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.
Pigments in orange carrot tissue, such alpha and beta carotene, are important vitamins in the human diet. Previously identified white or nonpigmented carrot roots, such as those from wild carrot and white derivatives of yellow or orange types, are dominant to the production of pigment, which is recessive. A nonpigmented carrot root was discovered during routine propagation of the inbred line W266 in 1992. Subsequent segregation analysis in the F2 and BC1 generations in three genetic backgrounds demonstrated the lack of pigmentation is due to a single recessive gene (reduced-pigment: rp). Total carotenoid content was reduced 92% in the roots of rprp genotypes compared to RPRP genotypes, however there were no differences in carotenoid content in leaves. Plants carrying rprp also exhibit white-speckled leaves during early stages of development, suggesting rp has an effect on leaf chlorophyll content. This character may prove useful in dissecting the complex inheritance of carotenoids in carrot.
Sesquiterpene carboxylic acids (SCA) are synthesized by leaf trichomes of a wild tomato species Lycopersicon hirsutum accession LA 1777 and confer resistance to the tomato pests Helicoverpa zea (Boddie) and Spodoptera exigua (Hubner). Larvae of both species exhibited a reduction in survival and growth rate with altered feeding behavior when exposed to SCA in choice and no-choice insect bioassays. Larvae of both species were reared on artificial insect diets with SCA added at 0, 10 and 60 mg SCA per g of diet. All larvae perished in the 60 mg·g–1 treatment which is comparable to the levels of SCA found on LA 1777. H. zea and S. exigua showed about 35% and 60% reduction in survival to adult and 38% to 22% increase in life cycle duration, respectively, in the 10 mg·g–1 treatment relative to the control. Similar reductions in growth rate and survival were observed when larvae were reared on leaves coated with SCA. Choice bioassays with control (0 mg SCA/g leaf) and 60 mg SCA/g treated leaf tissue demonstrated 2.3-fold increase in larval avoidance and 50% reduction in feeding on treated leaves. Our results suggest that breeding for SCA synthesis in tomato would produce lines with increased resistance to the tomato pests H. zea and S. exigua. Backcross breeding procedures using LA 1777 have initiated the introgression of the SCA genes into cultivated tomato germplasm. Studies of inheritance of genes coding for SCA synthesis are underway to reveal allelic interactions and facilitate there introgression into the cultivated tomato germplasm.
manuscript. The authors thank Mr. Yasuhiro Okuno for kindly providing the experimental materials. This research was supported by Diet and Cancer Prevention: Exploring Research Technology, Miyazaki Prefecture Collaboration of Regional Entities for the
Research Center, for kindly providing `Banpeiyu' pummelo and `Ruby Red' grapefruit. This research was supported by Diet and Cancer Prevention: Exploring Research Technology, Miyazaki Prefecture Collaboration of Regional Entities for the Advancement of
Plants are the foundation for a significant part of human medicine and for many of the most widely used drugs designed to prevent, treat, and cure disease. Folkloric information concerning traditional remedies for disease has had inestimable value in establishing familial and cultural linkages. During the 20th century, modern medical science in the U.S. and other developed countries ushered in a new era focused on synthetic medicines. Even though many of these compounds were based on natural compounds found in plants, the drive towards synthetic pharmaceuticals created a knowledge gap concerning the health functionality of plants, crops, and food. Paralleling this development, biochemists and nutritional scientists pioneered the discovery of vitamins during the early decades of the 20th century. This research paved the way for dietary guidelines based on empirical data collected from animal feeding trials and set the stage for the current emphasis on phytonutrients. Three primary stages characterize the use of fruits and vegetable in human health. The first stage concerns the observation that many fruit and vegetable crops were originally domesticated for their medicinal properties. Making their way into the diet for this purpose, fruit and vegetable crops remained on the fringe from a culinary point of view. The second stage began when the role of vitamins became more widely understood, and fruit and vegetable plants were quickly recognized as a rich source of certain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. At this point, they became more than just an afterthought in the diet of most U.S. citizens. Cartoon icons such as Popeye made the case for the health functionality of leafy greens, while parents schooled their children on the virtues of carrots (Daucus carota), broccoli (Brassica oleracea), and green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris). This renaissance resulted in large increases in fresh fruit and vegetable consumption across the country, a trend that continues to this day. The third phase can be characterized by the recognition that fruit and vegetable crops contain compounds that have the potential to influence health beyond nutritional value. These so-called functional foods figure prominently in the dietary recommendations developed during the last decades of the 20th century. In recent years, surveys suggest nearly two-thirds of grocery shoppers purchase food specifically to reduce the risk of, or manage a specific health condition. Evidence abounds that consumers, including Baby Boomers, choose foods for specific health benefits, such as the antioxidant potential of vegetables, suggesting high levels of nutritional literacy. Clinical and in vitro data have, to some degree, supported the claims that certain foods have the potential to deter disease, however much research remains to be conducted in order to definitively answer specific dietary-based questions about food and health.
