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Yuejin Weng, Jun Qin, Stephen Eaton, Yufeng Yang, Waltram Second Ravelombola and Ainong Shi

Cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp] is an annual legume crop grown worldwide to provide protein for human consumption and animal feed. The objective of this research was to evaluate the seed protein content in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cowpea germplasm for use in cowpea breeding programs. A field experiment was conducted with a randomized complete block design (RCBD) with three duplications in two locations, Fayetteville and Alma, in Arkansas, United States. A total of 173 USDA cowpea accessions were evaluated with the Elementar Rapid N analyzer III for their seed protein contents. The results showed that there was a wide range of seed protein content among the 173 cowpea genotypes, ranging from 22.8% to 28.9% with an average of 25.6%. The broad-sense heritability for seed protein among the 173 cowpea genotypes was 50.8%, indicating that seed protein content was inheritable and can be selected in breeding processing. The top five cowpea accessions with the highest seed protein contents were USDA accession PI 662992 originally collected from Florida (28.9%), PI 601085 from Minnesota (28.5%), and PI 255765 and PI 255774 from Nigeria and PI 666253 from Arkansas (28.4% each). PI 339587 from South Africa had the lowest protein content with 21.8%. The were also significant differences in seed protein contents observed among different seedcoat colors; the accessions with cream color exhibited higher protein content (27.2%) than others. This research could provide information for breeders to develop cowpea cultivars with higher seed protein content in a cowpea breeding program.

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Huihui Liu, Ke Cao, Gengrui Zhu, Weichao Fang, Changwen Chen, Xinwei Wang and Lirong Wang

Anthocyanins are important molecules that are responsible for fruit color formation and are also beneficial to human health. To date, numerous structural and regulatory genes associated with anthocyanin biosynthesis in peach (Prunus persica) have been reported based on linkage analysis. In this study, we sought to identify further genes associated with anthocyanin content in peach by conducting a genome-wide association analysis of 129 peach accessions to detect markers associated with the trait. Significant association signals were detected when anthocyanin content was considered a qualitative character but not when it was considered a quantitative trait. We detected an association region located between 11.7 and 13.1 Mb in chromosome 1, a region in which only 133 of 146 genes have previously been functionally annotated. Gene ontology annotation of the genes in this region showed that membrane-associated genes (including one gene encoding a chloride channel protein and 17 sugar transport/carrier-associated genes) were significantly enriched, and we focused on these in subsequent analyses. Based on in vitro induction of anthocyanins in fruit flesh using different exogenously applied sugars and subsequent culture, we found that the expression level of 3 of the 18 membrane-associated genes, Prupe.1G156300, Prupe.1G156900, and Prupe.1G157000, increased during induction treatment. Furthermore, during the fruit development period of a white-fleshed and a red-fleshed peach cultivar, the expression of one gene encoding a transmembrane sugar transport protein was observed to be positively correlated with anthocyanin biosynthesis. These results will facilitate understanding of the molecular mechanism of anthocyanin biosynthesis in peach.

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Yanjun Guo, Terri Starman and Charles Hall

