The pea (Pisum sativum L.) is one of the most important crops in temperate agriculture around the world. In the tropics, highland production is also common with multiple harvests of nearly mature seeds from climbing plant types on trellises. While the leafless variant caused by the afila gene is widely used in developing row-cropped field peas in Europe, its use for trellised garden peas has not been reported. In this study we describe a pea breeding program for a high-elevation tropical environment in the Department of Nariño in Colombia, where over 16,000 hectares of the crop are produced. The most widespread climbing varieties in the region are ‘Andina’ and ‘Sindamanoy’, both of which have high-biomass architecture with abundant foliage. They are prone to many diseases, but preferred by farmers given their long production season. This plant type is expensive to trellis, with wooden posts and plastic strings used for vine staking constituting 52% of production costs. The afila trait could reduce these costs by creating interlocking plants as they do in field peas. Therefore, our goal for this research was to develop a rapid breeding method to introduce the recessive afila gene, which replaces leaves with tendrils, into the two commercial varieties used as recurrent parents (RPs) with three donor parents (DPs)—‘Dove’, ‘ILS3575′ and ‘ILS3568′—and to measure the effect on plant height (PH) and yield potential. Our hypothesis was that the afila gene would not cause linkage drag while obtaining a leafless climbing pea variety. Backcrossing was conducted without selfing for two generations and plants were selected to recover recurrent parent characteristics. Chi-square tests showed a ratio of 15 normal leaved to one afila leaved in the BC2F2 plants, and 31:1 in the BC3F2 generation. Selecting in the last of these generations permitted a discovery of tall climbing plants that were similar to those preferred commercially, but with the stable leafless afila. The method saved two seasons compared to the traditional method of progeny testing before each backcross cycle; the peas reached the BC2F2 generation in five seasons and the BC3F2 in seven seasons. This is advantageous with trellised peas that normally require half a year to reach maturity. Leafless garden peas containing the afila gene were of the same height as recurrent parents and, by the third backcross, were equally productive, without the high biomass found in the traditional donor varieties. The value of the afila gene and the direct backcrossing scheme is discussed in terms of garden pea improvement and crop breeding.
Checa, O.E.; Rodriguez, M.; Wu, X.; Blair, M.W. Introgression of the Afila Gene into Climbing Garden Pea (Pisum sativum L.). Agronomy 2020, 10, 1537. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10101537