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Wei Zhou, Xiaoming Wang, Jianhua Chen, Liangming Chen, Zhongquan Qiao and Huijie Zeng

Lagerstroemia indica (crape myrtle) is a popular Chinese landscape plant with a long flowering period that contributes to its gorgeous flowers and high ornamental value, which motivate L. indica breeding. We found a wild acarpous individual of L. indica that did not bear seeds after flowering and had a significantly longer flowering period than fructiferous L. indica. This study identified differences in floral organ morphology, and stamen and pistil structure between fructiferous and acarpous L. indica through observation, paraffin sectioning, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The flowering time of each acarpous L. indica inflorescence lasts as long as 18 to 25 days. When a single flower withers, it falls from the pedicel without any fruit. The abortion in the floral organ of acarpous L. indica is characterized by sterile and undehisced anthers, pollen abortion, and deformed and irregularly arranged filament cells. Acarpous L. indica features short and loosely arranged papilla cells in the stigma, a flat style and narrow stylar canal, loosely arranged epidermal cells, and no obvious nuclei. No embryo sac cavity is found in acarpous L. indica ovules. In some nucelli, the egg apparatus structure can be observed indistinctly but without cell contour. In others, the egg apparatus structure is completely absent, and only flocculent tissue is observed. This study may provide a theoretical foundation for future studies on the molecular mechanisms of the mutations in acarpous L. indica.

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Yun Kong, Devdutt Kamath and Youbin Zheng

An elongated stem has beneficial effects on microgreen production. Previous studies indicate that under 24-hour light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, monochromatic blue light, compared with red light, can promote plant elongation for some species. The objective of this study was to investigate whether shortened photoperiod can change blue vs. red light effects on elongation growth. The growth and morphology traits of arugula (Brassica eruca, ‘Rocket’), cabbage (Brassica oleracea, unknown variety name), mustard (Brassica juncea, ‘Ruby Streaks’), and kale (Brassica napus, ‘Red Russian’) seedlings were compared during the stage from seeding to cotyledon unfolding under two light quality × two photoperiod treatments: 1) R, monochromatic red light (665 nm) and 2) B, monochromatic blue light (440 nm) using continuous (24-hour light/0-hour dark) or periodic (16-hour light/8-hour dark) LED lighting. A photosynthetic photon flux density of ≈100 μmol·m−2·s−1 and an air temperature of ≈22 °C was used for the preceding treatments. After 7 to 8 days of lighting treatment, regardless of photoperiod, B promoted elongation growth compared with R, as demonstrated by a greater stem extension rate, hypocotyl length, or petiole length in the tested microgreen species, except for mustard. The promotion effects on elongation were greater under 24- vs. 16-hour lighting in many cases. Among the tested species, mustard showed the lowest sensitivity in elongation response to B vs. R, which was independent of photoperiod. This suggests that the blue-light-promoted elongation is not specifically from 24-hour lighting, despite the varying promotion degree under different photoperiods or for different species. The elongation growth promoted by blue LED light under a photoperiod of either 24 hours or 16 hours can potentially benefit indoor production of microgreens.

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Phu-Long Pham, Ying-Xue Li, He-Rong Guo, Rui-Zhen Zeng, Li Xie, Zhi-Sheng Zhang, Jianjun Chen, Qing-Lian Su and Qing Xia

