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Yongfeng Yang, Zhixiao Yang, Shizhou Yu and Hongli Chen

Organic acid secretion from higher plant roots into the rhizosphere soil plays an important role in nutrient acquisition and metal detoxification; however, their precise functions and the related mechanisms in abiotic stress tolerance remain poorly understood. Tobacco is an important crop plant, so thoroughly elucidating these factors in tobacco is of high priority. In the present study, the activation effect on soil potassium (K), contents of exuded organic acids, and physiological changes in the roots of various tobacco varieties under both normal K supply and K-deficiency stress were investigated. Our results showed that one high-K variety (ND202) exhibited a significantly higher total content of organic acids in the root exudates and the highest available K content in the rhizosphere soil, compared with two common ones (K326 and NC89). Moreover, the high-K tobacco variety was less affected in terms of root vigor under K-deficiency stress, and displayed greater increases in the activities of the stress-resistant enzymes consisting of superoxide dismutase (SOD), peroxidase (POD), and catalase (CAT). Taken together, these results provide evidence that tobacco roots exude large amounts of organic acids to increase the available K content in the rhizosphere soil and improve the utilization rate of soil K.

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Qianqian Sheng and Zunling Zhu

Plant leaves absorb atmospheric nitrogen dioxide (NO2) primarily via the stomata. Studies of changes in plant growth and physiology after exposure to NO2 are limited. Therefore, this study investigated the physiological response of Carpinus betulus (european hornbeam) chloroplasts after NO2 exposure using fumigation equipment that was able to control timing and record NO2 concentrations. The NO2 concentration was 6 µL·L−1. Seven treatment durations (0, 1, 6, 12, 24, 48, and 72 hours) were designed. After fumigation, plants recovered for 30 days under greenhouse conditions. The physiological response, stomatal behavior, thicknesses of palisade and spongy tissues, and chloroplast ultrastructure were measured. In the 48-hour and 72-hour NO2 treatment groups, the chloroplast contents and net photosynthesis rates of the leaves decreased, palisade and spongy tissues thickened, and chloroplast thylakoids swelled; however, the 1-hour NO2 treatment did not have a noticeable toxic effect on C. betulus leaves. After 30 days of recovery, the plants returned to their natural growth level by increasing the chloroplast content and enhancing net photosynthesis. Short durations and high concentrations of NO2 exposure had significantly negative impacts on the physiological response of C. betulus; however, this toxic effect of high NO2 concentrations on C. betulus can be recovered by restoration of unpolluted air. The results of this study may provide a scientific reference and an additional choice of plants species for the application of C. betulus in functional gardening design and ecological green space construction.

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Laura E. Crawford and Martin M. Williams II

Edamame growers currently rely heavily on planting depth recommendations for grain-type soybean, despite stark differences in seed characteristics between the two types of cultivars, most notably seed size. Therefore, the objective of the study was to determine the effects of planting depth and seed size on edamame emergence. A popular edamame cultivar used in commercial production was sorted into “small” (23.7 g/100-seed) and “large” (36.8 g/100-seed) seed-size classes, then planted at depths of 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 5.0 cm in field experiments. Experiments were conducted in four environments as a split-plot experimental design with four replications. Seed size did not influence total emergence; however, small seed emerged 10% faster than large seed. Although planting depth recommendations for grain-type soybean are 3.2 to 4.5 cm, our results showed edamame emerged more completely and quicker at the shallowest depths examined. The research could be expanded to capture greater diversity in growing environments and crop cultivars; however, the vegetable industry now has research-based information to guide preliminary recommendations regarding appropriate planting depth of edamame.

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Aditi Satpute, Bryce Meyering and Ute Albrecht

