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Alan W. Meerow, Tomás Ayala-Silva, and Brian M. Irish

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Alan W. Meerow, Tomás Ayala-Silva, and Brian M. Irish

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Joseph Postman, Kim Hummer, Ed Stover, Robert Krueger, Phillip Forsline, L.J. Grauke, Francis Zee, Tomas Ayala-Silva, and Brian Irish

The year 2005 marked the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS), repositories devoted to clonally propagated, horticultural fruit and nut crops. During this quarter century, facilities in Hilo, Hawaii; Mayaguez, PR.; Miami, Fla.; and Riverside, Calif. were developed to preserve collections of tropical and subtropical fruit and nut crops; facilities in Brownwood, Texas; Corvallis, Ore.; Davis, Calif. and Geneva, N.Y. preserve the temperate crops. Each of these facilities now has internationally recognized, globally diverse collections of genetic resources for their assigned genera. Germplasm of unique genotypes are maintained as growing plants, evaluated for phenotypic and genotypic traits, documented in a national public germplasm database, and freely distributed as clonal propaggules to researchers and other germplasm users around the world. Seed collections represent wild populations for some crop relatives. These 8 genebanks maintain 30,000 accessions representing 1600 species of fruit and nut crops and their wild relatives. The genebanks distribute more than 15,000 accessions annually to international researchers. Although originally conceived as working collections for crop improvement, NPGS genebanks have also become invaluable in providing the raw materials for basic plant genetic research, reservoirs for rare or endangered species or vulnerable landraces, archives of historic cultivars, and field classrooms for educating the public. These collections preserve botanical treasures as well as the American horticultural heritage for now and for future generations.

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J. Steven Brown, Raymond J. Schnell, Tomás Ayala-Silva, J. Michael Moore, Cecile L. Tondo, and Michael C. Winterstein

The visual appearance of mangos is a primary factor in determining consumer acceptance and sale, similar to other fruit and vegetable commodities. Even if the appeal of visual appearance is based on consumer perception rather than on established quality factors, breeders must usually select within the range of acceptance, at least in some countries. Mango selection using multiyear breeding programs is slowly replacing the former method by which most earlier cultivars were selected, namely from chance seedlings either from planned or unplanned crosses. The knowledge of heritability of traits as they are controlled by genetics and experimental design and the effects and interaction of these two sets of factors on achieved gain have become more critical. The use of portable colorimeters has been shown to give repeatable scores in a quantitative, three-dimensional space for fruits and vegetables. In this experiment, we calculated broad-sense heritability estimates for five color traits, three morphological fruit traits, and one disease resistance trait (anthracnose expressed on the fruit). Estimates were found to be relatively high, indicating good potential for improvement through breeding. For nearly all traits measured, variance within families was greater than that among families, illustrating the likely importance of heterozygosity, dominance, and epistasis in these crosses. The careful estimation of heritability and repeatability will help prioritize and increase the efficiency of trait improvement as breeding methods become more sophisticated and competition for funding increases.

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Raymond J. Schnell, Cecile L. Tondo, J. Steven Brown, David N. Kuhn, Tomás Ayala-Silva, James W. Borrone, and Thomas L. Davenport

Avocado (Persea americana Mill.) has an unusual flowering mechanism, diurnally synchronous protogynous dichogamy, that promotes crosspollination among avocado genotypes. In commercial groves, which usually contain pollinizer rows adjacent to the more desirable commercial cultivars, the rate of outcrossing has been measured with variable results. Using microsatellite markers, we estimated outcrossing in a commercial California ‘Hass’ avocado orchard with adjacent ‘Bacon’ pollinizers. Seedlings grown from mature harvested fruit of both cultivars were genotyped with five fully informative microsatellite markers and their parentage determined. Among the 919 seedlings of ‘Hass’, 688 (75%) were hybrids with ‘Bacon’; the remaining 231 (25%) seedlings were selfs of ‘Hass’. Among the 850 seedlings of ‘Bacon’, 382 (45%) were hybrids with ‘Hass’ and the remaining 468 (55%) seedlings were selfs of ‘Bacon’. The high outcrossing rate observed in the ‘Hass’ seedlings was expected, because adjacent rows of opposite flowering types (A versus B) are expected to outcross. However, the high selfing rate in ‘Bacon’ was unexpected. A previous study in Florida using the cultivars ‘Simmonds’ and ‘Tonnage’ demonstrated differences in outcrossing rates between complementary flowering type cultivars. In both Florida and California, the A type parents (‘Hass’ and ‘Simmonds’) had similar outcrossing rates (≈75%); however, the B type parents (‘Bacon’ and ‘Tonnage”) had highly skewed outcrossing rates of 45% and 96%, respectively. Two new avocado lethal mutants were discovered among the selfed seedlings of ‘Hass’ and ‘Bacon’. These were labeled “spindly” and “gnarly” and are similar in phenotype to mutants described in Arabidopsis and other crop species.