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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Food Quality Laboratory » Research » Research Project #438456

Research Project: Integrated Approaches to Improve Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Quality with Improved Phenolics Contents

Location: Food Quality Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-43000-016-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jun 29, 2020
End Date: Jun 28, 2025

Objective 1: Identify, characterize and manipulate key regulatory genes for antioxidant biosynthesis in pre- and post- harvest produce to optimize product quality and nutritive value. [NP 306, C1, PS1A] Sub-objective 1A: Analyze global gene expression profiles in response to treatments and identify candidate genes and signaling pathways that regulate fruit ripening and biosynthesis of sugars, acids and phenylpropanoids. Sub-objective 1B: Produce transgenic plants/fruits with increased or reduced expression of selected candidate genes, and determine their functional significance in fruit ripening and nutritive quality. Objective 2: Identify pre-harvest parameters and develop commercially relevant treatments that enhance microgreen productivity, quality and nutritive value for urban and space farming. [NP 306, C1, PS1B] Sub-objective 2A: Evaluate the effect of preharvest treatments on microgreen productivity, quality and nutritive value in controlled environment settings. Sub-objective 2B: Conduct global gene expression analysis of microgreens in response to abiotic stresses encountered in space or under microgravity.

For first objective, strawberry fruit at early and late stage of fruit development will be treated with BZT and AMD, two compounds showing impact in controlling fruit color and firmness, etc. Global gene expression will be studied to identify candidate genes related to fruit ripening and biosynthesis of sugars, acids and phenylpropanoids. Selected genes can be used as functional markers for industry management and breeders. Once these genes are identified, the already commercially available treatments, such as calcium and UVB, will be applied to determine whether and how these treatments affect expression of the selected genes. The optimum treatments will be identified from two approaches and/or combination of two approaches if there is an additive or synergistic effect. Further, stable or transient transformation with silencing or over-expression gene constructs will be used to assess the function of specific genes in various aspects of fruit physiology and metabolism, including ripening, sensory parameters, responses to stresses, and accumulation and/or retention of health-beneficial secondary metabolites. For second objective, microgreens, young vegetable seedlings with rich nutrition, such as broccoli, red radish, amaranth and pea will be selected for this study. The seeds of microgreens will be subjected by physical treatments, such as cold plasma, UVC to control pathogen infection and promote seed germination. Seedlings will be treated with different lights, UVB, and calcium and carbon dioxide. Microgreen growth and quality at the production level will be evaluated to determine the best practice for microgreen yield and quality. In collaboration with NASA, microgreen growth and quality will be studied under microgravity and high carbon dioxide. Global gene expression analysis of microgreen responses to stress both in controlled environment systems on earth and in microgravity will be investigated to determine how stress relates to yield and quality at the gene and metabolic pathway level. Putative differentially expressed genes will be used to find which genes are the better markers for future use in industry.