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Vyacheslav Gurevich, Uri Lavi and Yuval Cohen

Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) is a major tree crop in arid regions of the Middle East and North Africa, having an important impact on the economy of many countries in these regions. Date palms are traditionally propagated through offshoots. The development of propagation methods through tissue culture resulted in massive expansion of date palm plantations. While most trees generated from tissue culture are normal and true-to-type, several typical abnormal phenotypes are detected. The present study applies amplification fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis to characterize the genetic variation of two elite date cultivars, `Barhee' and `Medjool', as well as male clones, propagated from offshoots and through tissue culture. The two cultivars have very distinct AFLP band patterns. Most offshoots, as well as the tissue culture-propagated plants, have very similar band patterns, demonstrating a low level of genetic variation. However, a significant level of genetic variation was detected among `Medjool' plants generated from tissue culture. Several phenotypically abnormal trees were characterized by unique and different AFLP band patterns. The male clones are characterized by a high level of polymorphic bands. Genetic variation was also detected between various tissues of variegated `Medjool' trees propagated from tissue culture. The significance of these results, regarding the mechanism of the phenomenon and its relevance to agricultural practice, is discussed.

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Emanuel Lahav, Eli Tomer, Shmuel Gazit and Uri Lavi

Most fruit-tree breeding projects are based on selection of seedlings in regard to their performance. The selected seedlings are vegetatively propagated, usually by grafting. It is highly important for the breeder to know whether the performance of the grafted tree will resemble the performance of the original seedling. In this study the performance of avocado and mango seedlings was compared with that of their grafted duplicates. Significant differences were found in only 8 out of 36 avocado traits and 2 out of 10 mango traits. Significant seedling x graft interaction was detected in 10 other avocado traits. These differences were considered of no practical significance, since their magnitude was of minor importance for the breeder. The conclusion for avocado and mango breeders is that for most traits selection could be carried out on ungrafted seedlings.

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Uri Lavi, Emanuel Lahav, Chemda Degani and Shmuel Gazit

Avocado (Persea americana Mill.) progeny that originated from 11 crosses (both self-pollinations and crosses between cultivars) were evaluated for the length of their juvenile period. Time to first flowering, “flowering age,” and time to first fruit production, “fruiting age,” were recorded for each progeny. The mean values for both ages, the sd, and the progeny distribution were calculated. Significant statistical differences in flowering age and fruiting age between various progeny populations were detected. No differences were detected between self-pollinated plants and crosses. The time until first flowering was found to be the limiting factor in evaluation of seedlings.

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Uri Lavi, Emanuel Lahav, Chemda Degani, Shmuel Gazit and Jossi Hillel

Genetic variance components for avocado (Persea americana Mill.) traits were estimated to improve avocado breeding efficiency. The additive and nonadditive genetic variance components were calculated from the variances between and within crosses. In all nine traits examined, i.e.-anise scent, fruit density, flowering intensity, fruit weight, harvest duration, inflorescence length, seed size, softening time, and tree size-a significant nonadditive genetic variance was detected. Additive genetic variance in all traits was lower and nonsignificant. The existence of major nonadditive variance was indicated also by narrow-sense and broad-sense heritability values estimated for each trait. Therefore, parental selection should not be based solely on cultivar performance. Crosses between parents of medium and perhaps even low performance should also be included in the breeding program.

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Dror Sharon, Jossi Hillel, Samir Mhameed, Perry B. Cregan, Emanuel Lahav and Uri Lavi

The detection of association between DNA markers and traits of interest in an outbred population is complicated and requires highly polymorphic markers. A genetic linkage map of avocado (Persea americana Mill.) recently generated consists of simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers as well as DNA fingerprint (DFP) and randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers. These markers were used to detect putative quantitative trait loci (QTLs) of eight avocado fruit traits. Two statistical methods were used: one-way analysis of variance and interval mapping. Six traits were found to be associated with at least one of the 90 DNA markers. Based on the two statistical approaches, a putative QTL associated with the presence of fibers in the flesh, was found to be located on linkage group 3. This putative QTL was found to be associated with the SSR marker AVA04 having a high significant value (P = 4.4 × 10-8). The haplotype analysis of linkage group 3 showed a putative dominant interaction between the alleles of this locus.

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Samir Mhameed, Dror Sharon, Jossi Hillel, Emanuel Lahav, Daniel Kaufman and Uri Lavi

To estimate heterozygosity level in the avocado (Persea americana Mill.) genome, two types of variable number of tandem repeat (VNTR) markers were used. Multilocus DNA fingerprints (DFPs) were analyzed on avocado progeny resulting from either crosses or selfing of cultivars. In five crosses, heterozygosity was 100%, while in two self-pollinated families, heterozygosity was 90% and 94%. Single locus, simple sequence repeat (SSR) DNA markers were analyzed by typing 59 loci on five avocado cultivars. Average heterozygosity varied from 0.50 to 0.66, while gene diversity varied from 0.42 to 0.66. Heterozygosity varied from 38% to 70%. The percentage of fragments that exhibited Mendelian inheritance was 62.5% to 85% (P < 0.05) for the DFP fragments and 85% for the SSR alleles.

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Dror Sharon, Avital Adato, Samir Mhameed, Uri Lavi, Jossi Hillel, Maria Gomolka, Conny Epplen and Jorg Thomas Epplen

Plant genomes contain polymorphic repetitive sequences that can be used as DNA markers. Minisatellites (16 to 64 bp per repeat) and simple-sequence repeats (2 to 6 bp per repeat) are the most polymorphic markers found in plant and animal genomes. In this study, the hybridizations between genomic DNA and variable number of tandem repeat probes were examined in Arabidopsis thaliana L. (Heynn), onion (Allium cepa L.), tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum L.), wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), avocado (Persea americana Mill.), litchi (Chinensis Sonn.), mango (Mangifera indica L.), and Carica species. Some of the probes detected polymorphic sequences in all the species, but others were useful only for one or two species. None of the probes gave clear band patterns in either onion or wheat. The in-gel hybridization method was similar to Southern blot hybridization using the simple-sequence repeat probes.