Variation in Fusarium-induced Ethylene Synthesis Among Tulip Cultivars

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  • 1 Cornell Univ., Horticulture, Ithaca, NY 14853
  • | 2 Cornell Univ., Horticulture, Ithaca, NY 14853
  • | 3 Cornell Univ., Horticulture, Ithaca, NY 14850
  • | 4 Cornell Univ., Horticulture, Ithaca, NY 14853
  • | 5 Cornell Univ., Plant Pathology, Ithaca, NY 14853
  • | 6 Cornell Univ., Horticulture, Ithaca, NY 14853

Ethylene evolution is a consequence of Fusarium infection of tulip bulbs, yet little is known about the bulb-pathogen interactions involved in the induction or time course of ethylene synthesis. The resulting ethylene can affect adjacent, non-infected bulbs, and results in a variety of disorders, most notably flower abortion. Earlier work indicates that cultivars vary in their sensitivity to ethylene, but there are few data on ethylene production by cultivar. In this experiment, we assessed Fusarium-induced ethylene production in 36 tulip cultivars. Bulbs were wounded, inoculated with a liquid Fusarium suspension (isolated from infected bulbs) and held at 25 °C. Control bulbs were wounded, but not inoculated. Ethylene production was monitored by headspace analysis and gas chromatography. Ethylene increased rapidly after a lag phase of at least 8 days, but there were large differences in ethylene production among cultivars. Of the cultivars tested, `Furand' evolved more than 340 μL/kg/fwt/hr (≈250 μL/L/bulb/day) on the 11th day after infection, a rate ≈440-fold greater than in non-inoculated bulbs. Inoculated cultivars producing ethylene at rates exceeding 50 μLL/kg/hr included `Mary Belle', `Libretto', `Nashville', `Yonina', `Friso', and `Prominence'. About 25% of the cultivars produced ethylene at rates >10 μL/kg/hr, and ≈40% of cultivars produced less than this rate on day 11. High-ethylene producing tulips could be stored separately from other cultivars, or be given increased ventilation during storage or transportation. Knowledge of cultivar variation might also be useful in breeding programs. Further questions concerning the specific tissue responsible for ethylene synthesis (bulb, fungus, or both?) also arise.

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