Cucurbitaceae Pollen Analysis

Why is it Important to Analyze Cucurbitaceae Pollen Quality?

Ensuring high pollen viability and a substantial pollen quantity is crucial for achieving a robust seed set, making it an indispensable factor in cost-effective seed production. The thorough knowledge about pollen quality and early identification of effective pollinator lines during the breeding process not only streamline efforts in breeding but also result in time and resource savings in subsequent production research and seed production. 

Characterizing Cucurbitaceae crop lines in terms of pollen properties is particularly significant due to the necessity of having a sufficient number of male flowers according to the male to female ratio for successful pollination. Unlike many other vegetable crops, male Cucurbitaceae flowers can be used in a short period only and pollen is not isolated and stored for seed production. Knowing which pollinator lines perform optimally not only reduces labor and resource requirements but also enables the efficient management of male plants. 

Our specialized Cucurbitaceae chip enables automated data analysis of pollen viability and quantity for cucumber, melon, and watermelon. It delivers instantaneous results, offering a time and resource-efficient solution for routine quality control and systematic pollen screening. In combination with the portable Ampha P20 Pollen Analyzer, the Cucurbitaceae chip provides instantaneous results for decision-making in the field.  

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Characterization of pollen quality in breeding 

  • Identify the best pollinator lines 
  • Identify undesired traits, like perfect flowers (hermaphrodites) 
  • Optimize sampling and sample preparation processes 

Improvement of Cucurbitaceae seed production 

  • Avoid poor seed set by knowing the pollinator properties  
  • Use the right tools to ensure efficient pollination 
  • Compare measurement data of different locations in a standardized way 

Characterization of Pollen Quality in Breeding

A fundamental prerequisite for successful pollination of Cucurbitaceae crops is the presence of a substantial quantity of viable pollen. Nevertheless, there can be significant variations in both viability and quantity among different lines. Utilizing our Cucurbitaceae chip, equipped with automated data analysis, provides a quick, reliable, and cost-effective method for characterizing these lines. 

Sampling and sample preparation

For the determination of pollen viability and pollen quantity, open flowers are used, preferred the ones as if they were to be for pollination. Older flowers at the end of the flowering period already show less viability and lower pollen quantity and should not be used.  

For the sample preparation, several flowers should be collected in order to have enough pollen to measure. For watermelon 3 to 4 flowers are required whereas for melon and cucumber 4 to 5 show the best results. For pollen collection the anthers are shaken (“rack method”) and any squeezing is prevented. This simulates the manual pollination and ensures measuring a relevant pollen fraction.  

Cucumber and watermelon pollen show a high stability in the measurement buffer. For best results, pollen is equilibrated for 5 to 10 minutes in the buffer. Melon pollen, however, should be equilibrated 5 to maximum 10 minutes, as after 10 minutes it loses viability rapidly.  

Identify the best pollinators - Line-screening

Crops within the Cucurbitaceae family, such as cucumber, melon, and watermelon typically exhibit high pollen viability and a low incidence of aberrant cells. These characteristics remain consistent across different lines. The distinctions in phenotype among these lines are more evident in the quantity of pollen produced per flower. The differentiation between good and less efficient pollinator lines is not based therefore on the number of viable and aberrant cells but rather on the number of pollen grains produced per flower. This distinction reveals notable variations not only between different lines but also among various crops within the Cucurbitaceae family. 

In this example, measurements were taken on 16 distinct melon lines, focusing on pollen viability and the proportion of aberrant cells. Melon lines, as a general trend, demonstrated high viability, with an average measured viability ranging between 85% and 95% for the samples examined. With one exception, the average percentage of aberrant cells was below 3%, and this was found to be independent of the specific type of melon. 

Statistic Melon Pollen Viability

Improvement of Cucurbitaceae Seed Production

Successful seed production necessitates meticulous planning. Cucumber, melon, and watermelon display a relatively short window for flowering, a comparatively low quantity of pollen, and consequently, the need for multiple male flowers per female flower for successful (manual) pollination. Achieving a high seed set relies on the synchronization of flowering, the appropriate number of pollen grains, the right female-to-male ratio, and efficient pollination. Therefore, in-depth knowledge of line properties is crucial for controlling impacts, resulting in more effective outcomes from cultivation efforts. 

The same lines as in the previous example were also screened for the quantity of pollen produced per flower. Among the different melon lines, there exists a significant range, spanning from the line with the lowest pollen cell count per flower below 500 cells to the line with the highest count, exceeding 2700 pollen grains per flower. 

Our Cucurbitaceae chip, equipped with automated data analysis, enables swift and systematic screening of numerous lines, delivering instant results. Testing pollen viability and determining the pollen quantity per flower can be done in less than a minute. When coupled with our pollen analyzers, Ampha P20 and Ampha Z40, the Cucurbitaceae chip enhances the efficiency of breeding and seed production processes. 

Amphasys Pollen Analyzers

Amphasys Pollen Analyzers provide pollen quality metrics which enable you to improve your plant breeding and seed production processes:

The Ampha Z40 is a high-end laboratory device. It offers full flexibility for all pollen quality related research tasks and predefined templates for routine quality control.

The Ampha P20 is a mobile high-tech instrument for greenhouses and fields. With its easy handling and automated data analysis you get immediate results on site.

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