Dendrobium officinale Kimura et Migo is a famous traditional Chinese medicinal plant. It produces various phytochemicals, particularly polysaccharides, which have nutraceutical and pharmaceutical values. To increase its biomass production and polysaccharide content, our breeding program has generated a series of polyploid cultivars through colchicine treatment of protocorm-like bodies (PLBs). The present study compared two tetraploid cultivars, 201-1-T1 and 201-1-T2, with their diploid parental cultivar, 201-1, in an established in vitro culture system. Tetraploid ‘201-1-T1’ and ‘201-1-T2’ had shorter leaves and shorter and thicker stems and roots, and they produced higher biomass compared with the diploid cultivar. The length and width of stomata significantly increased, but stomatal density decreased in tetraploid cultivars. The PLB induction rates from the stem node explants of the tetraploid cultivars were significantly higher than those of diploid. However, the PLB proliferation of tetraploids was lower than that of the diploid. The mean number of plantlets regenerated from tetraploid PLBs was also lower than that of the diploid after 4 months of culture. Polysaccharide contents in stems, leaves, and roots of 6-month-old tetraploid plantlets were significantly higher than those of diploids. The polysaccharide content in the stem of ‘201-1-T1’ was 12.70%, which was a 2-fold increase compared with the diploid cultivar. Our results showed that chromosome doubling could be a viable way of improving D. officinale in biomass and polysaccharide production.

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Yusuke Kubo, Shinobu Satoh, Haruka Suzuki, Toshinori Kinoshita and Nobuyoshi Nakajima

During the transport of vegetables, it is important to maintain quality. The cotyledons of Japanese radish (Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus) sprouts curl during transport, lowering quality. It is known that ethylene causes the leaf curling of some true leaves by promoting cell growth on the adaxial side (epinasty); however, the mechanism of cotyledon curling is unknown. We investigated the effect of ethylene on cotyledon curling of Japanese radish sprouts. Curling was promoted by exogenous treatment with ethylene and repressed by treatment with 1-methylcyclopropene, an inhibitor of ethylene perception. Microscopic observation of ethylene-exposed curled cotyledons and normal cotyledons indicates that ethylene did not affect cell number but did inhibit transverse (lateral) cell growth on the abaxial side of the cotyledons, causing cotyledon curling through differential growth. Ethylene inhibition of cell growth on the abaxial side of leaves has not been reported before. We show a new mechanism responsible for curling.

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Jacob G. Ricker, Jessica D. Lubell and Mark H. Brand

Interest in native landscape plants to support pollinators has increased. Most native plants sold by nurseries are cultivars, and some consumer and conservation groups question the suitability of native cultivars to support pollinators. In 2017 and 2018, insect pollinator visitation was quantified for six native shrub species and one or more cultivars of each species (Aronia melanocarpa, A. melanocarpa ‘UCONNAM012’ Ground Hog®, A. melanocarpa ‘UCONNAM165’ Low Scape Mound®, Clethra alnifolia, C. alnifolia ‘Hummingbird’, C. alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’, Dasiphora fruticosa, D. fruticosa ‘Goldfinger’, D. fruticosa ‘Pink Beauty’, Hydrangea arborescens, H. arborescens ‘Annabelle’, Kalmia latifolia, K. latifolia ‘Sarah’, Physocarpus opulifolius, and P. opulifolius ‘Monlo’ Diabolo®). Insects were identified into 12 categories (Apis mellifera, Bombus spp., Andrenidae, Halictidae, Megachilidae, other bees, Lepidoptera, Syrphidae, other flies, wasps, Coleoptera, and other insects). The number of inflorescences and insect visitation was similar for C. alnifolia and its cultivars, and the compact cultivar Hummingbird had the greatest floral density. A. melanocarpa had more total visitors of Andrenidae than both of its compact cultivars because it was larger and produced more inflorescences. Compact Aronia cultivars and the straight species were mostly similar for Andrenidae visitation when compared on a per-inflorescence basis. D. fruticosa had more visitors of Bombus spp. and Megachilidae than both of its cultivars. These insects may have been less attracted to ‘Pink Beauty’ because of its pink flower color and ‘Goldfinger’ because of its wider flowers, which result from it being a tetraploid. H. arborescens ‘Annabelle’ had one-third the number of Bombus spp. visitors as H. arborescens because ‘Annabelle’ produces >50% fewer fertile florets. P. opulifolius ‘Monlo’ attracted more syrphids than P. opulifolius possibly because flowers contrasted more strongly with the reddish purple foliage of ‘Monlo’ than with the green foliage of the straight species. Insect visitation was similar for K. latifolia and K. latifolia ‘Sarah’. Based on this work, we determined that native shrub cultivars are not universally less or more attractive to pollinators and must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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Seth D. Wannemuehler, James J. Luby, Chengyan Yue, David S. Bedford, R. Karina Gallardo and Vicki A. McCracken