Fresh-cut sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) is highly sensitive to low temperatures during postharvest storage. This study investigates whether preharvest foliar application of different concentrations of abscisic acid (ABA) can increase tolerance of the commercial basil varieties ‘Di Genova’ and ‘Nufar’ to chilling injury (CI) during postharvest storage at 3.5 °C and at 7 °C. Experiments were conducted under greenhouse and commercial open-field conditions in southwest Florida during the 2017/2018 growing season. Our results showed that greenhouse-grown plants were less affected by CI during 9 days of storage at 3.5 °C when treated with 1000 mg/L or 1500 mg/L ABA and at 7 °C storage compared with the water control, but effects varied by experiment. Preharvest applications of 1000 mg/L ABA were sufficient in reducing CI during cold storage at 3.5 °C in basil grown under open-field conditions; however, at 7 °C postharvest storage, chilling-induced damage did not differ between ABA and untreated plants. Electrolyte leakage analysis of leaves confirmed the beneficial effects of ABA on alleviating chilling-induced injury. Under greenhouse conditions, preharvest applications of 1000 mg/L ABA were more effective when plants were harvested at 1300 or 1530 hr than at 1100 hr. Our results suggest that 1000 mg/L foliar preharvest applications of ABA in combination with afternoon harvest are an effective strategy to alleviate CI damage during postharvest storage at temperatures less than 4 °C and to extend the shelf life of greenhouse or field-grown, fresh-cut basil.

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Hsuan Chen, Lan Xue, Tong Li and Ryan N. Contreras

Hibiscus syriacus is a woody shrub in the Malvaceae family that is common in landscapes due to its broad adaptability and variable ornamental characteristics. Interspecific hybridization has been used to improve Hibiscus by building novel floral traits, hybrid vigor, and hybrid infertility. A few interspecific hybrid Hibiscus cultivars (H. syriacus × H. paramutabilis), such as Lohengrin and Resi, are notable because of their vigorous vegetative growth, female infertility, and large flowers. However, little is known about the male fertility and breeding potential of these hybrid cultivars, which could increase flower size by backcrossing to H. syriacus. In this study, we estimated male fertility of the two hybrid cultivars by acetocarmine staining and in vivo pollination and assessed selection methods for floral traits, specifically flower size and petal number. A BC1F1 population of 294 individuals was developed by crossing hybrid cultivars Lohengrin or Resi with a variety of double-flowered H. syriacus cultivars. A negative correlation between petal number and petal area was detected by quantile regression, which is a method that circumvents the problem of simple linear regression, which violates statistical assumptions. Quantile regression was used to build simultaneous selection thresholds for different levels of required stringency. As expected, the female fertility of hybrid cultivars was extremely low or zero; however, the male fertility of hybrid cultivars was not reduced compared with H. syriacus cultivars. A negative linear correlation between the petal number and petal area of the BC1F1 individuals was observed. In addition, quantile regression was recommended to set a single selection threshold to be applied to the selection of two negatively correlated traits, which was more effective than independent selection of petal numbers and petal areas among progeny.

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Virginia M. Moore and William F. Tracy

Corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea) is a costly and destructive pest in sweet corn (Zea mays) production. A recurrent selection experiment was conducted to assess the feasibility of selecting a sweet corn population for longer husks without shortening the ears and to determine whether direct selection for longer husks confers improved resistance to the corn earworm. The initial population was derived from crosses between long- and tight-husked inbred lines (A684su, A685su, and A686su) originally selected for resistance to the european corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) and a high-quality commercial hybrid parent (‘Super Sweet Jubilee Plus’). Three cycles of recurrent full-sib family selection were conducted from 2014 to 2016, with a selection intensity of ≈10% per cycle. In 2017, the cycles of selection were evaluated and compared with common commercial cultivars for husk extension, ear length, rate of corn earworm infestation, and extent of corn earworm damage. Ears were artificially infested with corn earworm eggs suspended in an agar solution. The population was successfully selected for longer husk extension without shortening the ears, but the increase in husk extension did not correspond to an increase in corn earworm resistance. Further evaluation is needed to determine whether long husk extension is ineffective as a source of corn earworm resistance, whether it is more effective in combination with other resistance traits, whether greater differences in husk extension are needed to confer biologically significant differences in corn earworm resistance, or whether improved inoculation methods could improve differentiation between genotypes.

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Richard P. Marini, James R. Schupp, Tara Auxt Baugher and Robert Crassweller

Early-season fruit diameter measurements for ‘Gala’, ‘Fuji’, and ‘Honeycrisp’ apples in three orchards for 3 years were used to develop regression models to estimate fruit weight at harvest. Fruit weight at harvest was linearly related to fruit diameter 60 days after bloom, but intercepts and slopes were not homogeneous for all nine combinations of orchards and years for any of the cultivars. When the entire data set for a cultivar was used to develop a single predictive model, the model was biased and underpredicted fruit weight for small fruit and overpredicted fruit weight for large fruit. Adding the ratio of (fruit weight/fruit diameter) at 60 days after bloom to the model with fruit diameter at 60 days after bloom produced a less-biased model with improved coefficients of determination, and predicted values were more similar to the observed values. The (fruit weight/fruit diameter) ratio was positively related to cumulative growing degree days for the 60 days before the fruit were measured and tended to be lower in years when fruits were exposed to frosts. These multiple regression models can be used to develop tables with predicted fruit weights at harvest for varying combinations of fruit diameter and (fruit weight/fruit diameter) ratio 60 days after bloom.

