The making of giant pumpkins: How selective breeding changed the phloem of Cucurbita maxima from source to sink

Jessica A. Savage, Dustin F. Haines, N. Michele Holbrook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Despite the success of breeding programmes focused on increasing fruit size, relatively little is known about the anatomical and physiological changes required to increase reproductive allocation. To address this gap in knowledge, we compared fruit/ovary anatomy, vascular structure and phloem transport of two varieties of giant pumpkins, and their smaller fruited progenitor under controlled environmental conditions. We also modelled carbon transport into the fruit of competitively grown plants using data collected in the field. There was no evidence that changes in leaf area or photosynthetic capacity impacted fruit size. Instead, giant varieties differed in their ovary morphology and contained more phloem on a cross-sectional area basis in their petioles and pedicels than the ancestral variety. These results suggest that sink activity is important in determining fruit size and that giant pumpkins have an enhanced capacity to transport carbon. The strong connection observed between carbon fixation, phloem structure and fruit growth in field-grown plants indicates that breeding for large fruit has led to changes throughout the carbon transport system that could have important implications for how we think about phloem transport velocity and carbon allocation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1543-1554
Number of pages12
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Volume38
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

Keywords

  • Carbon transport
  • Crop yield
  • Cucurbit
  • Fruit size
  • Growth
  • Photoassimilate
  • Vascular

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