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Free access

Cecilia E. McGregor, Vickie Waters, Tripti Vashisth, and Hussein Abdel-Haleem

U.S. watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) production is worth ≈$0.5 billion annually to growers and nearly all of them are dependent on reliable synchronized flowering time of triploid cultivars and diploid pollenizers in their production fields. One aspect of this synchronization is time to flowering, the change from the vegetative to reproductive phase of a plant. Flowering time has emerged as one of the key traits in horticultural and agronomic crops to breed for escape from biotic and abiotic stresses. However, very little is known about the control of flowering time in watermelon. The number of genes involved, mode of inheritance, heritability, and the possible candidate genes are all unknown. In this study, quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with days to first male flower (DMF), days to first female flower (DFF), and the female-male flower interval (FMI) were identified in a ‘Klondike Black Seeded’ × ‘New Hampshire Midget’ recombinant inbred line population over 2 years. Heritability for DMF, DFF, and FMI were 0.43, 0.23, and 0.10, respectively. Control of flowering time was oligogenic with a major, stable, colocalized QTL on chromosome 3 responsible for ≈50% of the phenotypic variation observed for DMF and DFF. This region of the draft genome sequence contains 172 genes, including homologs of the flowering locus T (Cla009504) and tempranillo 1 (Cla000855) genes associated with flowering time in other species. Cla009504 and Cla000855 represent excellent candidate genes toward the development of a functional marker for marker-assisted selection of flowering time in watermelon. In addition to the major QTL on chromosome 3, two other QTL were identified for DMF (chromosomes 2 and 3) and DFF (chromosomes 3 and 11) and one for FMI on chromosome 2. Understanding the genes involved in this trait and the ability to select efficiently for flowering time phenotypes is expected to accelerate the development of new watermelon cultivars in changing environmental conditions.

Free access

Tripti Vashisth, Mercy A. Olmstead, James Olmstead, and Thomas A. Colquhoun

Producing temperate-zone fruit crops in subtropical environments requires alterations in fertilizer application and rates. Nitrogen (N) is a critical mineral nutrient required in high amounts by the tree; however, it is often over- or under-applied for optimal fruit quality and can affect the phytochemical composition of fruits. The effects of different N fertilizer rates and harvest date on total phenolic content, total flavonoid content, total anthocyanins, total antioxidant capacity, total soluble solids, titratable acidity, and organic acids (citric and malic acid) of two subtropical peach (Prunus persica) cultivars, TropicBeauty and UFSharp, were investigated. N rate did not affect total soluble solids in ‘TropicBeauty’, although total soluble solids decreased as N rate increased in ‘UFSharp’. Titratable acidity and organic acid content was significantly higher in ‘UFSharp’ as compared with ‘TropicBeauty’, although there was no effect of N rate on titratable acidity. An overall increase in phenolic content, flavonoid content, anthocyanins, and antioxidant capacity were observed with decreasing N rates in both subtropical peach cultivars. A stronger genotype × N treatment interaction was observed for ‘TropicBeauty’ for phenolic content, flavonoid content, and antioxidant capacity than for ‘UFSharp’. In ‘TropicBeauty’, among the treatments with no N and highest N, an almost 100% increase in phenolic content, 200% increase in flavonoid content, 50% increase in anthocyanin content, and 80% increase in antioxidant activity was observed. A positive correlation among phenolic content, flavonoid content, and antioxidant capacity was observed in both ‘TropicBeauty’ and ‘UFSharp’. Late harvest date decreased phenolic content in ‘TropicBeauty’, ranging from 6% to 32% among different N treatments. Late harvest increased anthocyanin content as compared with fruit that were harvested on early dates. The results suggest that subtropical peach phytochemical composition can be affected by different cultivars and tree age, and can be manipulated with cultural practices like N fertilization and harvest time to produce fruit with altered or desired nutritional composition for consumers.

