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Riccardo Lo Bianco and Mark Rieger

In peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch (Peach Group)], both sorbitol and sucrose are used for source to sink carbon (C) transport, yet their specific functions in fruit growth and development remain unclear. Growth rate (GR), respiration rate (R), carbohydrate content, and the activities of sorbitol dehydrogenase (SDH), sorbitol oxidase (SOX), sucrose synthase (SS), acid invertase (AI), and neutral invertase (NI) were determined in `Encore' peaches to study the specific functions of sorbitol and sucrose in each phase of fruit development (an early period of rapid cell division, a relatively inactive intermediate stage where endocarp (pit) hardening occurs, and a final swelling due to cell expansion). Fruit growth and respiration rates (mol C/fruit per day) were always positively correlated, but the growth coefficient (gc) relating them was significantly higher at cell division, when maintenance respiration (Rm) was nearly absent. Sorbitol and sucrose appeared to participate equally in growth and maintenance respiration. Contents of sorbitol and sucrose both correlated positively to GR, and their rates of accumulation increased from early to late growth stages in similar fashion. SDH activity was always positively correlated with sink strength and GR, but with R only at endocarp hardening (r = 0.632). SOX activity was also correlated with sink strength and GR in the early (r = 0.514 and 0.553) and late (r = 0.503 and 0.495) growth phases, but not at endocarp hardening, and was correlated with R in two of three growth phases. Among sucrose cleavage enzymes, AI activity was positively correlated with sink strength, GR, and R more strongly than the others (r = 0.51 to 0.80), but only in the cell division and cell expansion periods. SS activity was correlated with sink strength and R only at endocarp hardening, and NI activity was generally not correlated to sink strength, GR, or R. We conclude that sorbitol and sucrose play similar roles in fruit development, and the enzymes associated with their metabolism work in concert to produce the observed changes in growth and respiration.

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Shaoli Lu, Mark Rieger, and Michael J. Duemmel

Ovary temperatures of upward and downward facing flowers of `Junegold' Peach (Prunus persica (L.) Batsch) were measured on 5 nights in March 1991 to determine whether differential survival of ovaries following frost was related to flower orientation. Flowering twigs were removed from mature trees and positioned horizontally ≈ 1.5 m above ground level prior to occurrence of low temperatures (0-5C). Thermocouples were inserted through the hypanthium to contact ovaries of 10 upward and 10 downward facing flowers, and temperature and meteorological data were logged every five minutes. Under clear, calm conditions, temperature of upward facing flowers averaged 0.33C lower than that of downward facing flowers during the coldest period of the night, with maximal differences of 0.77C. Under cloudy, calm conditions, temperature differences between upward and downward facing flowers were less frequently observed and lower in magnitude (0.08 - 0.15C). Under windy conditions (>2.5 m/s), no temperature difference between upward and downward facing flowers occurred, despite strongly negative net radiation. Based on known values of ovary cold tolerance, it is concluded that differences in survival of Up to 38% could occur due to flower orientation when air temperature reaches critical values.

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Riccardo Lo Bianco, Brunella Morandi, and Mark Rieger

Along with sucrose, sorbitol represents the major photosynthetic product and the main form of translocated carbon in peach. The objective of the present study was to determine whether in peach fruit, sorbitol and sucrose enzyme activities are source-regulated, and more specifically modulated by sorbitol or sucrose availability. In two separate trials, peach fruit relative growth rate (RGR), enzyme activities, and carbohydrates were measured 1) at cell division stage before and after girdling of the shoot subtending the fruit; and 2) on 14 shoots with different leaf to fruit ratio (L:F) at cell division and cell expansion stages. Fruit RGR and sorbitol dehydrogenase (SDH) activity were significantly reduced by girdling, whereas sucrose synthase (SS), acid invertase (AI), and neutral invertase (NI) where equally active in girdled and control fruits on the fourth day after girdling. All major carbohydrates (sorbitol, sucrose, glucose, fructose and starch) were reduced on the fourth day after girdling. SDH activity was the only enzyme activity proportional to L:F in both fruit developmental stages. Peach fruit incubation in sorbitol for 24 hours also resulted in SDH activities higher than those of fruits incubated in buffer and similar to those of freshly extracted samples. Overall, our data provide some evidence for regulation of sorbitol metabolism, but not sucrose metabolism, by photoassimilate availability in peach fruit. In particular, sorbitol translocated to the fruit may function as a signal for modulating SDH activity.

