Image-based phenotyping for identification of QTL determining fruit shape and size in American cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon L.)
Image-based phenotyping methodologies are powerful tools to determine quality parameters for fruit breeders and processors. The fruit size and shape of American cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon L.) are particularly important characteristics that determine the harvests' processing value and potential end-use products (e.g., juice vs. sweetened dried cranberries). However, cranberry fruit size and shape attributes can be difficult and time consuming for breeders and processors to measure, especially when relying on manual measurements and visual ratings. Therefore, in this study, we implemented image-based phenotyping techniques for gathering data regarding basic cranberry fruit parameters such as length, width, length-to-width ratio, and eccentricity. Additionally, we applied a persistent homology algorithm to better characterize complex shape parameters. Using this high-throughput artificial vision approach, we characterized fruit from 351 progeny from a full-sib cranberry population over three field seasons. Using a covariate analysis to maximize the identification of well-supported quantitative trait loci (QTL), we found 252 single QTL in a 3-year period for cranberry fruit size and shape descriptors from which 20% were consistently found in all years. The present study highlights the potential for the identified QTL and the image-based methods to serve as a basis for future explorations of the genetic architecture of fruit size and shape in cranberry and other fruit crops.
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