OCT 20, 2021 4:00 AM PDT

Building Better Crops: Pumpkin and Squash

WRITTEN BY: Samantha Lott

It’s the time of year for all things pumpkin. But what do you really know about pumpkins? They are generally considered to be a kind of winter squash, like butternut, acorn, or spaghetti squash. However, they do not fit neatly into different species the way you might think. The three most popular species are Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita moschata, and Cucurbita pepo. C. Maxima contains all the varieties of massive pumpkins you might see on display at harvest festivals, as well as buttercup and kabocha varieties, among others. C. moschata includes butternut, tropical pumpkins like calabaza, and many varieties used for pie fillings like long island cheese pumpkins. C. pepo includes most of the earlier producing summer squash like zucchini, but also includes the traditionally carved varieties of pumpkins and acorn winter squash.

Squash are incredibly healthy and nutritious. All parts of the Cucurbita sp. of plants are edible, from the roots to the flowers and seeds. The fruit and seeds are particularly nutritious and have been studied for many years for their health-benefiting compounds. They contain many vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals, as well as very high concentrations of carotenoids. The seeds contain many good fats and proteins, and the oil from processed seeds is useful for both culinary and medicinal applications. Some of the compounds found highly concentrated in pumpkins have been shown to have anti-cancer, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, or anti-diabetic functions.

The many kinds of squash mean that many varieties are understudied, and we still have much to learn about their nutrition and growth. The many cultivars, both wild and grown also provide opportunities for breeding new lines of squash with different resistances to pests or diseases, longer or earlier flowering times, drought resistance, or poor soil tolerance. Recent work at the University of New Hampshire has looked into crossbreeding many lines of squashes together to achieve significant resistance to powdery mildew, a common fungus on plants all over the world. Commercially available resistant varieties only have one gene responsible for the resistance, known as Pm-0. The best resistance in the study came from a combination of two genes, Pm-0, crossed with Pm-A. The genes are located in two different loci and might be operating in two different ways, so the resistance is better than either gene alone. After some stabilization of the genome, it could be bred into other varieties and sold commercially. This could allow farmers to be less dependent on fungicides. Future research into pumpkins could yield many benefits for us to be healthier in many ways.

 

Sources:  AntioxidantsUniversity of New HampshireJournal of Applied Sciences and Environmental Management

About the Author
MS in Renewable Natural Resources
A dedicated and passionate naturalist, nature photographer, and freshwater biologist.
You May Also Like
NOV 10, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
Human or Host? Parasites in Human History & Prehistory
NOV 10, 2022
Human or Host? Parasites in Human History & Prehistory
We've all seen the latest historical interpretations on television, the movies, or even the stage. And while talented co ...
OCT 06, 2022
Microbiology
A Microbial Predator Can Wreak Havoc in the Desert
OCT 06, 2022
A Microbial Predator Can Wreak Havoc in the Desert
The microorganisms of the world are in constant conflict, battling for resources and space in a microbial arms race. Som ...
OCT 22, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Rainfall in Majority of United States Intensifying
OCT 22, 2022
Rainfall in Majority of United States Intensifying
In a recent study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a team of researchers from Northwestern University examined ...
OCT 22, 2022
Plants & Animals
Could Wolves Be Man's New Best Friend?
OCT 22, 2022
Could Wolves Be Man's New Best Friend?
Our connection to canines goes back at least 15,000 years. A dog's affection for its human companion is a part of wh ...
OCT 31, 2022
Plants & Animals
Climate change is driving monkeys to the ground
OCT 31, 2022
Climate change is driving monkeys to the ground
New research suggests that predominantly tree-dwelling monkeys are spending more time on the ground, due to warming temp ...
NOV 07, 2022
Technology
Scientists Examine Human-Machine Workplace Relationship
NOV 07, 2022
Scientists Examine Human-Machine Workplace Relationship
In a recent study published in Applied Ergonomics, a team of researchers from Texas A&M University (TAMU) examined t ...
Loading Comments...