetic sources for potential drought tolerance. In the present study, 820 accessions of USDA's Citrullus PIs and 246 watermelon breeding lines were evaluated for their drought tolerance at the seedling stage under extreme water stress conditions in a greenhouse. Significant variations in drought tolerance were observed in the Citrullus germplasm collections. Using fast clustering analysis, the tested watermelon materials could be assigned into four groups, including tolerant, intermediate tolerant, moderately sensitive, and sensitive, respectively. The most drought-tolerant Citrullus germplasm, including 13 Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus and 12 C. lanatus var. citroides accessions, were originated from Africa. These genetic materials could be used for rootstock breeding or for developing drought-tolerant watermelon cultivars.

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Haiying Zhang, Jianguang Fan, Shaogui Guo, Yi Ren, Guoyi Gong, Jie Zhang, Yiqun Weng, Angela Davis and Yong Xu

Watermelon belongs to the genus Citrullus. There have been continuing interests in breeding of watermelon for economic benefits, but information on the scope and utilization of genetic variations in Citrullus is still limited. The present study was conducted in 2012–13, to evaluate the genetic diversity and population structure of the 1197 line watermelon collection maintained by the Beijing Vegetable Research Center (BVRC), which belongs to seven Citrullus species including Citrullus naudinianus, Citrullus colocynthis, Citrullus rehmii, Citrullus ecirrhosus, Citrullus amarus, Citrullus mucosospermus, and Cirullus lanatus subsp. vulgaris. Twenty-three highly informative microsatellite markers evenly distributed in the watermelon genome were used to assess genetic diversity in this collection. The markers detected on an average of 6.05 alleles per locus with the average value of polymorphism information content (PIC) at 0.49. A high level of gene diversity [Nei’s gene diversity index (Nei) = 0.56] and a low observed heterozygosity (H o = 0.10) were revealed within the collection. Structure analysis grouped the 1197 accessions into two main populations (Pop I and Pop II) and an admixture group. Pop I contained 450 accessions from C. lanatus subsp. vulgaris (446) and C. mucosospermus (4). Pop II comprised 465 accessions, 379 of which belonged to C. lanatus subsp. vulgaris and 86 to C. naudinianus (3), C. ecirrhosus (2), C. rehmii (2), C. colocynthis (11), C. amarus (58), and C. mucosospermus (10). The remaining 282 accessions were classified as an admixture group. The two main populations were further subdivided into four subgroups. The groupings were consistent with the estimation of F statistics (F st) and Nei’s genetic distances in collections. We confirmed the distinct genetic backgrounds between American and East Asian ecotypes. Subsequently, we defined a core set consisting of 130 accessions including 47 from Pop I, 68 from Pop II, and 15 from the Admixture group. This core set was able to capture all 133 alleles detected by 23 simple sequence repeats (SSRs) in 1197 accessions. These results will facilitate efficient use of genetic variations in Citrullus in watermelon breeding and help optimization of accessions in genomewide association studies.