Two major components of frost resistance are freezing tolerance in the nonacclimated state (growing in normal condition) and capacity to cold acclimate (increase in freezing tolerance upon exposure to chilling temperatures). In addition to these two major components, numerous factors contribute to frost survival. Although the rate of cold acclimation and deacclimation have been recognized as important factors contributing to frost survival, very little information about them is available. Our objective was to determine if there is variability in the rate of cold acclimation and deacclimation among tuber-bearing wild potato species: S. acaule Bitter, S. commersonii Dunal, S. megistacrolobum Bitter, S. multidissectum Hawkes, S. polytrichon Rydb., S. sanctae-rosae Hawkes, and S. megistacrolobum subsp. toralapanum (Cárdenas & Hawkes) Giannattasio&Spooner. Relative freezing tolerance of these species was measured after 0, 3, 6, 9 and 12 days of cold acclimation and after 12 and 24 hours deacclimation. Our results showed there were differences in the rates of cold acclimation and deacclimation among these species. With respect to the rate of acclimation we found these species can be divided into four groups: (i) early; (ii) late acclimators; (iii) progressive acclimators, and (iv) nonacclimators. Likewise, a wide range of cold deacclimation behavior was found. Some species showed as low a loss of 20% of their freezing tolerance, others showed as much as >60% loss after 12 hours of deacclimation. Significant deacclimation was observed in all cold acclimating species after 1 day. These results demonstrate that the rates of cold acclimation and deacclimation were not necessarily related to the cold acclimation capacity of a species. Rapid acclimation in response to low temperatures preceding a frost episode and slow deacclimation in response to unseasonably warm daytime temperatures could be advantageous for plants to survive frost events. Thus, in addition to nonacclimated freezing tolerance and acclimation capacity, it would be very desirable to be able to select for rapid acclimation and slow deacclimation abilities. Results demonstrate that variability for these two traits exists in Solanum L. (potato) species.
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