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Daniel Warnock, William Randle, and Mark Rieger

Photosynthesis is the very essence of agriculture. Previous photosynthetic and transpirational studies of onion (Allium cepa) have been limited to specific developmental stages. Our study measured photosynthesis and transpiration in sixteen plants of a single short-day cultivar over an eleven week period containing both non- and bulb inductive photoperiods. Differences in weekly means for photosynthesis, leaf conductance, water use efficiency, and intercellular CO, were highly significant. Weekly photosynthetic means increased under a non-inductive photoperiod and peaked one week after initiating a bulb inducing photoperiod. A decrease and leveling period occurred as bulbs developed followed by a decrease as foliage lodged. Weekly photosynthetic and leaf conductance means were correlated and highly significant. Water use efficiency and intercellular CO, means remained fairly constant throughout the study suggesting that photosynthesis in unstressed onions was controlled by internal mechanisms instead of stomata.

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Bedri Karakas, Riccardo Lo Bianco, and Mark Rieger

The effect of specific ion toxicity during salt stress was tested in the present study. The experiment was repeated twice, in 1996 and 1998, with `Nemaguard' peach seedlings and rooted cuttings grown in hydroponics under two NaCl concentrations (50 and 30 mm). Foliage was separated in symptomatic and symptomless leaves and the amount of sodium (Na+) and chloride (C1) was determined. Significantly higher Na+ content was found in symptomatic than in symptomless leaves in both experiments, whereas in only two of the six cases was Cl content higher in symptomatic than in symptomless leaves. The Na+ threshold for leaf scorch was somewhere between 4 and 6 mg·g–1 dry weight. Results indicated that Na+ accumulation, rather than Cl accumulation, was associated with the familiar marginal and interveinal scorch symptoms seen in salt-stressed peach leaves.

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Mark Rieger, Gerard Krewer, and Pamela Lewis

Solarization and chemical alternatives to methyl bromide (MeBr) soil fumigation for strawberry (Fragaria {XtimesX} ananassa) were evaluated in a 3-year study in Savannah, Ga. Solarization using clear or black plastic, metam sodium (Sectagon), dazomet (Basamid), 1,3-dichloropropene and chloropicrin (Telone C-35), MeBr, and untreated control treatments were used. Solarization produced maximal soil temperatures of 55 to 60 °C (131 to 140 °F) at the 2.5 cm (1 inch) depth, and 42 to 48 °C (108 to 118 °F) at the 15 cm (6 inch) depth. Clear and black plastic were generally equally effective in heating the soil. A double layer of clear plastic raised soil temperatures 1 to 2 °C (2 to 4 °F) above those under a single layer of clear at the 2.5 cm depth, although this occurred less frequently at the 15 cm depth. MeBr treatment increased yield by 46% and 128% in the first and second years, respectively, compared to the untreated control, but all treatments were similar in yield in year three. Season average fruit size differed among treatments in only the first year, with MeBr resulting in fruit 13% to 25% larger than other treatments. Yield for the metam sodium treatment in the first year was 34% lower than for MeBr, but comparable to MeBr in the other 2 years. Solarization treatment yields were similar to those of MeBr in the first and third years, but could not be analyzed in the second year due to plot damage. Dazomet treatment yields were similar to those of MeBr, metam sodium, and the untreated control in its single year of testing, but logistics of application and high costs may disfavor this treatment. The 1,3-dichloropropene/chloropicrin treatment performed as well as MeBr in its single year of testing. Three treatments-metam sodium, 1,3-dichloropropene/chloropicrin, and solarization with black plastic-offer viable, lower cost alternatives to MeBr.