Open access

Sukhdeep Singh, Taylor Livingston, Lisa Tang, and Tripti Vashisth

Fruit production of sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) in Florida has been declining with the presence of Huanglongbing [HLB; Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas)] disease. Through disruption of the balance of endogenous hormone levels, the disease has negative impacts on fruit development, mature fruit retention, and overall tree health. Thus, the goal of this research was to determine whether plant growth regulator gibberellic acid (GA3) can be used to improve the production issues caused by HLB. For ‘Valencia’ sweet orange, although foliar applied GA3 from September to January (33 mg·L−1 for five applications) resulted in 50% decrease in bloom the following spring (results presented in ), this treatment did not cause reduction in yield of current and subsequent crops. Moreover, a 30% average increase in yield in GA3-treated trees was observed over a period of 4 years. The size of mature fruit was also increased (by 4% to 5%) with reduced fruit drop rate near harvest in GA3-treated trees compared with nontreated control trees. Furthermore, the canopy density, an indicator of HLB severity, was maintained in trees applied with GA3 (from 90.8% light interception to 90.4%). In contrast, there was a substantial decrease in canopy density for control trees (from 91.6% to 84.0%). Gene expression analysis of abscission zone and leaves indicated that GA3-treated trees had enhanced oxidative stress mitigation mechanism and plant defense response. Given that there is no cure for HLB, these results presented a possible remedy of using GA3 in sustaining tree health for field-grown sweet orange affected by HLB.

Full access

Ed Stover, Youjian Lin, Xiaoe Yang, and Tripti Vashisth

Bloom in individual citrus (Citrus) trees often continues for more than 1 month in south Florida, with even greater bloom duration within most orchard blocks because of variation in bloom timing between trees. Prolonged bloom contributes to variable fruit maturity as harvest approaches and increases severity of postbloom fruit drop (PFD) disease (caused by Colletotrichum acutatum). Hydrogen cyanamide (cyanamide) has been effective in accelerating bloom in various deciduous fruits, and its potential use in citrus was investigated in this preliminary study. Cyanamide was applied at a range of concentrations, from 0% to 1.0% a.i., to potted trees of six citrus types reflecting fairly broad diversity in commercial citrus that was readily available as seed [alemow (Citrus macrophylla), ‘Duncan’ grapefruit (Citrus paradisi), sour orange (Citrus aurantium), ‘Smooth Flat Seville’ sour orange hybrid (C. aurantium hybrid), ‘Swingle’ citrumelo (C. paradisi × Poncirus trifoliata), and ‘Sun Chu Sha’ mandarin (Citrus reticulata)] in Dec. 1999 while trees were quiescent. Phytotoxicity increased with cyanamide rate, with some damage at 0.125% cyanamide on most tested plants, and large variation among citrus types. All cyanamide rates hastened flushing. Airblast application of cyanamide (0, 0.025%, 0.05%, and 0.10%) was made to mature trees of ‘Valencia’ and ‘Navel’ sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) in Ft. Pierce, FL, on 27 Jan. 2000. On 15 Feb. and 28 Feb. additional trees received cyanamide at 0.05%. There was considerable defoliation, which increased linearly with cyanamide rate. Flushing and flowering were unaffected by cyanamide compared with controls except in February where cyanamide applied at 0.05% increased flowers per tree in ‘Valencia’ sweet orange, and in contrast, 0.1% cyanamide on 27 Jan. reduced ‘Navel’ sweet orange flowering. Cyanamide application to ‘Valencia’ sweet orange on 28 Feb., after initial flowering but 16 days before peak bloom, significantly reduced yield per tree but there were no other effects on cropping. In these trials, cyanamide was not an effective agent for hastening bloom in south Florida citrus with applications late January through February. Further work is needed to determine whether December applications of cyanamide to trees in the field may be more effective in concentrating subsequent flush and bloom.

Open access

Lisa Tang, Garima Singh, Megan Dewdney, and Tripti Vashisth

Under Florida conditions, sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) affected by Huanglongbing {HLB [Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas)]} frequently exhibits irregular flowering patterns, including off-season flowering and prolonged bloom period. Such patterns can increase the opportunity for temporal and spatial proliferation of pathogens that infect flower petals, including the fungal causal agent for postbloom fruit drop (PFD) Colletotrichum acutatum J.H. Simmonds. For the development of strategies to manipulate flowering, the effects of floral inhibitor gibberellic acid (GA3) sprayed monthly at full- and half-strength rates (49 and 25 g·ha−1, or 33 and 17 mg·L−1, respectively) with different regimens, starting from September and ending in November, December, or January, on the pattern of spring bloom were evaluated in field-grown HLB-affected ‘Valencia’ sweet orange at two locations in subsequent February through April for two separate years in this study. To further examine whether GA3 effects on flowering patterns vary in different cultivars, early-maturing ‘Navel’ sweet orange trees receiving no GA3 or full-strength GA3 monthly in September through January were included. Overall, for ‘Valencia’ sweet orange, monthly applications of GA3 at 49 g·ha−1 from September to December not only minimized the incidence of scattered emergence of flower buds and open flowers before the major bloom but also shortened the duration of flowering, compared with the untreated control trees. In addition, exogenous GA3 led to decreased leaf flowering locus t (FT) expression starting in December, as well as reduced expression of its downstream flower genes in buds during later months. When applied monthly from September through January at 49 g·ha−1, similar influences of exogenous GA3 on repressing flower bud formation and compressing bloom period were observed in ‘Navel’ sweet orange. These results suggest that by effectively manipulating flowering in HLB-affected sweet orange trees under the Florida climate conditions, exogenous GA3 may be used to reduce early sporadic flowering and thereby shorten the window of C. acutatum infection that causes loss in fruit production.

