Thursday, March 31, 2011
This item is important because we may just have a genetic protocol for producing seedless plants on demand. It may not be ready yet for prime time, but the possibility is now with us.
We forget that the seedless cultivars we do have were never anyone’s first choice in terms of flavor and many other characteristics. Suddenly we can plan to optimize a variety and then proceed to produce a seedless version.
How about a better banana?
If this methodology can be adapted to the rest of our universe of cultivars, we are about to witness a revolution in flavor and quality.
My first nominee is to produce a proper sweet seedless watermelon. From that we can also produce dried watermelon without fuss. Both would have tremendous commercial value.
Just how many varieties of grapes are there? I would love to eat a strongly flavored concord grape without the seeds while retaining the interior structure.
Seedless cherimoya, the next banana?
Mark Twain called it "the most delicious fruit known to man." But the cherimoya, or custard apple, and its close relations the sugar apple and soursop, also have lots of big, awkward seeds. Now new research by plant scientists in the
could show how to make this and other fruits seedless. Spain
Going seedless could be a big step for the fruit, said Charles Gasser, professor of plant biology at UC Davis.
"This could be the next banana -- it would make it a lot more popular," Gasser said. Bananas in their natural state have up to a hundred seeds; all commercial varieties, of course, are seedless. A paper describing the work is published March 14 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers José Hormaza, Maria Herrero and graduate student Jorge Lora at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientiﬁcas in Malaga and Zaragoza, Spain, studied the seedless variety of sugar apple. When they looked closely at the fruit, they noticed that the ovules, which would normally form seeds, lacked an outer coat.
They looked similar to the ovules of a mutant of the lab plant Arabidopsis discovered by Gasser's lab at UC Davis in the late 1990s. In Arabidopsis, the defective plants do not make seeds or fruit. But the mutant sugar apple produces full-sized fruit with white, soft flesh without the large, hard seeds.
The Spanish team contacted Gasser, and Lora came from
to work on the project in Gasser's
lab. He discovered that the same gene was responsible for uncoated ovules in
both the Arabidopsis and sugar apple mutants. Malaga
"This is the first characterization of a gene for seedlessness in any crop plant," Gasser said.
Seedless varieties of commercial fruit crops are usually achieved by selective breeding and then propagated vegetatively, for example through cuttings.
Discovery of this new gene could open the way to produce seedless varieties in sugar apple, cherimoya and perhaps other fruit crops.
The discovery also sheds light on the evolution of flowering plants, Gasser said. Cherimoya and sugar apple belong to the magnolid family of plants, which branched off from the other flowering plants quite early in their evolution.
"It's a link all the way back to the beginning of the angiosperms," Gasser said.
University of California - Davis