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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.

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

Sorbitol is the major photosynthetic product in peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch.]. In sink tissues, sorbitol is converted to fructose via NAD+-dependent SDH. A new procedure is described that allows rapid, simple quantification of SDH activity in growing tissues. The procedure uses only 0.01 to 5 g of fresh tissue per sample, such that a single shoot tip, a single root tip, or ≈5 g of fruit flesh can be assayed for SDH activity. Storage of samples at 4 or -20 °C overnight resulted in significant loss of enzyme activity. Thus, freshly harvested tissues were ground with sand in buffer at 2 °C in a mortar and pestle, and the homogenate was centrifuged at 3000 g n to remove particulate matter and sand. The supernatant was desalted on a Sephadex G-25 column, and the eluent was assayed for SDH activity immediately. Activity was determined by measuring the production of NADH per minute in the assay mixture using a spectrophotometer (340 nm). Tris buffer at pH 9.0 was the best for extraction of peach SDH. Activity of SDH was strongly inhibited by dithiothreitol (DTT) in the extraction mixture and by DTT, L-cysteine, or SDI-158 in the assay mixture, similar to results reported for SDH from mammalian tissues. Peach SDH has a Km of 37.7 mm for sorbitol and a pH optimum of 9.5, similar to those reported for apple (Malus × domestica Borkh.) SDH. Unlike older protocols for SDH activity in plant tissues, the new procedure features reduced sample size (1/10 to 1/100 of that which was previously used), smaller volumes of buffer, fewer buffer ingredients, greatly reduced time for sample preparation, yet comparable or higher values of SDH specific activity. Following the same procedure, SDH activity was also measured in Prunus fremontii Wats., Prunus ilicifolia (Nutt.) Walp., and Marianna 2624 plum (P. cerasifera Ehrh. × P. munsoniana Wight & Hedr.).

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Ganesh R. Panta, Mark W. Rieger, and Lisa J. Rowland

The blueberry industry experiences significant losses every year due to environmental factors with a dehydrative component, such as drought and freezing stress. In a recent survey of blueberry research and extension scientists in the United States, lack of cold hardiness and susceptibility to spring frosts were identified as the most important genetic limitations of current cultivars. For these reasons, cloning and characterization of expression of dehydration-responsive genes (dehydrins) have been ongoing in our laboratory. To date, one full-length (2.0 kb bbdhn1 gene) and four partial-length dehydrin cDNAs have been cloned and sequenced. Very high homology at the DNA and protein levels were found among the blueberry dehydrin clones, particularly at the 3' ends. From DNA blots, it appears that blueberry dehydrins are encoded by about three genes with high homology to the full-length 2.0 kb bbdhn1 cDNA clone and a few other less related genes. The 2.0 kb bbdhn1 gene was mapped in a blueberry population segregating for cold hardiness and chilling requirement. Expression studies indicated that dehydrins are induced by cold and drought stress. In general, dehydrins were induced in all organs examined in response to cold stress, including floral buds, leaves, stems, and roots. Under drought conditions, dehydrins were induced primarily in stems and their levels declined in roots. Some of the induced dehydrins were the same for drought and cold stress, whereas others were unique to a given stress. Levels of dehydrin accumulation correlated positively with cold hardiness; however, levels of dehydrins did not correspond precisely to the degree of drought avoidance.

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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

Terminal portions of `Flordaguard' peach roots [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] were divided into six segments and the activities of NAD+-dependent sorbitol dehydrogenase (SDH), sorbitol oxidase (SOX), sucrose synthase (SS), soluble acid invertase (AI), and soluble neutral invertase (NI) were measured in each segment 10, 15, and 20 days after seed germination. The same type of experiment was conducted with terminal portions of `Flordaguard' and `Nemaguard' peach shoots except that one of the six segments consisted of the leaflets surrounding the apex. Independent of the age of individual roots, activities of SDH and AI were consistently highest in the meristematic portion and decreased with tissue maturation. In shoots, AI was the most active enzyme in the elongating portion subtending the apex, whereas SDH was primarily associated with meristematic tissues. A positive correlation between SDH and AI activities was found in various developmental zones of roots (r = 0.96) and shoots (r = 0.90). Sorbitol and sucrose contents were low in roots regardless of distance from tip, while sucrose showed a decreasing trend with distance and sorbitol, fructose, and glucose increased with distance from the meristem in shoots. Activity of SDH in internodes, but not apices, correlated with shoot elongation rate of both cultivars, whereas activities of other enzymes did not correlate with shoot elongation rate. We conclude that AI and SDH are the predominant enzymes of carbohydrate catabolism and the best indicators of sink growth and development in vegetative sinks of 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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Othmane Mandre, Mark Rieger, Stephen C. Myers, Ray Seversen, and Jean-Luc Regnard

