Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 12:20pm
James Brent Loy
Professor of Plant Biology and Genetics, University of New Hampshire
James Brent Loy, Professor of Plant Biology and Genetics at the University of New Hampshire, is known around the world for his work in plant breeding, agricultural plastics, and crop physiology. His innovative varieties of pumpkins, squashes, melons and gourds have helped local farmers and backyard garderners as well as farmers throughout the New England region and, in the case of his melons and pumpkins, around the world.
Abstract: Squash and pumpkins within the genus Cucurbita are endemic to the western hemisphere, three species of which, C. pepo, C. maxima and C. moschata, are economically important vegetables world- wide. The tremendous diversity of shapes, size and pigmentation patterns of gourds, pumpkins and squash were well recognized and described in herbals and other publications prior to the beginning of the 19th century. More recent modern classification has placed C. pepo into two domesticated subspecies, pepo, originating in Mexico and ssp. ovifera, native to eastern North America. Given the exceedingly bitter flesh, hard rind, coarse flesh and small size of wild Cucurbita species, it is interesting to ponder how or why domestication occurred thousands of years ago. In spite of the importance of members of Cucurbita as vegetable crops, scientific studies with these species have been relatively meagre compared with many other crops, and to date, fewer than 80 morphological genetic trait have been described and given genetic nomenclature. The most comprehensive category of traits described have been those for pigmentation and pigmentation patterns of the fruit rind, but there are still marked deficiencies in our understanding of pigmentation genes, especially within the maxima and moschata species. Squash breeding requires considerable space and time, and determining the size of breeding populations is of paramount importance. Currently, we lack basic genetic and physiological knowledge on numerous important culinary and morphological traits such as seed size and morphology, fruit size, flesh characteristics, multigenic factors for internode elongation, and genetic control starch content. Use of molecular markets for mapping such quantitative trait loci (QLTs) should greatly enhance our future breeding efforts and understanding of the interaction of these factors.