Incorporating DNA-informed breeding techniques can improve selection efficiency for desired traits as compared with conventional breeding methods that do not use DNA-informed techniques. Incorporation of DNA technologies requires additional costs associated with reagents, equipment, and labor. To elucidate the cost-effectiveness of DNA-informed breeding in perennial crops with multiple years per generation, we conducted a cost–benefit analysis examining incorporation of marker-assisted selection (MAS), a type of DNA-informed breeding, applied to an apple breeding program. Annual operational costs for a midwest apple breeding program were used to develop a simulation with inputs including itemized costs and per unit costs for procedures at each breeding program stage. Simulations compared costs of MAS breeding techniques to conventional breeding methods to identify the break-even point (BEP) where cost-savings associated with MAS equals the accrued additional costs. Additional sensitivity analyses were conducted to examine changes in laboratory costs, seedling maintenance costs, and seedling evaluation costs. We found the BEP for this program occurs when MAS results in a removal rate of 13.18%, and changes to other costs (i.e., maintenance costs) result in a smaller percent decrease to the overall program budget. Our findings are useful to perennial crop breeding programs in which managers are considering incorporating DNA-informed breeding techniques.

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Satoru Motoki, Tianli Tang, Takumi Taguchi, Ayaka Kato, Hiromi Ikeura and Tomoo Maeda

Asparagus is a popular vegetable rich in healthy functional components. Asparagus spears are known to contain a large amount of rutin, which has been found to possess anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and antibacterial/viral properties, and protodioscin, which is an antitumor substance and present in the bottom parts (8 cm from the cut end). However, the process of its production leaves fern in the aboveground parts and roots in the underground parts as significant amounts of nonusable parts, and this issue should be solved. This study was conducted to examine the distributions of rutin and protodioscin, representative functional components in different parts of asparagus. The results suggested that large amounts of rutin were noted in the cladophylls and storage roots (brown and epidermis), and the protodioscin content was high in the buds, the soil-covered section of the spear, and the rhizome. A significant amount of rutin was detected in the aboveground parts, which is consistent with the results of previous studies, but it was also found in the storage roots. The largest amount of protodioscin was found in the buds, as well as in young fruits and seeds of the aboveground parts. Injury by continuously cropping asparagus may be associated with high rutin content in the storage roots of asparagus.

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Xinjing Qu, Hui Wang, Ming Chen, Jiao Liao, Jun Yuan and Genhua Niu

Oil tea (Camellia oleifera) is an important edible oil tree. However, its growth and yield are strongly limited by drought. This study investigated the physiological and metabolic responses of two common oil tea cultivars, Huajin and Changlin53, to moderate and severe drought stress. Based on the photosynthetic and physiological indices, ‘Changlin53’ may be more tolerant to drought than ‘Huajin’. A total of 41 key metabolites induced by drought stress, including 12 amino acids, 12 organic acids, 10 carbohydrates, 3 fatty acids, and 4 phenols, have been identified by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Under moderate drought stress, the contents of carbohydrates, amino acids, and some organic acids in ‘Changlin53’ were significantly increased; however, under severe drought stress, the contents of soluble sugars were decreased and the synthesis ability of amino acids and organic acids were enhanced. The glutamic acid–mediated proline biosynthesis pathway and salicylic acid synthesis were continuously upregulated in ‘Changlin53’ under moderate and severe drought stress, which could regulate osmotic pressure and maintain intracellular environmental stability. Under moderate drought stress, the contents of monosaccharides, amino acids, and organic acids increased in ‘Huajin’ leaves. Furthermore, the shikimic acid–mediated secondary metabolite synthesis pathway was weakened. More secondary metabolites were used to increase glycolysis and tricarboxylic acid cycle to accelerate energy production and to enhance the glutamic acid–mediated proline biosynthesis pathway, which are necessary to increase osmotic regulation. Under severe drought stress, the contents of carbohydrates, organic acids, and some amino acids were significantly decreased in ‘Huajin’ leaves, indicating serious damage. These results deepened our understanding of the mechanisms involved in oil tea drought tolerance, which will help improve water management of oil tea seedlings.