Open access

Faisal Shahzad, Changpin Chun, Arnold Schumann, and Tripti Vashisth

Since the advent of Huanglongbing [HLB (Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus)] in Florida, several preliminary reports have emerged about the positive effects of mineral nutrition on the performance of HLB-affected citrus (Citrus sp.) trees. HLB-affected trees are known to undergo significant feeder root loss. Therefore, studies have focused on foliar nutrient application instead of soil-applied nutrients speculating that the HLB-affected trees root systems may not be competent in nutrient uptake. Some studies also suggest that HLB-affected trees benefit from micronutrients at higher than the recommended rates; however, the results are often inconclusive and inconsistent. To address this, the goal of the present study was to evaluate the nutrient uptake efficiency and the quantitative and qualitative differences in nutrient uptake of HLB-affected trees. HLB-affected and healthy sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) trees were grown in a 100% hydroponic system with Hoagland solution for 8 weeks. The trees were deprived of any fertilization for 6 months before the transfer of trees to the hydroponic solution. Altogether, the four treatments studied in the hydroponic system were healthy trees fertilized (HLY-F) and not fertilized (HLY-NF), and HLB-affected trees fertilized (HLB-F) and not fertilized (HLB-NF). HLY-F and HLY-NF trees were found to have similar levels of leaf nutrients except for N, which was found to be low in nonfertilized trees (HLY and HLB). Both HLB-F and HLB-NF trees had lower levels of Ca, Mg, and S compared with HLY trees. In addition, HLB-NF trees had significantly lower levels of micronutrients Mn, Zn, and Fe, compared with HLY-NF trees. The hydroponic solution analysis showed that HLB-F and HLY-F trees had similar uptake of all the nutrients. Considering that HLB-affected trees have a lower root-to-shoot ratio than healthy trees, nutrient uptake efficiency per kilogram of root tissue was significantly higher in HLB trees compared with HLY trees. Under nutrient-deficient conditions (day 0) only nine genes were differentially expressed in HLB roots compared with HLY roots. On the other hand, when fertilizer was supplied for ≈1 week, ≈2300 genes were differentially expressed in HLB-F roots compared with HLY-F roots. A large number of differentially expressed genes in HLB-F were related to ion transport, root growth and development, anatomic changes, cell death, and apoptosis compared with HLY-F trees. Overall, anatomic and transcriptomic analyses revealed that HLB-affected roots undergo remarkable changes on transitioning from no nutrients to a nutrient solution, possibly facilitating a high uptake of nutrients. Our results suggest the roots of HLB-affected trees are highly efficient in nutrient uptake; however, a small root mass is a major limitation in nutrient uptake. Certain micronutrients and secondary macronutrients are also metabolized (possibly involved in tree defense or oxidative stress response) at a higher rate in HLB-affected trees than healthy trees. Therefore, a constant supply of fertilizer at a slightly higher rate than what is recommended for micronutrients and secondary macronutrients would be beneficial for managing HLB-affected trees.

Free access

Lisa Tang, Shweta Chhajed, Tripti Vashisth, Mercy A. Olmstead, James W. Olmstead, and Thomas A. Colquhoun

To determine how the dormancy-breaking agent hydrogen cyanamide (HC) advances budbreak in peach (Prunus persica), this study compared the transcriptome of buds of low-chill ‘TropicBeauty’ peach trees treated with 1% (v/v) HC and that of nontreated trees at 3 and 7 days after treatment (DAT), respectively, using an RNA sequencing analysis. The peak of total budbreak occurred 6 weeks earlier in the HC-treated trees (at 32 DAT) than the nontreated trees (at 74 DAT). There were 1312 and 1095 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) at 3 and 7 DAT, respectively. At 3 DAT, DEGs related to oxidative stress, including the response to hypoxia, lipid oxidation, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) metabolic process, were upregulated in HC-treated buds. Additionally, DEGs encoding enzymes for ROS scavenging and the pentose phosphate pathway were upregulated at 3 DAT but they were not differently expressed at 7 DAT, indicating a temporary demand for defense mechanisms against HC-triggered oxidative stress. Upregulation of DEGs for cell division and development at 7 DAT, which were downregulated at 3 DAT, suggests that cell activity was initially suppressed but was enhanced within 7 DAT. At 7 DAT, DEGs related to cell wall degradation and modification were upregulated, which was possibly responsible for the burst of buds. The results of this study strongly suggest that HC induces transient oxidative stress shortly after application, leading to the release of bud dormancy and, subsequently, causing an increase in cell activity and cell wall loosening, thereby accelerating budbreak in peach.

