The World Vegetable Center cucurbit team proudly demonstrated 400 bitter gourd breeding lines during Open Field Days, 21 August – 6 September 2016 at the WorldVeg East and Southeast Asia/Oceania Research and Training Station, Kasetsart University, Kamphaeng Saen, Thailand. Breeders, pathologists, virologists, and administrators from 15 seed companies and research institutions evaluated the advanced breeding lines for selection into their breeding programs.
Bitter gourd is cultivated on nearly 400,000 hectares in Asia and the bitter gourd seed market is highly specialized and segmented according to fruit morphology and taste. However, a common requirement is resistance to various diseases. “Molecular analyses of these lines have helped us to understand the genetic relatedness of lines, which provides clues to the breeders when choosing parents for their hybrid breeding programs,” said Narinder Dhillon, WorldVeg Cucurbit Breeder. “These lines represent a broader genepool due to their development from the global collection of bitter gourd maintained at the WorldVeg genebank.”
Visitors from East-West Seed, Thailand and Ajeet Seeds, India discussing the traits of bitter gourd breeding lines with WorldVeg Cucurbit Breeder Narinder Dhillon (right).
Visitors based their selections on vine stem vigor, copious branching pattern, disease resistance characters, fruit quality (shape, color, spine pattern) and ratio of female to male flowers and yield. “It’s important to demonstrate practically the uniqueness of the developed lines and to discuss in person how this material could be used to develop elite hybrids to satisfy growers, distributors, retailers, consumers, and seed companies,” Narinder said.
The cucurbit team also showcased some elite bitter gourd hybrids from different market segments (with attractive fruit color, shape, spine strength, enhanced yield, and disease resistance) developed using WorldVeg breeding lines—which further demonstrates the breeding potential of the Center’s unique breeding lines for the immediate gain of seed sector stakeholders. Narinder noted that exposure to these quality breeding lines motivates private seed sector breeders to get involved in collaborative research projects with WorldVeg.
He credited the cucurbit breeding program’s success to the hard work of his expert team led by Supornpun Srimat and Suwanee Laenoi (and Supunsa Phethin and Supannika Sanguansil, former key members of the WorldVeg cucurbit team) coupled with strong support from Regional Director Fenton Beed and regional administrative staff. Seed companies praised the effort of the cucurbit program to counteract the current scenario in commercial breeding: repeated cycling of a relatively small number of genetically related bitter gourd lines, resulting in a narrow genetic base of commercial bitter gourd cultivars in Asia.
Graduate students and scientists from Department of Horticulture, Kasesart University, Kamphaeng Saen Campus, Kamphaeng Saen, Thailand discussing the traits of bitter gourd lines.
Bitter gourd breeders are very keen to make better use of the diversity of bitter gourd breeding lines demonstrated by WorldVeg for sustainable bitter gourd breeding and production. The Center’s global Cucurbit Breeding program receives some support from the private seed sector and more seed companies have expressed interest in this program after observing the potential of WorldVeg bitter gourd breeding lines for direct use in their hybrid breeding programs.
In 2010 the WorldVeg global Cucurbit Breeding program was relocated from the Center’s headquarters in Taiwan to Thailand—where, without winter or typhoons to contend with, breeders can produce three crops per year to accelerate the breeding process. The natural existence of various fungal and viral cucurbit diseases aids in reliable identification of disease -resistant genotypes during selection in segregating populations. Moreover, in the hot and dry season of April-May, breeders can select the best heat tolerant cucurbit lines.
Story and photos: Narinder Dhillon, Sorawit Limsiriwat