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Qianqian Shi, Xiaoxiao Zhang, Xiang Li, Lijuan Zhai, Xiaoning Luo, Jianrang Luo, Lixia He, Yanlong Zhang and Long Li

Tree peony (Paeonia sp.) is a popular traditional ornamental plant in China. Among the nine wild species, Paeonia rockii displays wide-ranging, deep purple variegation at the base of the petals, whereas Paeonia ostii exhibits purely white petals. Overall, the posttranscriptional regulation involved in tree peony flower opening and pigmentation remains unclear. To identify potential microRNAs (miRNAs) involved in flower variegation, six small RNA libraries of P. ostii and P. rockii petals at three different opening stages were constructed and sequenced. Using Illumina-based sequencing, 22 conserved miRNAs and 27 novel miRNAs were identified in P. rockii and P. ostii petals. Seventeen miRNAs were differentially expressed during flower development, and several putative target genes of these miRNAs belonged to transcription factor families, such as Myb domain (MYB), and basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors. Furthermore, an integrative analysis of the expression profiles of miRNAs and their corresponding target genes revealed that variegation formation might be regulated by miR159c, miR168, miR396a, and novel_miR_05, which target the MYB transcription factors, chalcone synthase (CHS), and ABC transporter. Our preliminary study is the first report of miRNAs involved in Paeonia flower pigmentation. It provides insight regarding the molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of flower pigmentation in tree peony.

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Emily B. Merewitz and Sha Liu

Naturally derived products that may enhance the functionality of fertilizers or other agricultural inputs are needed to reduce inputs associated with stress damage and increase the sustainability of turfgrass management. Damage to high-value creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) turf areas caused by heat stress is a widespread problem. This study aimed to evaluate multiple, diverse treatments that may illicit antioxidant responses in plants, melatonin, rutin, and Si, when applied as foliar pretreatments to heat stress. Creeping bentgrass plants were grown in growth chambers at optimal (23 °C) or heat stress conditions (35 °C). Turfgrass quality, chlorophyll content, leaf electrolyte leakage, photochemical efficiency, lipid peroxidation, antioxidant enzyme activity, and fatty acid content were measured to determine the effects of foliar treatments on heat stress responses. Melatonin, Si, and rutin were all found to improve some or all of the physiological parameters measured in the study, but only melatonin and Si reduced lipid peroxidation, increased antioxidant enzyme activity, and altered fatty acid contents. Melatonin- and Si-treated plants had greater superoxide dismutase and peroxidase activity and increased the content of the unsaturated fatty acid, linoleic acid, in creeping bentgrass leaves during heat stress compared with controls. Rutin improved turf quality and reduced electrolyte leakage during heat stress, but the mechanism associated with these changes is unclear because no changes were found in antioxidant enzyme activities or fatty acids. Melatonin and Si treatment promoted antioxidant enzyme activity and linoleic acid content of leaves, which have been associated with the improved heat tolerance of creeping bentgrass plants.

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Eucario Mancilla-Álvarez, Marco A. Ramírez-Mosqueda, Samantha Arano-Avalos, Rosalía Núñez-Pastrana and Jericó J. Bello-Bello

Malanga (Colocasia esculenta) is a plant genetic resource that requires biotechnological strategies for conservation and propagation. One time-, labor-, and space-saving option is in vitro conservation and regeneration. The objective of this study was to develop a protocol for in vitro regeneration and conservation of germplasm of C. esculenta var. criolla. For conservation through minimal growth, we assessed several concentrations of Murashige and Skoog (MS) medium (one-third, one-half, and three-quarter strength), the growth retardant ancymidol (0, 1, 2, and 3 mg·L−1), and the osmoregulator polyethylene glycol (PEG-8000 mw) at different concentrations (0, 10, 20, and 30 g·L−1). For in vitro conservation, the percent survival, shoot number and length, and number of leaves and roots per explant were evaluated after 24 weeks. For in vitro regeneration, different concentrations of thidiazuron (TDZ: 0, 0.5, 1, 1.5, and 2 mg·L−1) and 6-benzylaminopurine (BAP; 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4 mg·L−1) were evaluated. After 4 weeks of cultivation, the percent response, shoot number, and number of leaves per explant were recorded. During in vitro conservation, it was noted that the treatment including 2 mg·L−1 ancymidol resulted in a retarded development, without affecting the survival of the C. esculenta germplasm. With regard to shoot regeneration, 7.60 shoots per explant were obtained using 2 mg·L−1 TDZ. Finally, 98% survival was achieved during the acclimatization process. This study will contribute to the establishment of genetic improvement programs through in vitro conservation and propagation of this valuable plant genetic resource.