Open access

Samuel Kwakye, Davie M. Kadyampakeni, Edzard van Santen, Tripti Vashisth, and Alan Wright

Improving nutrient uptake and tree health play an important role in managing Huanglongbing (HLB)-affected citrus trees in Florida. A greenhouse experiment was conducted to evaluate the effect of increasing rates of manganese (Mn) on growth and development of sweet orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck] trees at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, FL. Half the trees were graft-inoculated with the HLB pathogen and the remainder were used as the HLB-free (non HLB) control trees. Four rates of Mn (0.0 kg·ha−1 Mn (Control), 5.6 kg·ha−1 Mn (1x—standard rate), 11.2 kg·ha−1 Mn (2x—standard rate), and 22.4 kg·ha−1 Mn (4x—standard rate) were split applied quarterly to both sets of the trees in a completely randomized design. There were seven single tree replicates for each treatment. Response variables measured were trunk diameter, tree height, leaf Mn concentration, plus above- and belowground biomass. The accumulated Mn in leaf tissues significantly increased trunk diameter but did not affect tree height for both HLB-affected and non-HLB trees, the 2x rate had the maximum value for trunk diameter relative to the 4x rate. This study established a positive correlation between soil available Mn with Fe and Cu, but negative correlation with B and Zn. A strong correlation of −0.76, −0.69, and 0.65 was observed between soil Mn and B, Zn, and Cu, respectively, as compared with 0.49 with Mn and Fe. Among HLB-affected trees, the 2x rate gave the most belowground dry matter, which was 3% greater than the control and 5% greater than 4x. Aboveground dry matter had at least 30% more biomass than belowground matter among all treatments within HLB-affected trees. For small and medium roots, Mn accumulation increased with Mn application until 2x rate and decreased thereafter for HLB-affected trees. The results from our study showed an Mn rate of 8.9–11.5 kg·ha−1 Mn, as the optimum Mn level for young ‘Valencia’ HLB-affected trees in Florida.

Open access

Samuel Kwakye, Davie M. Kadyampakeni, Kelly Morgan, Tripti Vashisth, and Alan Wright

Essential nutrients for citrus [‘Bingo’ (Citrus reticulata, Blanco)] production are important for different functions, including photosynthesis, resistance to disease, and productivity. During the past 15 to 20 years, citrus production in Florida has significantly declined as a result of the devastating citrus greening disease also called huanglongbing (HLB). Therefore, a greenhouse study was conducted for 2 years, starting in 2018, at the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Citrus Research and Education Center in Florida to evaluate the effect of varying rates of iron on the growth and development of 2-year-old HLB-affected ‘Bingo’ (Citrus reticulata, Blanco) trees on Kuharske citrange rootstock. Four treatments were used in a randomized complete block (HLB status) design with seven single tree replicates for each treatment. The treatments applied were 0.0 (control), 5.6 (standard fertilization, lx), 11.2 (2x), and 22.4 (4x) kg⋅ha−1 iron on HLB-affected and healthy (non-HLB) citrus trees. Data including trunk diameter, tree height, and leaf samples were collected, processed, and analyzed at 3-month intervals for 2 years. At the end of the second year, trees were destructively sampled and processed as above-ground and below-ground biomass. Tree heights were different among iron rates of HLB-affected trees (P < 0.001); however, they were similar for non-HLB trees for both years. Higher average trunk diameters (P < 0.001) were observed for HLB-affected trees that received the 2x rate compared with the 1x rate and the control. In 2019, non-HLB trees showed 13% to 40% higher iron concentrations in leaves than HLB-affected trees. However, leaf iron concentrations were comparable for HLB-affected and non-HLB trees in 2020. Above-ground biomass for HLB-affected trees had between 33% and 44% more biomass (P < 0.01) than below-ground biomass for the corresponding iron fertilization. Iron accumulation correlated positively with all studied nutrients in the above-ground parts for both HLB-affected and non-HLB trees. A 95% confidence interval at which total biomass was nearly maximum corresponded to an iron rate of 9.6 to 11.8 kg⋅ha−1, which was close to the 2x rate. Therefore, soil iron application using the aforementioned rates may be appropriate for better growth and development of young HLB-affected trees.