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Steven J. Damon and Michael J. Havey

Natural variation exists in onion (Allium cepa L.) for amounts and types of epicuticular waxes on leaves. Wild-type waxy onion possesses copious amounts of these waxes, whereas the foliage of semiglossy and glossy phenotypes accumulates significantly less wax. Reduced amounts of epicuticular waxes have been associated with resistance to onion thrips (Thrips tabaci Lindeman), an important insect pest of onion. A segregating family from the cross of waxy and semiglossy onions was used to map single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and identify chromosome regions affecting amounts and types of epicuticular waxes as measured by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. The amount of the primary epicuticular wax on onion leaves, hentriacontanone-16, was controlled by one region on chromosome 5. One region on chromosome 2 affected concentrations of several primary fatty alcohols. Results indicate that the region on chromosome 2 may be associated with the acyl reduction pathway, and the region on chromosome 5 may affect the decarbonylation pathway of epicuticular wax biosynthesis. Because lower amounts of epicuticular waxes are recessively inherited, SNPs tagging regions on chromosomes 2 and 5 will be useful for marker-assisted breeding to vary amounts and types of epicuticular waxes on onion foliage with the goal to develop cultivars resistant to onion thrips.

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Steven J. Damon, Russell L. Groves and Michael J. Havey

Natural variation exists in onion (Allium cepa L.) for amounts of epicuticular waxes on foliage, and plants with lower amounts of these waxes suffer less feeding damage from onion thrips (Thrips tabaci Lind.). Wild-type onion possesses copious amounts of epicuticular waxes and is often referred to as “waxy.” The recessively inherited “glossy” phenotype has significantly less wax relative to waxy types and shows resistance to onion thrips but is vulnerable to spray damage, foliar pathogens, and excessive transpiration. Phenotypes visually intermediate between waxy and glossy also exist in onion, which we refer to as “semiglossy.” Epicuticular waxes on the leaves of glossy, semiglossy, and waxy onions were evaluated for appearance using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and amounts and types were analyzed using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Wax crystals were clearly visible on the surface of waxy foliage with decreasing amounts on semiglossy and none on glossy leaves. The ketone hentriacontanone-16 was the most prevalent wax on leaves of waxy onion and was significantly (P < 0.01) less on semiglossy relative to waxy plants and on glossy relative to waxy and semiglossy plants. Numbers of adult and immature onion thrips were significantly reduced (P < 0.05) on glossy and/or semiglossy accessions relative to waxy in field and greenhouse cage experiments. These results indicate that semiglossy plants possess intermediate amounts of epicuticular waxes that may protect leaves from diseases or environmental stresses while still conferring resistance to onion thrips. Therefore, the semiglossy phenotype should be useful in integrated programs managing this important onion pest.