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Yan-xin Duan, Ying Xu, Ran Wang and Chun-hui Ma

‘Akizuki’ (Pyrus pyrifolia Nakai) is a dominant Asian pear cultivar with gradually increasing cultivation area in Shandong province. However, this cultivar is found susceptible to cork spot disorder in recent years. In this study, we explored the physiological-biochemical mechanism of cork spot disorder in pear fruit, and investigated the effectiveness of spraying calcium (Ca), boron (B) solution or prohexadione calcium (P-Ca) on cork spot incidence. Cork spotted fruit had the characteristics of significantly larger fruit size with shorter fruit pedicels. Compared with normal fruit, cork spotted fruit had lower content of total soluble solids, soluble and reducing sugar, and vitamin C. In addition, cork spotted fruit accumulated much higher levels of N and Mg, and lower levels of K and P. However, Ca deficiency was not observed in cork spotted fruit, on the contrary, we determined high concentrations of Ca and free Ca2+ in disordered fruit. At the same time, the ratios of K/Ca, Mg/Ca, and (K+Mg)/Ca were significantly lower in cork spotted fruit as compared with normal fruit. Among all treatments, spraying with 3500 times dilution of P-Ca at 15-day intervals from 30 to 90 days after full bloom showed promise for reducing cork spot incidence in ‘Akizuki’ pear without affecting fruit quality attributes. This research herein reveals the physiological-biochemical characteristic of cork spot disorder, and implicates P-Ca as a potential tool to reduce cork spot incidence in Asian pear cultivar Akizuki.

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Ying Ma, Xinduo Li, Zhanying Gu and Jian’an Li

Sedum rubrotinctum is widely grown as an ornamental because of its attractive leaf shape and color. Increasing the morphological diversity and color will greatly add to its ornamental value. Environmental conditions such as light and temperature can change the leaf color of succulent plants, but the mechanism is uncertain. To examine this mechanism, we tested the effects of two commercial chemical products Sowing Goodliness (Sg) and Aromatic Garden (Ag) on the morphology, pigment content, and growth performance of Sedum rubrotinctum seedlings. The Sg treatment did not change foliage color, but can accelerate plant growth and increase lateral bud number. The Ag treatment had marked changes on the relative proportions of pigments and leaf color, and plant growth was severely reduced with mortality observed in some plants. After Ag stress was discontinued, the surviving plants began to regrow and had good ornamental value but had the fewest number of lateral buds and leaves, and the smallest leaf length and thickness, canopy diameter, and plant height. Foliage color changes are caused directly by shifts in the relative proportions of pigments, particularly chlorophyll b and anthocyanin. In Ag-treated plants, chlorophyll b declined much faster than chlorophyll a, indicating that the transformation of chlorophyll b into chlorophyll a is an important step in the chlorophyll degradation pathway. Ag provides a way to learn more about the mechanism of chlorophyll degradation and should be investigated further. Ag enhanced anthocyanin production rapidly and improved the ornamental value of Sedum rubrotinctum. Different concentrations of Ag and Sg were not studied in this trial and might be tested to determine the ideal balance between leaf color and plant growth.

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Yu-Chi Lee and Jer-Chia Chang

The purpose of this study was to determine whether the total number and percentage of female flowers and fruit yield were influenced by the type of inflorescence, i.e., leafless or leafy inflorescences in ‘Yu Her Pau’ litchi (Litchi chinensis Sonn.). Four 10-year-old field-grown plants in Chunghua, Taiwan, were assessed between March and June 2013. In total, 24 inflorescences comprising 12 each of leafless and leafy inflorescences were investigated. Leaves of the leafy inflorescence, defined as the fourth successive flush, attained maturity before female flower anthesis on 16 Mar. 2013. Shoot diameter and leaf number on the flowering (fruiting) shoot, total number of flowers, and total and percentage of female flowers were recorded. Fruit number, fruit set rate, cluster yield, and fruit quality were also determined at harvest between the two inflorescence types. The two inflorescence types had similar shoot diameters and total leaf number on a flowering shoot. The total number of flowers, female flowers, and the percentage female flowers in leafless inflorescences were 3741, 563, and 16.2%, respectively; these values were 1.3- to 1.7-fold higher (P ≤ 0.05) than those in leafy inflorescences, which were 2779, 326, and 12.2%, respectively. Leafless inflorescences had significantly higher fruit numbers and fruit yield per cluster at harvest (10.2 and 321.5 g, respectively), although there was no difference (P > 0.05) in fruit set rate between the two inflorescence types. No fruit quality trait, such as fruit, pericarp, aril, seed weight, aril proportion, and total soluble solid concentration of aril, was significant (P > 0.05) between the two inflorescence types. We concluded that leafless and leafy inflorescences of ‘Yu Her Pau’ had similar carbon assimilation supply potential; however, leafless inflorescence had greater performance in terms of female flower number and thus fruit yield, presumably due to the absence of assimilate competition brought by synchronous development of lateral inflorescence and immature leaves of panicle.

