Coming soon: Sweet melon with a difference!

Written by Press Trust of India | Washington | Updated: Jun 28 2009, 07:21am hrs
People smell them, thump them and eyeball their shape. But ultimately, it is sweetness and a sense of healthy eating, which prompt one to buy a melon.

And, now plant breeders now have a better chance to pinpoint such traits for new varieties thanks to scientists who have mapped the melon genome with hundreds of DNA markers, the Journal of American Society of Horticultural Sciences reported in its latest edition.

Lead scientist Dr Kevin Crosby of Texas AgriLife Research said: This will help us anchor down some of the desirable genes to develop better melon varieties. We can identify specific genes for higher sugar content, disease resistance and even drought tolerance. For the study, the Deltex ananas melon was crossed with a wild melon called TGR 1551.

More than 100 of the offspring from that cross were grown in the AgriLife Research greenhouses at Weslaco, Crosby noted.

DNA was extracted from leaf tissue collected 21 days after planting. Results from these tests were integrated into partial maps created by other researchers.

Previous knowledge of melon DNA was like two sets of directions one from Miami to Houston and the other from El Paso to Los Angeles. That would make one wonder how to getfrom Houston to El Paso.

The study by Crosbys group, in essence, devised the path from Miami to LA and all points between. In addition to the complete map, the scientists located genetic markers linked to fruit sugars, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and male sterility, which is useful for developing hybrid varieties.

They said the genetic map will be helpful for future studies in identifying fruit sweetness, quality, size, shape and resistance to disease.