, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 125-131
Date: 31 May 2006

The effects of pollen diversity on plant reproduction: insights from apple

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For many plants, the number of pollen genotypes deposited on a flower’s stigma is positively related to fruit maturation and seed number; however, the mechanisms underlying this effect are less understood. Here we examined whether diversity of pollen (1, 3, or 5 donors) affects reproductive success in self-incompatible apple (Malus × domestica). Using paternity analysis, we then assessed the siring rate of individual donors to test whether diversity effects are related to the presence of a superior pollen donor or to donor × donor interactions. Increasing the diversity of compatible pollen enhanced seed number and reduced seed abortion in some but not all recipient genotypes. This effect was associated with an increased number of sires per fruit and non-random siring success among pollen donors. Two donors had consistently high siring rates, regardless of recipient genotype; however, the siring success of pollen donors was not correlated with their siring success in single-donor pollinations. Rather, siring success was affected by the identity of other pollen genotypes present on the stigma. Our results therefore suggest that the effects of pollen diversity are variable but may enhance fecundity by fostering interactions between pollen donors.