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Gerard Krewer, Scott NeSmith, Mark Rieger, and Ben Mullinix

Rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei R.) flowers often suffer slight freeze damage that prevents fertilization and fruit development. To determine if gibberellic acid (GA3) might be useful in rescuing freeze-damaged flowers the following treatments were applied before anthesis to two cultivars at different locations: 1) undamaged control, 2) approximately two-thirds of the corolla and most of the style removed, 3) approximately half of the style removed, and 4) ovules lanced with an insect pin by driving it through the equator of the undeveloped berry until the point came out the other side. Half the bushes were not sprayed, and half were sprayed with GA3 (312 ppm, v/v) the night following treatment. `Climax' at Chula, Ga., had good fruit set for treatment 1 with and without GA3 (70% to 85%). Good fruit set also occurred for treatment 2, 3, and 4 where GA3 was applied (47% to 54%), but poor fruit set without GA3 (4% to 16%). `Tifblue' at Chula had significantly better fruit set for treatment 1 with GA3 (54% vs. 27%). Excellent fruit set occurred for treatment 2, 3, and 4 where GA3 was applied (81% to 96%), and poor fruit set without GA3 (6% to 7%). `Tifblue' fruit set by GA3 sized better than `Climax' fruit set by GA3. The experiments provide corroborative evidence that flowers that have suffered freeze damage to the stigma, style, corolla, and perhaps ovules can be set with GA3.

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Riccardo Lo Bianco, Mark Rieger, and She-Jean S. Sung

Sorbitol is the major photosynthetic product in peach. In sink tissues, sorbitol is converted to fructose via the NAD-dependent enzyme sorbitol dehydrogenase (SDH). A new assay is described that allows rapid, simple quantitation of SDH activity in growing shoot tips, root tips, and fruits. The activity was measured on the crude extract desalted with a Saphadex G-25 column to eliminate small molecules such as sugars and nucleotides. Optimum buffer type and pH for the enzyme as well as degradation by proteolytic enzymes and stability over time were determined in the present study. Inhibition by dithiothreitol (DTT) was detected at an inhibitor concentration as low as 2 mM, proving the similarity with mammalian SDH. Storage of samples at 4°C overnight resulted in significant loss of enzyme activity. Using this assay, we also correlated SDH activity with sink strength in peach.

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D. Scott NeSmith, Gerard Krewer, Mark Rieger, and Ben Mullinix

In a series of experiments, gibberellic acid (GA3) was applied to rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium ashei Reade) under field and greenhouse conditions to determine if fruit set could be improved following physical or freeze injury to flowers. In field experiments, physically damaged flowers (i.e., corollas and styles removed, styles only removed, or ovaries lanced) of `Climax' and `Tifblue' treated with GA3 (4% ProGib at 250 mg·liter–1) set substantially more fruit than nontreated, damaged flowers. Under green-house conditions, GA3 applied postfreeze to `Tifblue' and `Brightwell' resulted in increased fruit set compared to unsprayed control plants of the same cultivars. Freeze-damaged plants had substantially reduced fruit set overall but to a much lesser extent for GA3-treated plants than for those not treated with GA3. Individual fruit weight was reduced by GA3 applications, as was berry seediness. Results from these greenhouse and field trials suggest that GA3 can be used to salvage a blueberry crop following a moderate freeze during bloom.

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Carleton B Wood, Timothy J. Smalley, and Mark Rieger

Container-grown Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum `Mariesii' were planted in tilled beds and tilled beds amended with aged pine bark. After transplanting, plants were fertilized at three different rates: no fertilizer, 18.4 g of N m-2, and 36.8 g of N m-2. A 31 day drought was begun 73 days after planting. Fertilization of tilled plots induced ammonium toxicity, which caused a linear reduction in leaf area, shoot dry weight, and root dry weight. Fertilization of amended plots had no effect on shoot growth but reduced mot growth by 54%; thus, amendments ameliorated ammonium toxicity. Between 10 and 28 days after beginning the drought, plants in unfertilized-amended plots maintained higher relative leaf water contents (RLWC) and relative leaf expansion rates (RLER) than plants in unfertilized-tilled plots. Amendment induced nitrogen deficiencies contributed to the increased drought tolerance of plants from unfertilized-amended plots. Since fertilized plants developed symptoms of ammonium toxicity, we were unable to determine if increasing fertility would counteract the drought tolerance conferred by pine bark soil amendments.