Seedless cherimoya, the next banana?

Mar 14, 2011

Mark Twain called it "the most delicious fruit known to man." But the cherimoya, or custard apple, and its close relations the sugar apple and soursop, also have lots of big, awkward seeds. Now new research by plant scientists in the United States and Spain could show how to make this and other fruits seedless.

Going seedless could be a big step for the fruit, said Charles Gasser, professor of at UC Davis.

"This could be the next banana -- it would make it a lot more popular," Gasser said. Bananas in their natural state have up to a hundred seeds; all commercial varieties, of course, are seedless. A paper describing the work is published March 14 in the journal .

Researchers José Hormaza, Maria Herrero and graduate student Jorge Lora at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas in Malaga and Zaragoza, Spain, studied the seedless variety of sugar apple. When they looked closely at the fruit, they noticed that the ovules, which would normally form seeds, lacked an outer coat.

They looked similar to the ovules of a mutant of the lab plant Arabidopsis discovered by Gasser's lab at UC Davis in the late 1990s. In Arabidopsis, the defective plants do not make seeds or fruit. But the mutant sugar apple produces full-sized fruit with white, soft flesh without the large, hard .

The Spanish team contacted Gasser, and Lora came from Malaga to work on the project in Gasser's lab. He discovered that the same gene was responsible for uncoated ovules in both the Arabidopsis and sugar apple mutants.

"This is the first characterization of a gene for seedlessness in any crop plant," Gasser said.

Seedless varieties of commercial fruit crops are usually achieved by selective breeding and then propagated vegetatively, for example through cuttings.

Discovery of this new gene could open the way to produce seedless varieties in sugar apple, cherimoya and perhaps other fruit crops.

The discovery also sheds light on the evolution of flowering plants, Gasser said. Cherimoya and sugar apple belong to the magnolid family of plants, which branched off from the other flowering plants quite early in their evolution.

"It's a link all the way back to the beginning of the angiosperms," Gasser said.

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User comments : 2

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that_guy
5 / 5 (1) Mar 15, 2011
No. This will not be anything like the next banana. Bananas are awesome because they have an easy to handle package. Custard apples are messy and have like a hundred sections to their skin. Stop making ridiculous comparisons. It's as close to the next banana as a seedless watermelon.
Jonseer
not rated yet Mar 15, 2011
Mark Twain was talking about the Paw Paw NOT the Cherimoya an American NON-tropical native.

It is supposed to be incredibly delicious and a favorite fruit/desert of some of the founding father's who lived in the part of the USA (the Southeastern)where they are native.

The Paw Paw is related to the Cherimoya, and shares a lot of the characteristics.

However, the Paw Paw can survive and thrive where the winters are harsh like all the way up to Ontario Canada.

The Cherimoya can't take even a little bit of cold.

If they ever discover how to slow down the rapid ripening of the Paw Paw then you'd have the next banana.

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