Open access

Tej P. Acharya, Gregory E. Welbaum and Ramón A. Arancibia

Farmers use low tunnels (LTs) covered with spunbonded fabric to protect warm-season vegetable crops against cold temperatures and extend the growing season. Cool season vegetable crops may also benefit from LTs by enhancing vegetative growth and development. This study investigated the effect of the microenvironmental conditions under LTs on brussels sprouts growth and production as well as water requirements and use efficiency in comparison with those in open fields. Low tunnels increased minimum soil temperature in all trials. By contrast, LTs reduced evapotranspiration (ET) 54% to 68% by reducing solar radiation (SR) and blocking wind in spite of increased maximum air temperatures. Because of reduced ET, water needs and irrigation decreased by 24% to 40%. Furthermore, LTs enhanced vegetative growth (plant leaf area, plant height, and plant dry weight). Sprouts per plant and yield under LTs increased by 29% and 46% in Spring 2017, by 22% and 46% in Fall 2017, and by 29% and 22% in Spring 2018. Considering the increased growth and productivity and reduced irrigation, LTs increased water-use efficiency (WUE) in relation to yield by 62% to 107% in comparison with open fields. Increased total yield and improved WUE illustrate that LTs may be a useful management tool in sustainable production systems in addition to their traditional role for season extension.

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Xiaotao Ding, Yuping Jiang, Dafeng Hui, Lizhong He, Danfeng Huang, Jizhu Yu and Qiang Zhou

Adequate greenhouse environmental management is very important for improving resource use efficiency and increasing vegetable yield. The objective of this study was to explore suitable climate and cultivation management for cucumber to achieve high yield and build optimal yield models in semi-closed greenhouses. A fruit cucumber cultivar Deltastar was grown over 4 years in greenhouse and weekly data of yields (mean, highest and lowest) and environmental variables, including total radiation, air temperature, relative humidity, and carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration were collected. Regression analyses were applied to develop the relationships and build best regression models of yields with environmental variables using the first 2 years of data. Data collected in years 3 and 4 were used for model validation. Results showed that total radiation, nutrient, temperature, CO2 concentration, and average nighttime relative humidity had significant correlations with cucumber yields. The best regression models fit the mean, lowest, and highest yields very well with R 2 values of 0.67, 0.66, and 0.64, respectively. Total radiation and air temperature had the most significant contributions to the variations of the yields. Our results of this study provide useful information for improving greenhouse climate management and yield forecast in semi-closed greenhouses.

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Yuya Mochizuki, Saori Sekiguchi, Naomi Horiuchi, Thanda Aung and Isao Ogiwara

To clarify the response of net photosynthetic rate (Pn), stomatal conductance (g S), transpiration rate (Tr), and leaf intercellular CO2 concentration (Ci) to irradiance on the adaxial and abaxial sides of mature and young strawberry leaves using blue, green, and red light-emitting diodes (LEDs), irradiation from a short distance was investigated using ‘Tochiotome’. Light–photosynthetic response curves of the adaxial side of mature leaves were not different among LED treatments. However, those of the adaxial side of young leaves irradiated with red LEDs were less than those of other LED treatments. Pn of the abaxial side of mature leaves was 42% to 71% of the abaxial side. In young leaves, Pn of the abaxial side was 17% to 68% of the adaxial side. Moreover, light–transpiration response curves were different with LED treatments. Ci and Tr under blue and green LEDs were greater than those under red LEDs. This indicates that blue and green lights affected the stomatal opening. In contrast, red LEDs decreased Ci more than other LED treatments. In addition, reactions of the adaxial side of young leaves under blue and red LEDs were seen not only in ‘Tochiotome’, but also in ‘Sachinoka’ and ‘Eran’, which indicates that the photosynthetic reactions of blue light and red light are common characteristics of the strawberry. Therefore, red LEDs promoted the photochemical reaction and activated the CO2 fixation system. Based on the results of this study of short-distance lighting with LEDs in strawberry production, irradiance of the abaxial side of leaves by blue or green LEDs might improve more assimilates in young leaves compared with red LEDs to increase strawberry yield.

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Qi Wang, Rui Zhao, Qihang Chen, Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva, Liqi Chen and Xiaonan Yu

Herbaceous peony is a perennial flowering plant with strong environmental adaptability and may be a good candidate for culture in arid areas. In this study, the physiological and biochemical responses of two herbaceous peony cultivars to different soil moisture gradients in pots were assessed by analyzing changes in 13 stress-related indices. The drought damage index (DDI) and the contents of malondialdehyde (MDA), soluble sugar, proline, and abscisic acid (ABA) generally increased as drought stress intensified, whereas leaf relative water content (LRWC) decreased, and the contents of soluble protein, indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), the ratio of IAA and ABA, and the activities of four antioxidant enzymes fluctuated. For the leaves, a positive correlation was found between DDI and superoxide dismutase (SOD), MDA, soluble sugar, proline, ascorbate peroxidase (APX), and ABA, but it was negatively correlated with LRWC, peroxidase (POD), and catalase (CAT). In fibrous roots, DDI was positively correlated with MDA, soluble sugar, proline, soluble protein, and ABA but was negatively correlated with SOD, CAT, APX, and IAA/ABA. Principal component analysis and subordinate functions were used to evaluate drought resistance of the two cultivars, with ‘Karl Rosenfield’ showing greater resistance to drought than ‘Da Fu Gui’.