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Cody L. Smith, Joshua H. Freeman, Nancy Kokalis-Burelle and William P. Wechter

Fusarium wilt [caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. niveum (FON)] has been a consistent problem in watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. and Nakai] production worldwide. One method for combatting this pathogen in the field is to graft a susceptible, high-yielding scion on to a fusarium wilt-resistant rootstock. A concerning issue with rootstocks resistant to fusarium wilt is that they have not been tested for their susceptibility to plant pathogenic nematodes—specifically, root-knot nematodes (RKNs; Meloidogyne spp.) and the reniform nematode (Rotylenchulus reniformis). Preliminary findings have demonstrated that many of these Fusarium-resistant rootstocks are highly susceptible to RKNs. Research was conducted during the Spring and Fall 2015 and 2016 to evaluate the resistance to RKN and reniform nematode in rootstocks with known resistance to fusarium wilt. Six rootstocks were evaluated over the course of four experiments. A nematode-susceptible interspecific hybrid [Cucurbita maxima (Duchesne) × C. moschata (Duchesne)] rootstock ‘Carnivor’ was included as a susceptible control in both years. Results demonstrated that several Citrullus lanatus var. citroides (L.H. Bailey) rootstocks (‘Carolina Strongback’, USVL246-FR2, USVL252-FR2, and USVL-360) and ‘SP-6’ (a commercially available pollinizer cultivar) exhibited resistance to plant parasitic nematodes when compared with the susceptible control. Partial resistance was observed in USVL-482351. When compared with the control, these rootstocks also had fewer Meloidogyne spp. and R. reniformis in root tissue. These findings indicate that rootstocks may be available to manage both fusarium wilt and RKN in grafted cucurbit production system.

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Desire Djidonou and Daniel I. Leskovar

The effect of different nitrogen (N) concentrations on growth changes, leaf N concentration and accumulation patterns, N nutrition index (NNI), fresh weight yield, and N use efficiency (NUE) was determined for lettuce grown over three consecutive seasons (fall, winter, and spring) in a recirculating hydroponic system, under unheated and naturally lit hoop house in Uvalde, TX. The lettuce cultivars Buttercrunch, Dragoon, and Sparx were grown at six N concentrations, initially 100, 150, 200, 250, 300, and 400 mg·L−1 using a nutrient film technique (NFT). Leaf number, accumulated dry weight (DW) and N, and leaf area index (LAI) followed a logistic trend over time, characterized by a slow increase during early growth followed by a linear increase to a maximum. By contrast, plant total N concentrations were the highest at early stage and decreased slightly over time. Effect of season and cultivar on these growth traits was more pronounced than that of the N concentrations. Averaged across cultivar and N concentrations, DW in spring was 73% and 34% greater than that in fall and winter, respectively. At each sampling date, there were linear, quadratic, or cubic effects of N concentrations on each of these variables. The cultivar Sparx was the most productive, with 63% and 32% higher fresh weight yield in fall, 145% and 114% in spring, than ‘Buttercrunch’ and ‘Dragoon’, respectively. Increasing nutrient solution N concentrations from 100 to 400 mg·L−1 increased the yield from 5.9 to 6.7 kg·m−2 in fall, 8.1 to 10.7 kg·m−2 in winter, and 10.3 to 12.6 kg·m−2 in spring. The NUE was the highest at the lowest N concentration (100 mg·L−1) and decreased with increasing N concentrations. The NNI during mid- to late-growth stages was near or greater than one, even at the lowest N. These results demonstrated that N concentrations of 100–150 mg·L−1 maximized the growth and yield of hydroponically grown lettuce.

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Yalong Qin, Yiming Chen, Weibing Zhuang, Xiaochun Shu, Fengjiao Zhang, Tao Wang, Hui Xu, Bofeng Zhu and Zhong Wang