Cucumber Breeding

North Carolina State University has had a breeding program on cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) for more than half a century. The program was established by Warren Barham in 1948. Richard Lower was hired in 1968 to work on pickling cucumbers. Cucumber breeding was carried out part-time prior to 1968 by Frank Haynes and Johnny Jenkins. In 1979, Todd Wehner was hired to breed pickling and slicing cucumbers. Other U.S. public cucumber breeding programs are located at Cornell University, and the USDA-ARS in Madison WI.

The main objectives of the program were to expand our knowledge of cucumber genetics and breeding, educate graduate students interested in vegetable breeding, do research on problems affecting the cucumber industry, and develop improved cultivars and breeding lines of pickling and slicing types for use in North Carolina and the U.S.

Projects on breeding and germplasm enhancement included improved yield, new plant types (dwarf-determinate, parthenocarpic, little leaf), early maturity, and resistance to diseases and chilling. Germplasm collection and exchange around the world has helped broaden the research program.

An interesting research project was to incorporate nematode resistance that we discovered in LJ 90430 (a wild accession of Cucumis sativus var. hardwickii collected from the foothills of the Himalayas in India) into elite inbred lines. Cultivars (Lucia, Manteo, and Shelby) with partial resistance were released from the program. The wild accession LJ 90430 has bitter fruit, dormant seeds, large seedcell, low yield, late (photoperiod sensitive) maturity, small leaves, multiple branching habit, and mostly male flowers. From that, we produced resistant cultivars with high yield, early maturity, fast germinating seeds, high quality fruit with small seedcell, large leaf size, and monoecious flowering habit.