Fruit yield and quality of zucchini, Cucurbita pepo L., plants infested with Bemisia argentifolii Bellows & Perring were evaluated in a screenhouse under spring and fall growing conditions by using closely related sister lines that were either susceptible (ZUC61) or tolerant (ZUC76-SLR) to squash silverleaf disorder. Our objective was to test separately the effects of level of whitefly infestation and expression of silverleaf symptoms on zucchini yield and quality. In a second experiment, yield and quality of fruit produced by silverleaf-tolerant zucchini genotypes incorporating two different sources of tolerance (ZUC76-SLR and ZUC33-SLR/PMR) were compared with that of ‘Zucchini Elite’, a silverleaf-susceptible commercial hybrid. Zucchini fruit yield was reduced in plants exposed to repeated infestations of whiteflies in spring and fall of both experiments. In addition, fruit grew to harvestable size more slowly under the highest whitefly infestations. Fruit quality was reduced at high infestations because of uneven and reduced pigmentation. The fruit yield and quality of ZUC61 and ZUC76-SLR were similarly affected by whitefly infestation despite differences in their susceptibility to squash silverleaf disorder. Fruit from infested plants showed decreased levels of chlorophyll and carotenoids causing the “blanching” of the fruit that is associated with loss of quality and reduced marketability. Leaves of infested plants of all genotypes had reduced levels of photosynthetic and photoprotectant pigments, possibly leading to reduced photosynthesis and consequently reduced yield. We conclude that feeding by high whitefly populations rather than expression of squash silverleaf disorder is responsible for yield and quality reduction in zucchini.
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Vol. 97 • No. 6