We thank Monika Möhler, Kurt Ehm, Wolfgang Meyer, and Erhardt Sonnenkalb for providing fruit samples, Ruth Richter and Matthias Hinz for technical assistance, Stefanie Peschel for useful discussion, Dieter Reese for building experimental equipment
Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of the micro mineral elements and vitamins often lacking in diets based on cereals, grain legumes, and starchy roots and tubers, but void of animal products. When embarking on a breeding program to improve nutritional compounds, the way the fruit or vegetable is consumed in mixed diets must be considered. To alleviate nutritional problems, the nutrients must not only be present in the plant parts consumed, but also absorbed efficiently in the body. In some cases, it may be necessary to modify compounds to improve absorption as well as increase the concentration. Breeding to improve nutritionally related traits can be approached in a manner similar to that for other traits; i.e., identification of genetic variability, selection for enhanced levels using either individual phenotype or family mean values, and testing for field performance. In addition to improving amount and availability, avoidance of undesirable correlated responses due to genetic or physiological linkages between the trait of interest and other traits deleterious to either plant growth or the consumer is critically important during selection. The growing number of molecular marker-based linkage maps should prove especially useful for identifying genes of interest and employing marker-aided selection. When insufficient variability for amount or type of compound is present in the gene pool, strategies using transgenic plants may be useful.
Carrots contribute ≈14% of the total Vitamin A to the human diet in the United States due to the presence of the provitamin A carotenoids α- and β-carotene. We have described a recessive gene (rp) that inhibits carotenoid biosynthesis in carrot by 93%, resulting in whitish-yellow roots. The rp mutation is also associated with relatively high levels of a tocopherol (Vitamin E, 0.61±0.15 mg α-tocopherol/100 g FW). Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that must be obtained from the diet. The biosynthesis of a tocopherol in carrot has not been studied in any detail; however, the rp gene may provide clues as to its mechanism. The production of carotenoids and tocopherols is biosynthetically linked by their common precursor, geranylgeranyl diphosphate (GGDP). GGDP is converted into phytoene by phytoene desaturase to produce carotenoids and combined with homogentisic acid to produce tocopherols. Carotenoid and tocopherol profiles for various carrot genotypes are presented alongside a model describing the potential relationship between root carotenoids and tocopherols in carrot. The presence of significant amounts of tocopherols in carrot could significantly raise the nutritional profile of this vegetable.
A consistent preference by the meadow vole, Microtus pennsylvanicus, for the roots of certain inbred carrot lines and hybrids observed in field plantings suggested the possibility of using these animals to evaluate carrot breeding material for nutritive value and culinary quality. In a preliminary field test, 50 carrot lines representing the full range of feeding damage were planted in a confined feeding experiment. Lines showing no damage and severe damage were selected for controlled feeding trials and further evaluation.
In laboratory ad libitum feeding tests, all carrot diets were inferior to control diets. There was no relationship between vole preference and the nutritive value of the carrots as measured by the growth response of weanling voles. However, vole preference showed a significant positive correlation with the sucrose content of the roots while a significant negative correlation was found between preference and total reducing sugars. Neither growth response nor vole preference was correlated with crude fiber, protein, or total carbohydrates. No correlation was found between taste panel scores for overall rating of carrot samples and ad lib. feeding indexes by the voles.
The origins, demise and current status of some common misconceptions about the role of fruit and vegetables in human nutrition are discussed. Most, but not all, of the misconceptions were held by the public. The early widespread belief that tomatoes were poisonous was gradually overcome, and today the tomato is one of the most versatile and widely used foods in the diet. Recent reports suggest that consumption of tomatoes and tomato products has the potential to reduce the risk of certain cancers. Our current awareness of the potential of spinach in nutrition and health evolved from an early misconception that its only important nutritive value was as a source of iron. The connection between foods from the nightshade family and arthritis and the connection of cherries and gout relief are discussed briefly. The misconception that a wide variety of fruit and vegetables was not needed in the human diet was rejected long ago. Today fruit and vegetables are considered essential for their intrinsic nutritive value and for their potential health functionality because of the phytochemicals they contain.
Sweetpotato resin glycosides were purified by HPLC methods. Most allelopathic potential could be explained by these compounds. Fifty percent inhibition (I50) of seed germination was obtained for redroot pigweed at 160 ppm, for velvetleaf at 13 ppm and for prosomillet at 11 ppm. Seed of the congeneric species I. purpurea was not sensitive. Growth of yellow nutsedge was drastically reduced, the I50 for shoot growth was 30 ppm, for number of roots 36 ppm, and for total root length 19 ppm. The glycosides accounted for approximately half of the total fungicidal activity of all extract fractions when tested on Fusarium oxysporum pv. batatae. At 2 mg per ml, the glycosides inhibited hyphal growth by 31%. This concentration is less than 10% of the glycoside concentration in dry periderm tissue of `Regal'. The purified glycosides were incorporated into a meridic diet for diamondback moth larvae. All observed antibiosis was caused by the glycosides; the LD50 was 7.2 mg per ml diet. At that concentration the surviving larvae showed a weight decrease of 46%.
The authors are grateful to Dr. Masahiro Mii, Faculty of Horticulture, Chiba University, for his advice and critical reading of this manuscript. This research was supported by Diet and Cancer Prevention: Exploring Research Technology, Miyazaki
Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L.) is an important grain legume, which in developing countries provides much of the protein in human diets. A plant regeneration system for cowpea was developed. Cotyledons were initiated on MS medium containing 15 to 35 mg·L-1 benzylaminopurine (BAP) for 5 to 15 days. For shoot regeneration, the explants were transferred to a medium containing 1 mg·L-1 BAP. Regeneration percentage (1% to 11%) and the number of shoots (4 to 12 shoots per explant) were significantly influenced by genotype. The duration of culturing and BAP concentration in the initiation stage significantly affected the regeneration capacity. Explants initiated on 15 mg·L-1 BAP for 5 days resulted in the highest regeneration percentage. Conversely, the highest number of shoots was obtained from explants initiated on 35 mg·L-1 BAP. This is the first report of plant regeneration of U.S. cowpea cultivars.
Fruits and vegetables are being recommended more strongly than ever for improving human health, but, in some parts of the world, supplies are inadequate and, even when supplies are abundant, some segments of the population eat far less then recommended amounts. This divergence suggests that careful analysis and multiple approaches are needed to maximize the benefits of horticultural crops to human health. Information about the specific health benefits of certain crops and the value of diversity in the diet to get benefits not yet understood may stimulate increased usage. An attractive, appetizing, and economical supply seems essential, and may require efforts ranging from breeding for resistance, flavor, appearance, and holdability, through production and harvesting methods, to postharvest handling and processing.
A nutritional study was initiated to determine which carotenoids found in tomato result in decreased lipid oxidation ex vivo. To compare the carotenoids in a human diet without the use of purified supplements, tomatoes expressing nonfunctional enzymes in the carotenoid pathway were used. Tomato lines carrying the genes t, B, ogc, Del, or r were grown to produce fruit containing with high levels of prolycopene, beta-carotene, lycopene, or delta-carotene respectively, or low total carotenoids in r. Juices were processed from these lines and used in a dietary intervention study. Plasma samples were drawn before and after consumption of each juice. These samples were subjected to a battery of tests to analyze the contribution of carotenoids to the total lipid antioxidant status. Results of these tests are discussed.