A series of experiments on ethylene-insensitive (EI) petunia plants (Petunia ×hybrida Hort. Vilm.-Andr.) generated in two genetic backgrounds were conducted to determine the involvement of ethylene in horticultural performance. Experiments examined various aspects of horticultural performance: days to flower, flower senescence after pollination and without pollination, fruit set and ripening, and adventitious root formation on vegetative stem cuttings. The development of EI plants was altered in several ways. Time from seed sowing to first flower anthesis was decreased by a week for EI plants grown at 26/21 °C. Flower senescence in nonpollinated and self-pollinated flowers was delayed in all EI plants compared to wild-type plants. Fruit set percentage on EI plants was slightly lower than on wild-type plants and fruit ripening on EI plants was delayed by up to 7 days. EI plants produced fewer commercially acceptable rooted cuttings than wild-type plants. There was a basic difference in the horticultural performance of the two EI lines examined due to a difference in the genetic backgrounds used to generate the lines. EI plants displayed better horticultural performance when grown with day/night temperatures of 26/21 °C than 30/24 °C. These results suggest that tissue-specific ethylene insensitivity as well as careful consideration of the genetic background used in transformation procedures and growth conditions of etr1-1 plants will be required to produce commercially viable transgenic floriculture crops. EI petunias provide an ideal model system for studying the role of ethylene in regulating various aspects of plant reproduction.
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