, Volume 208, Issue 3, pp 415–438 | Cite as

Germplasm enhancement of Cucurbita pepo (pumpkin, squash, gourd: Cucurbitaceae): progress and challenges



Cucurbita pepo is extremely diverse in fruit characteristics. Native to semi-arid and temperate regions of North America, C. pepo was domesticated at least twice, in Mexico over 10,000 years ago and in the United States over 4000 years ago. There is no evidence for the existence of Cucurbita in the Old World prior to 1492. Pumpkins and squash of C. pepo are today found in countries on all continents. Pumpkins are valued for their fruit flesh and seeds, as well as for ornament. Squash, especially zucchini, are an increasingly popular, short-season, high-value crop. Plant resource allocation is fundamentally different for plants on which fruits are allowed to mature, the pumpkins and winter squash, as compared with those on which the fruits are continually removed when young, the summer squash. C. pepo contains a wealth of genetic variation that could be further exploited to enhance the fruit-flesh quality of pumpkins and the flavor of summer squash. Genomic tools can be expected to aid in this effort and, especially, facilitate the introgression of disease resistance from other species of Cucurbita. Fruit quality and flavor enhancements of pumpkins and squash have been and are being accomplished largely by the consumer-oriented breeders at research and academic institutions. However, lack of support for these breeding programs is jeopardizing the continued consumer-oriented fruit-quality enhancement of C. pepo germplasm.


Consumer-oriented breeding Evolution under domestication Fruit quality Plant resource allocation 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Newe Ya‘ar Research CenterAgricultural Research OrganizationRamat YishayIsrael

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