Biochemical and Gene Expression Involved in Red Blush Color Development in ‘Ambrosia’ Apple

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

The market value of the apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) cultivar Ambrosia is closely linked to the characteristic blush on the skin surface. For ‘Ambrosia’ orchards that produce consistently low levels of surface blush, the implementation of reflective rowcovering has improved surface coloration, but the reflected wavebands responsible for this enhanced color production have not been confirmed. This study consisted of two separate experiments: one conducted in the field to confirm reflective rowcovering efficacy and the other in a controlled environment cabinet to determine which waveband was enhancing red blush production. The red blush production in orchards with and without reflective rowcovering was then directly compared with the red blush produced on the surface of apples that were poorly colored at harvest and then exposed to visible, fluorescent, ultraviolet A (UVA), or ultraviolet B (UVB) light sources within the controlled environment chamber. Consequent analysis of the red blush color within the Commission Internationale de l’Eclairage a* and b* color space was conducted to evaluate the quality of the red blush pigment under each treatment in the field and the controlled environment chamber. The analysis revealed that the red blush that developed on apples from the reflective rowcover treatment most closely matched the red blush that developed in response to UVB exposure in the controlled environment cabinet. Further analysis of gene expression and anthocyanin contents in the ‘Ambrosia’ apples support the hypothesis that the primary driver for the characteristic red blush development, when reflective rowcovers are used, is increased exposure to UVB light.

Contributor Notes

The authors are grateful for the financial support of this work jointly by the British Columbia New Varieties Development Council and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Agri-Innovations Program. We also thank the Excellent Youth Backbone Teacher Program of Yangzhou University and the Public Study Abroad Program of Yangzhou University for the Visiting Scientist Scholarship to support Dr. Zhou’s travel and work at the Summerland Research and Development Centre.

Current address: Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility, Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Corresponding author.

E-mail: peter.toivonen@canada.ca.

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Article Figures

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    Spectral reflectance at 1 m height in the canopy of a commercial ‘Ambrosia’ apple orchard for trees within a reflective rowcover treatment or for trees in an area where no reflective rowcover was applied (control). Measurement was made at 1100 hr on 19 Sept. 2014. Measurement was made with a portable spectrometer (LI-1800; LI-COR, Lincoln, NE) fitted with a quartz fiber-optic probe and the sensor head was directed at a 45° angle toward the middle of the adjacent row and was shrouded to prevent interference by direct sunlight impingement on the sensor head.

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    Daily total reflected photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) measured over the duration of the reflective rowcover treatment experiment in a commercial ‘Ambrosia’ apple orchard in Sept. 2014. Measurements were made with a quantum sensor (LI-190; LI-COR, Lincoln, NE) at 1 m height in the canopy of the trees and directed at a 45° angle toward the middle of the adjacent row in both a block where reflective rowcover was applied and in a control block, where no rowcover was applied.

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    A two-dimensional color space plot indicating the mean position that six light treatments occupied in that color space (n = 15). Treatments in the orchard were control (not having any reflective rowcover) and reflective rowcover. Treatments applied in a growth chamber were 1) visible light only (ultraviolet blocked by a polycarbonate glass lens); 2) ultraviolet (UV) A, where 32 µmol·m−2·s−1 was applied for 14 d; 3) fluorescent light that exposed the apple to visible light and a mixture of UVA and UVB light at a combine flux density of 1.5 µmol·m−2·s−1 was applied for 14 d; and 4) UVB, where 0.5 µmol·m−2·s−1 was applied for 5 d. Vertical and horizontal error bars represent se of b* and a* coordinate values for each treatment mean in the color space.

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    Accumulation of three anthocyanin components over 3 weeks of applied reflective rowcover treatments in a commercial ‘Ambrosia’ apple orchard in Cawston, BC, Canada during Sept. 2014. Data points represent the mean ± se of three replicates each consisting of six apples.

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    Accumulation of three flavonol compounds over 3 weeks of applied reflective rowcover treatments in a commercial ‘Ambrosia’ apple orchard in Cawston, BC, Canada during Sept. 2014. Data points represent the mean ± se of three replicates each consisting of six apples.

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    Relative expression for six genes involved with mediating ultraviolet light–induced enhancement of anthocyanin biosynthesis. Rates of expression are relative to an internal standard of actin.

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