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Thomas M. Gradziel

All of the major California almond varieties are self-incompatible necessitating the interplanting of pollinizer varieties. The incorporation of self-compatibility into the dominant variety Nonpareil through mutation or genetic engineering would greatly improve cropping efficiency. Negative effects of inbreeding on resultant seed and seedling quality could negate production advantages. Inbred seed of Nonpareil were obtained by: a) enclosing mature trees in pollination cages containing bees at flowering, and, b) controlled crosses to a Nonpareil mutation (Jeffries) which is unilaterally compatible when used as the seed parent. Selfed seed set from caged trees was less than 0.001% of available flowers. Seed set from crosses to the Jeffries mutation averaged 34.4% which was not significantly different than outcrossed controls. No significant loss in kernel weight and dimensions were observed in any of the inbred material when compared with outcrossed controls though a higher proportion of the inbred seed and seedlings failed to develop fully. Both average tree height and trunk diameter after 1 year of growth was significantly lower in inbred vs. outcrossed material. Results suggest no major penalty to kernel quality following self-pollination, though losses in progeny vigor should be a concern when utilizing selfed seed in variety development programs.

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Thomas M. Gradziel and Dechun Wang

Colonization and sporulation of aflatoxigenic Aspergillus flavus Link on intact and injured seed was evaluated for a selection of almond [Prunus dulcis (Mill.) D.A. Webb] cultivars. Barriers to fungal development were identified at the intact seedcoat and at the seed cotyledon tissue. The seedcoat barrier was expressed as a delay in fungal colonization for up to 3 days following the inoculation of intact seed. Seedcoat resistance was uniformly high for all cultivars tested. Cotyledon resistance, which was expressed as a lower rate of disease development was identified only in the cultivars Ne Plus Ultra, Ruby, and Carrion.

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Thomas M. Gradziel and Mary Ann Thorpe

Somatic mutations in shoot growing points, while considered relatively common in many horticultural clones, cannot be detected unless the mutation results in a distinguishable change and comes to occupy sufficient shoot area to be observable. Noninfectious bud-failure (BF) in almond, a genetic mutation which results in failure during early development of vegetative but not flower buds, behaves as a chimera in its incidence within an affected tree and in vegetative progeny from bud-failure prone clonal sources (i.e., vegetative lineage). Early stages of BF development are thought to occur as very limited and so undetected sectorial or mericlinal chimeras. Detection of BF during these early stages would be very valuable for the selection of low-BF source clones for nursery increase. Flower symmetry, as measured by differences in the size of each of the five petals of an almond flower, was evaluated as an indicator of the relative fitness of the individual cell lineages from which different petals were derived. Several hundred flowers from individual clonal sources of the almond variety `Nonpareil', known to produce either very low, medium, or very high levels of BF in their vegetative progeny, were tested over 3 separate years. Significant reductions in flower symmetry were consistently observed for medium BF potential clonal sources relative to either low- or high-BF sources despite the lack of any observable BF symptoms in the medium-BF trees tested. Associated with asymmetric-flower-prone sources was a greater number of an easily distinguishable distorted petal morphology. Medium BF-potential sources consistently produced 2- to 3-fold greater numbers of this petal morphology relative to low BF-sources, although the occurrence of distorted petals in both low and medium BF sources limits its use as an efficient field selection tool. Research findings, however, are allowing a more detailed understanding of the developmental ontogeny of “bud-sport” mutations and may have application in the analysis of otherwise hidden chimeras resulting from either somatic mutations or genetic transformation/regeneration schemes.

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Dale E. Kester and Thomas M. Gradziel

Approximately twenty native almond species have been described. Representative germplasm from seven of these are present in UC collections and have been used in crossing. Three specific breeding lines utilizing these species are described. One (1980 series) involved increasing yield potential through selection of high blossom density following gene introgression from Prunus fenzliana. A second involved incorporation of self-fertility, late bloom, smaller tree size, early maturity, high blossom density, and desirable nut characters from Prunus webbii into commercial breeding lines. A self-fertile selection resembling `Nonpareil' has been obtained from this material. The third line involves transmission of a unique thin, netted-surfaced, hard-shell phenotype from Prunus argentea.

