Targeting the ethylene biosynthetic pathway to improve cherry quality
Mattinson, D. S.
Fellman, J. K.
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Cherry fruit have a very short harvest window, storage and shelf life. A short market life creates an absence of fruit in the off-season, compared to other stone fruit. Extended storage as a supply-stabilizing tool would benefit the growers. Ethylene plays an integral role in growth, maturation and ripening of fruit crops. Developing sweet cherry fruit (Prunus avium L.), produce very low levels of ethylene during and soon after anthesis and at early fruit drop, with no marked increase in ethylene production at fruit maturity. Difference in the ethylene biosynthetic pathway between cherry and its Prunusrelatives such as peach could underlie cherry’s apparent non-climacteric nature. Pinpointing the biochemical step(s) and gene(s) responsible for this difference should enable to manage sweet cherry’s postharvest life and quality. A on-going study of cherry fruit respiration, enzyme activities, and ethylene production during fruit development identified differences between ‘Chelan’, ‘Bing’, and ‘Skeena’, three cultivars with divergent fruit drop patterns. ACO assays showed that an early peak in ethylene production in tiny fruitlets subsides near the time of color break and decreases to undetectable upon further maturation. These results suggest, ethylene production machinery to be functional until color break and then cherry behaves as a non-climacteric fruit. Knowledge of the underlying genetic control of fruit quality would provide efficient early selection criteria to increase breeding efficiency. By study of ethylene synthesis and responses, expected outcomes of our work are twofold: 1) development of protocols to substantially increase cherry fruit market life, and 2) development of breeding selection tools for improved breeding efficiency.