Inheritance of seed desiccation sensitivity in a coffee interspecific cross: evidence for polygenic determinism

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The genetic determinism of seed desiccation sensitivity was studied using a cross between two coffee species exhibiting a large difference for this trait, Coffea pseudozanguebariae (tolerant) and C. liberica (sensitive). Throughout the whole study, seed desiccation tolerance was quantified both in terms of water content and water activity. Whatever the parameter used, the level of seed desiccation tolerance in F1 hybrids corresponded to that of the mid-parent, thus indicating an additive inheritance of seed desiccation tolerance at the F1 level. A broad variation was observed among hybrids backcrossed to C. liberica (BCs) for seed desiccation tolerance, independent of the parameter used to quantify it. This variation was continuous and BCs showed transgression in the direction of the most desiccation sensitive parent, indicating (i) that desiccation tolerance is a polygenic trait in coffee species, and (ii) that C. pseudozanguebariae does not present the most favourable alleles for all the genes involved in seed desiccation tolerance. No significant difference was observed between the two reciprocal backcrosses, F1×C. liberica and C. liberica×F1, for the level of desiccation tolerance of their seeds, showing the absence of a maternal effect on this trait. There was no significant effect of the number of seeds harvested from each BC on the level of desiccation tolerance of its seeds. Moreover, there was no significant correlation within BCs between seed size, seed viability, and water content before desiccation and desiccation tolerance.

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