As humans explore the solar system, life support will need to be increasingly self-sufficient. Growing higher plants and using recycling technologies can improve self-sufficiency. Sodium is an essential mineral for humans, but not typically for plants. Recycling sodium back to humans through food crops may reduce the need for sodium supplements in the human diet. However, if sodium from waste streams is added to the plant system in greater quantities than it is removed, then plant toxic levels may result. The recommended daily sodium requirement is 3000 mg per person. Based on a 20-m2 growing area per person, 150 mg·m–2 sodium would need to be removed each day. Most crops will not remove enough salt when grown at very low sodium levels; however, when grown in 20 mM sodium, plant uptake may meet the 3000 mg/d human sodium requirement without affecting yields. We grew four different salad crops (lettuce, radish, spinach, and table beet) hydroponically and calculated plant uptake rates and partitioning with 0, 20, 40, or 80 mM sodium supplemented nutrient solutions (corresponding to ≈1.4, 4.0, 8.0, and 13.0 dS·m–1 electrical conductivity). Sodium at 40 and 80 mM reduced edible yields. Sodium replaced tissue potassium in most cases, whereas calcium and magnesium concentrations were much less affected, particularly at 20 mM sodium. This data will be used to model sodium flows within a bioregenerative life support system and determine the feasibility of sodium recycling using food crops.
European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis Hübner, can severely affect sweet corn quality. Selection techniques in field experiments have improved ear feeding resistance associated with morphological features and/or allelochemicals. The isolation and identification of allelochemicals that detrimentally affect O. nubilalismay improve breeder selection for host plant resistance, thus reducing the need for insecticide application. A laboratory bioassay was used to detect chemical resistance factors in silk and kernel tissues of 10 variously resistant sweet corn genotypes. Ground lyophilized tissue from field-grown plants was added to a nutritionally complete larval diet before infestation with O. nubilalis neonates. Larval weights on a 10-day basis and time to pupation were recorded to estimate larval development. Tissue and genotype main effects affected (P ≤ 0.05) 10-day larval weight and time to pupation. Silk tissue (P ≤ 0.05) reduced 10-day larval weight and increased the time to pupation compared with kernel tissue and the cellulose control, which did not differ. Silk tissue reduced larval weight by 65% and increased time to pupation by 4.0 days compared with the cellulose control. Genotypes variously affected (P ≤ 0.05) larval growth and development, reducing 10-day larval weight up to 51% and increasing the time to pupation up to 4.2 days when comparing the best genotype for each developmental stage with the cellulose control. Silk tissue of some genotypes may contain allelochemicals that decrease the rate of larval growth and development. The status of allelochemical detection in silk tissue will be discussed.
Extensive epidemiological evidence suggests that carotenoids (including vitamin A), ascorbate (vitamin C), tocols (including vitamin E), and glucosinolate breakdown products exert anticarcinogenic effects in a range of human tissues. Consumption of fresh and processed vegetables with enhanced levels of these phytochemicals could reduce human risk of cancer. The vitamins play a major role as antioxidants, offering protection against cancer by preventing or reversing oxidative damage to DNA and other cellular components. Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates (GSs), which, during mastication, are hydrolyzed by the enzyme myrosinase into bioactive breakdown products (BBPs), including sulforaphane. BBPs appear to induce synthesis of drug metabolism enzymes resulting in increased detoxification rates of carcinogens. This paper describes an interdisciplinary investigation designed to develop vegetable cultivars that offer chemoprotection from cancer at doses commensurate with a normal American diet. Initial work has focused on surveying sweet corn and Brassicae oleraceae germplasm for variation in vitamin and glucosinolate content in conjunction with in vitro and in vivo bioassays to determine which compounds and concentrations optimize chemoprotectant activity. Segregating populations from crosses between sweet corn and Brassica lines that vary in vitamin and GS concentrations will be assayed for chemical content and chemoprotectant activity, and genetically characterized using DNA marker technology to identify and map genes controlling these traits. This information will improve selection methodology in a breeding program aimed to develop brassica and sweet corn germplasm with enhanced cancer chemoprevention.
Long before the days of modern plant breeding, farmers and gardeners had selected improved forms of wild plant species and had established, for many crops, productive cultivars giving goodquality produce. For example, most of the fruits and vegetables now grown in England, including the introduced species, have been established items of diet for at least several centuries. Many of the cultivars of fruits and vegetables that are grown today have changed little from the forms that were cultivated a hundred or more years ago. Where there have been substantial changes, often these have been made to adapt cultivars to make them suitable for new agronomic practices; to improve the uniformity of size, shape, color, and time of maturity; and to increase resistance to pests and diseases. Some of these improvements have increased marketable yields and economic returns to the grower, but there is little evidence that there have been genetic increases in total biological productivity. However, substantial increases in biological yields have been achieved by improved cultural practices, including the use of herbicides and crop protection chemicals and of more fertilizer, although in recent years there has been an increasingly vociferous environmental lobby to reduce the use of agrochemicals.