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Alefsi David Sánchez-Reinoso, Gustavo Adolfo Ligarreto-Moreno and Hermann Restrepo-Díaz

Bean crops can be displaced to marginal areas or face abiotic stresses such as water deficit. Physiological responses allow the identification of tolerant genotypes and lead to more precise breeding strategies. The objective of this research was to evaluate the physiological (leaf gas exchange properties, leaf water content, and leaf thickness) and biochemical [proline and malondialdehyde (MDA)] responses of five common bush bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) cultivars (ICA-Cerinza, ICA-Bachue, NUA35, Bianca, and Bacatá) under a water shortage period by irrigation suspension (15 days) at two different phenological stages [vegetative: 40–55 days after seed emergence (DAE) or reproductive: (50–65 DAE)]. A completely randomized block design was carried out with a factorial arrangement (the phenological stage as the main factor and the cultivars as the secondary factor) for a total of 10 treatments with four repetitions per treatment. Leaf photosynthesis (P n) showed equal photosynthesis values in control plants of all cultivars (≈20 μmol·m−2·s−1). The water deficit period reduced P n close to 55% (≈12 μmol·m−2·s−1) at both, vegetative, or reproductive stage in all cases. Similar results were also observed on leaf thickness, with a reduction of ≈10% in water-stressed plants at either vegetative or reproductive stage in all evaluated cultivars. A higher MDA and proline production were observed in plants affected by a 15-day water deficit period, mainly at the vegetative stage. The obtained results suggest that the vegetative stage presented a more negative impact on the evaluated physiological variables in most of the cultivars used. Cultivar Bachue showed lower gas exchange properties affectation and higher proline content, which may indicate that this cultivar can be tolerant to water deficit stress conditions. This study allows suggesting that proline and MDA estimation are simple, fast, and low-cost techniques to screen cultivars to obtain more precise breeding selection in common bean. Finally, common bean cultivar selection through the use of biochemical markers can be complemented by the estimation of leaf gas exchange parameters at different phenological stages.

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Lu Zhang, Robert Howard Beede, Gary Banuelos, Christopher M. Wallis and Louise Ferguson

Springtime flail mowing of row middles for weed control in California pistachio (Pistacia vera L.) orchards blows dust into the leafless canopy if it occurs during bloom. The effect of dust on pistachio pollination and fruit set is unknown. Rachises were bagged prebloom and hand pollinated with pollen and dust mixtures at 1:0, 1:1, 1:4, 1:16, and 0:1 volume/volume ratios on five successive days. The 2016 and 2017 trials demonstrated that the inflorescences treated with a high pollen:dust ratio (0:1, 1:4, and 1:16) had significantly lower split nut rates (commercially less profitable) compared with low dust ratio tests (1:0 and 1:1). Our results also showed that dust damaged both pollen viability and stigma quality, particularly if contaminated with herbicide residues (GlyStar® Plus and Treevix®). Decreased yield was a function of decreased fruit set; increased embryo abortion, parthenocarpy, or both; and a lower split nut percentage. The GA3 content in flowers of both the pollen and dust treatments was significantly higher than that in nonpollinated flowers, suggesting dust stimulated parthenocarpy, resulting in empty nutshells, “blanks” at harvest.