This study analyzed the effects of two ranges of drying down of substrate moisture content (SMC) before re-watering on plant growth and development, postproduction quality, and economic value of bedding plants grown in 1.67-L containers during greenhouse production. The two SMC treatments were wide-range (WR) SMC (WR-SMC) for dry-down from container capacity (CC) of 54% SMC dried down to 20% SMC or narrow-range (NR) SMC (NR-SMC) for dry-down from CC of 54% SMC dried down to 40% SMC. Six bedding plant cultivars were used [Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘French Quarter’ (coleus); Petunia ×hybrida ‘Colorworks Pink Radiance’ (petunia); Lantana camara ‘Lucky Flame’ (lantana); Impatiens ×hybrida ‘Sunpatiens Compact Hot Coral’ (SCC); ‘Sunpatiens Spreading Lavender’ (SSL) (impatiens); and Salvia splendens ‘Red Hot Sally II’ (salvia)]. Shoot dry weight was reduced with WR-SMC on petunia, lantana, impatiens SCC, and salvia at the end of production. With WR-SMC, the petunia and impatiens SCC root ball coverage percentages were greater on the bottom of the container, whereas those of impatiens SSL and salvia were reduced. The WR-SMC increased petunia postproduction quality by increasing the flower number. Lantana and impatiens SCC inflorescence/flower and/or bud number were reduced with WR-SMC. The impatiens SSL flower number was unaffected by SMC treatment. Salvia grown with WR-SMC had increased postproduction quality. WR-SMC reduced postproduction water potential in petunia, lantana, and coleus, suggesting that plants with WR-SMC during production were acclimated to reduced irrigation administered during postproduction. WR-SMC saved labor due to less frequent watering and overhead-associated costs due to reduced bench space, with the exception of coleus and impatiens SSL, which used the same bench space as NR-SMC. Considering production and/or postproduction quality, using WR-SMC during greenhouse production is beneficial as an irrigation method for coleus, petunia, impatiens SSL, and salvia, but not for impatiens SCC or lantana grown in 1.67-L containers.

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Lauren Lindsey, Raymon Shange, Ramble O. Ankumah, Desmond G. Mortley and Sangita Karki

Organic fertilization techniques have become an attractive alternative to conventional techniques, but there remains interest in their impact on rhizosphere ecology. This study was aimed at assessing the impacts of various organic fertilizer amendments on storage root yield, chemical, biochemical, and microbial factors in the rhizosphere ecosystem and the bacterial community composition in the rhizosphere ecosystem. Four sweetpotato cultivars (J6/66, NCC-58, TU Purple, and Whatley/Loretan) and four organic fertilizer treatments [poultry litter, Megabloom (fish protein), NPK, and an untreated control] were used in the study. The experiments were conducted as a randomized complete block design with a 4 × 4 factorial treatment arrangement and three replications. Fertilizer treatments were split-applied at the rate of 134–67–67 kg·ha−1 NPK equivalent based on soil test recommendations 1 and 4 weeks after planting as single bands 15 cm from the plants and organic amendments were calculated based on total N content. Rhizosphere soil samples were collected at harvest and analyzed for soil pH, soil organic carbon (SOC), bacterial 16S rDNA, and selected soil enzymes. Organic amendments did not affect storage root yield or percent dry matter but enhanced both the mass and number of US#1 storage roots. Rhizosphere pH varied depending on cultivar and cultivar response varied with pH and ranged from 6.1 to 6.8, whereas SOC was similar regardless of the amendment. The impact of fertilizers was evident as Megabloom (fish protein) treatment suppressed the relative abundance (RA) of nitrifiers (Nitrosococcus and Nitrosomonadaceae). Also, the rhizosphere of ‘Whatley/Loretan’ seemed to have been a beneficial habitat for populations of common nitrogen-fixing bacteria Bradyrhizobium elkanii, and Rhodospirillaceae sp. as their RA increased significantly in the rhizosphere. That bacteria associated with carbon and nitrogen cycling under aerobic conditions were found to be ubiquitous in the rhizosphere of sweetpotato, suggesting that certain amendments positively impacted the populations of nitrogen-cycling bacteria, thus making them a viable alternative to NPK when considering increasing or sustaining yield while promoting long-term soil health.

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Jiangbo Dang, Tingrong Wu, Guolu Liang, Di Wu, Qiao He and Qigao Guo

A loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) seedling obtained from an open-pollinated triploid variety ‘Wuheguoyu’ (2n = 3x = 51) was verified as aneuploid and designated H39. It was shown to have five extra chromosome copies (2n = 39) compared with the diploid plant (2n = 2x = 34), one additional copy each for the 2nd, 4th, 7th, 9th, and 11th chromosomes. A number of novel features of leaf morphology was observed for H39 in comparison with ‘Ruantiaobaisha’ (2x, female progenitor) and ‘Wuheguoyu’ (3x, female parent), including increased leaf width, reduced leaf thickness, and narrowed palisade mesophyll and wax coat. Total chlorophyll content in unit area of H39 leaves was close to or slightly less than the diploid and triploid parent lines. Chlorophyll content in unit mass showed the opposite trend, with H39 having higher amount than the 2x and 3x. As we expected, H39 had the lowest net photosynthetic rates among the three lines. Furthermore, 8-month-old scions of H39 grew more slowly than those of the diploid and triploid lines, especially in plant height, which was much reduced (P < 0.01). These results indicated that the aneuploid H39 was a potential germplasm for breeding dwarfing loquat rootstock or interstock.

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Rui Li, Lu Fan, Jingdong Lin, Mingyang Li, Daofeng Liu and Shunzhao Sui

Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) is a common potted flower that is popular throughout the world. Brown spot (caused by Stemphylium lycopersici) is one of the common foliage diseases in kalanchoe. This disease tends to infect leaves of kalanchoe plants in hot and humid environments, reducing their aesthetic value. The current investigation aimed to generate mutations resistant to brown spot in ‘Mary’ kalanchoe through chemical mutagenesis followed by molecular marker identification. Putative mutants were developed by treating embryogenic calluses with ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS) at median lethal doses (LD50)–either a 0.8% concentration for 2 hours or a 1.0% concentration for 0.5 hours. Brown spot crude toxin solution was used as the selection agent to identify disease-resistant calluses during tissue culture. The optimal crude concentration (60%) was determined by soaking calluses with different concentrations of crude pathogen: 0%, 20%, 40%, 60%, and 80% (v/v). A total of 32 anti-brown spot lines were regenerated and tested for disease resistance with detached leaves. Three regenerated EMS mutant lines showed no obvious brown spot lesions on their leaves after the disease resistance assay and were subjected to polymorphism identification by start codon targeted (SCoT) molecular markers. Three (SCoT40, SCoT71, and SCoT72) of 45 selected primers were chosen to identify the mutants. This work may lay the foundation for further development of new disease-resistant cultivars of kalanchoe.

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Deron Caplan, Mike Dixon and Youbin Zheng

Controlled application of drought can increase secondary metabolite concentrations in some essential oil-producing crops. To evaluate the effects of drought on cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) inflorescence dry weight and cannabinoid content, drought stress was applied to container-grown cannabis plants through gradual growing substrate drying under controlled environment. Fertigation was withheld during week 7 in the flowering stage until midday plant water potential (WP) was approximately −1.5 MPa (drought stress threshold). This occurred after 11 days without fertigation. A well-irrigated control was used for comparison. Leaf net photosynthetic rate (Pn), plant WP, wilting (leaf angle), and volumetric moisture content (VMC) were monitored throughout the drying period until the day after the drought group was fertigated. At the drought stress threshold, Pn was 42% lower and plant WP was 50% lower in the drought group than the control. Upon harvest, drought-stressed plants had increased concentrations of major cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) by 12% and 13%, respectively, compared with the control. Further, yield per unit growing area of THCA was 43% higher than the control, CBDA yield was 47% higher, ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) yield was 50% higher, and cannabidiol (CBD) yield was 67% higher. Controlled drought stress may therefore be an effective horticultural management technique to maximize both inflorescence dry weight and cannabinoid yield in cannabis, although results may differ by cannabis cultivar or chemotype.

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Cody J. Stewart, S. Christopher Marble, Brian Jackson, Brian J. Pearson, P. Christopher Wilson and Dwight K. Lauer