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Thomas M. Gradziel and Steven A. Weinbaum

The regulation of anther dehiscence by relative humidity (RH) was assessed for detached anthers and detached whole flowers from a limited selection of apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.), peach [P. persica (L.) Batsch], and almond [P. dulcis (Mill.) D.A. Webb, syn. P. amygdalus Batsch; P. communis (L.) Arcangeli, non Huds.] genotypes, as well as an almond X peach F2 progeny. Dehiscence was evaluated at 33, 64, 87, 93 and 97% RH for detached anthers, and at 33, 64 and 97% RH for whole detached flowers. Anther dehiscence was suppressed with increasing RH for all genotypes. Apricot anthers showed the greatest dehiscence at low RH and measurable dehiscence at high RH even when detached. Anther dehiscence in almond appeared more suppressed than in apricot at all RH levels tested, being completely suppressed by high RH in detached anthers. Peach genotypes exhibited the full range of variability between apricot and almond patterns. Evidence for transgressive segregation of RH-controlled anther dehiscence was observed in the occurrence of cleistogamy in an almond × peach F2 progeny. Rates of anther dehiscence were approximately linear with change in RH in detached anthers but exhibited a more buffered, step-wise response when detached whole flowers were tested. Results are consistent with field observations, and highlight the low but measurable risk of cleistogamy in these species, as well as opportunities to modify the breeding systems and crossing environments to facilitate controlled hybridization, and to reduce pollination vulnerability to adverse environments.

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Thomas M. Gradziel and Dale E. Kester

Breeding lines have been developed incorporating introgressed genes from three native almond species Prunus fenzliana, Prunus webbii and Prunus argentea. Selected traits include self-fertility and autogamy, late bloom, smaller tree size, early nut maturity, improved cropping potential, and a well-sealed shell (endocarp) with high kernel/shell crack-out percentages. Fertility barriers, while present were easily overcome though linkage to introgressed genes with undesirable phenotypes remains an important obstacle to commercial use. Current breeding results, however, support a general conclusion that the wide diversity present within the range of species related to the cultivated almond (Prunus dulcis) provides an valuable gene pool for variety improvement.

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Thomas M. Gradziel, Mary Ann Thorpe and Diane M. Barrett

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Pedro Martinez-Gomez, Mary Ann Thorpe and Thomas M Gradziel

Micrografts have proven a very useful technique when the early propagation of plant material is desired either to invigorate weak material, multiply selected genotypes, or obtained virus-free shoots. This is the situation with the recovery of haploid almond embryos, which occur at low frequency with sexual embryos in twin seeds (i.e., multiple embryos within the same seedcoat). Often these haploid plants show weak growth due to their haploid condition and their poorly developed state within twin seeds. Very little information is presently available, however, concerning the effectiveness of different micrografting techniques for almond. In this work, we examine the success of in vivo micrografting of `Nonpareil' almond seedlings under different conditions. Variables included type of micro-scion, the rootstock genotype, and the growth stage of the rootstock. Microscions tested included small (3 mm) micro-wedges from either unsprouted or recently sprouted buds. Rootstocks evaluated included the `Hanson' (peach × almond) hybrid, and Nemared and Nemaguard peach rootstocks. Rootstocks were grafted after either ≈3 weeks of growth, when the tissue was still herbaceous, or after ≈3 months of growth, when the tissue had become woody. Results show significant differences between the treatments. Findings will be discussed both in terms of effectiveness of different approaches and the advantages and disadvantages of their use in breeding programs.

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Dale E. Kester, Richard N. Asay and Thomas M. Gradziel