The objective of these experiments was to determine if preemergence herbicides perform similarly across pine bark that was aged for varying lengths of time including 0, 4, 8, and 12 months after bark removal from harvested trees. Three preemergence herbicides were evaluated for three separate weed species, including 1) Cardamine flexuosa With. (bittercress) with isoxaben, 2) Digitaria sanguinalis (L.) Scop. (large crabgrass) with prodiamine, and 3) Oxalis stricta L. (woodsorrel) with dimethenamid-P. Leaching of herbicides through substrates was evaluated for prodiamine. Weed growth in the various substrates was variable, but few differences were detected in weed growth among the pine bark substrates evaluated. For isoxaben and prodiamine, weed control was similar among the pine bark substrates in most cases when label rates were applied. Although some differences were detected in prodiamine performance across different pine bark ages, a high level of control was achieved in all cases at rates well below manufacturer recommendations. Prodiamine leaching was minimal in all substrates. It would be recommended that growers test substrates for physical properties before use so that irrigation and other production inputs could be modified if needed. In most cases, growers should expect similar performance of preemergence herbicides regardless of pine bark substrate age.

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Jesús Enrique Retes-Manjarrez, Sergio Hernández-Verdugo, Carlos Alfonso López-Orona, Raymundo Medina-López, José Antonio Garzón-Tiznado and Jesús Enrique Retes-Cázarez

Pepper huasteco yellow vein virus (PHYVV) is a major disease in pepper (Capsicum annuum) that causes quantitative and qualitative losses to the crop in Central America and part of North America. To date, no resistant cultivars are available, and breeding is hampered by the lack of knowledge of the inheritance of this trait. Sources of resistance to PHYVV have been identified in the wild peppers of Mexico. The objectives of this study were to determine the grade of dominance, to analyze the maternal influence, and to estimate the number of genes involved in this resistant trait to PHYVV in the resistant wild pepper accession UAS12. Three susceptible parent lines—‘Anaheim’ (Ana), ‘Ancho Gigante’ (AG), and ‘Yolo Wonder’ (YW)—were crossed with resistant UAS12 accession to develop F1 (reciprocal), F2, and BC1 progenies in three families. Plants from this study were inoculated with PHYVV through Bemisia tabaci, evaluated phenotypically, and the segregation of disease scores was studied. A single recessive gene was found to control resistance to PHYVV in the resistant UAS12 accession, although segregation patterns suggested that other minor genes could participate in the expression of this resistant trait. No proof was found for maternal inheritance of PHYVV resistance. The gene symbol phv is proposed for PHYVV resistance in UAS12 accession in pepper. These results provide useful information for the design of pepper breeding programs in the introgression of this trait into commercial pepper backgrounds.

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Xiaoning Li, Xiaoyan Sun, Guangyang Wang, Erick Amombo, Xiuwen Zhou, Zhaohong Du, Yinkun Zhang, Yan Xie and Jinmin Fu

Phosphorus (P) is an essential nutrient element that is necessary for plant growth and development. However, most of the P exists in insoluble form. Aspergillus aculeatus has been reported to be able to solubilize insoluble forms of P. Here, to investigate the P-solubilizing effect of A. aculeatus on the performance of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) under P-deficiency stress, we created four treatment groups: control [i.e., no Ca3(PO4)2 or A. aculeatus], A. aculeatus only (F), Ca3(PO4)2 and Ca3(PO4)2 + A. aculeatus [Ca3(PO4)2 + F] treatment, and Ca3(PO4)2 at concentrations of 0 and 3 g per pot (0.5 kg substrate per pot). In our results, the liquid medium inoculated with A. aculeatus exhibited enhanced soluble P and organic acid content (tartaric acid, citric acid, and aminoacetic acid) accompanied with lower pH, compared with the noninoculated regimen. Furthermore, A. aculeatus also played a primary role in increasing the soluble P content of substrate (1 sawdust: 3 sand), the growth rate, turf quality, and photosynthetic capacity of the plant exposed to Ca3(PO4)2 + F treatment, compared with other groups. Finally, in perennial ryegrass leaves, there was a dramatic increase in the valine, serine, tyrosine, and proline contents, and a remarkable decline in the glutamic acid, succinic acid, citric acid, and fumaric acid contents in the Ca3(PO4)2 + F regimen, compared with other groups. Overall, our results suggested that A. aculeatus may play a crucial role in the process of solubilizing Ca3(PO4)2 and modulating perennial ryegrass growth under P-deficiency stress.