Fruiting and nonfruiting `Washington' peach trees were grown in 2.4 (small) or 9-liter (large) containers to determine the influence of root confinement and fruiting on vegetative growth, fruit growth and quality, CO, assimilation (A), and carbohydrate content. Shoot length, fruit diameter, A, and leaf carbohydrates were measured weekly. Thirteen weeks after transplanting, trees were divided into roots, shoots, leaves, and fruit for dry weight measurement. The dry weight of all organs except fruit was reduced by root confinement, and only the weight of stems formed the previous season was not reduced by fruiting. Fruit dry weight was 30.0 g/tree for large- and small-container treatments, causing the yield efficiency (g fruit/g total dry wt) to be 50% higher for confined trees. Fruit red color, weight, and diameter were unaffected by root confinement, but higher flesh firmness and a more green ground color of the fruit surface from root-confined trees suggested that confinement delayed maturity. Vegetative growth was not reduced by lack of nonstructural carbohydrates in confined trees. A was reduced by root confinement on only the first of 11 measurement dates, whereas fruiting increased A on 5 of 8 measurement dates before fruit harvest. Fruit removal reduced A by 23% and 31% for nonconfined and confined trees, respectively, within 48 h of harvest. Leaf starch, sucrose, sorbitol, and total carbohydrate levels were negatively correlated with A when data were pooled, but inconsistent responses of A to carbohydrate content indicated that factors other than feedback inhibition were also responsible for the reduction in A on nonfruited trees. We hypothesized that a physiological signal originating in roots of confined trees reduced vegetativegrowth without reducing fruit growth.

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Carleton B. Wood, Timothy J. Smalley, Mark Rieger, and David E. Radcliffe

Container-grown Viburnum plicatum Thunb. var. tomentosum (Thunb.) Miq. `Mariesii' were planted in unamended planting holes, tilled plots, and tilled plots amended with aged pine bark. A 36-day drought was initiated 108 days after planting. Amending induced N deficiencies, reduced shoot growth, and increased root growth. Plants harvested from tilled and planting-hole plots at drought initiation had 63% and 68% more dry weight, respectively, than plants from amended plots. Between 8 and 19 days after drought (DAD) initiation, plants from tilled plots maintained higher relative leaf water content (RLWC) than plants from planting holes. Plants in amended plots maintained higher RLWC than both other treatments between 7 and 33 DAD. Amended and tilled treatments had higher relative leaf expansion rates (RLERs) than the planting-hole treatment 8, 11, 13, and 15 DAD. As the drought lengthened, plants in amended plots maintained higher RLERs than plants in tilled plots. While plants in pine bark-amended plots were more drought tolerant than those in tilled plots, it is unclear if increased drought tolerance was caused by the improved rooting environment or N deficiency.

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Gerard Krewer, Esendugue Greg Fonsah, Mark Rieger, Richard Wallace, David Linvill, and Ben Mullinix

Bananas (Musa spp.) are a popular ornamental plant in the southern United States; however, only a few cultivars, such as Lady's Finger and Orinoco, are grown in Georgia. Thirty-three primarily commercial cultivars of bananas were grown for 2 years near Savannah, Georgia, to determine their suitability for ornamental and nursery production, and for 3 years for fruit observations. Most plants were grown from tissue culture plugs. They were given rates of fertilization used for commercial banana fruit production. Most cultivars produced 10 to 14 leaves and grew to heights of 1.5 to 2.0 m. Some displayed desirable ornamental characteristics such as pink-tinted pseudostems, colorful flowers, and large graceful leaves. Some of the most attractive tall-growing cultivars were Belle, Ice Cream, Kandarian, Manzano, Saba, and 1780. Some of the most attractive medium-height cultivars were Dwarf Namwah, Dwarf Orinoco, Goldfinger, Raja Puri, and Super Plantain. In the short category, the cultivars Dwarf Nino, Gran Nain, Kru, and Sum X Cross were among the most attractive ornamentals. Many of the cultivars flowered and began producing fruit in late summer, although only ‘Raja Puri’, ‘Sweetheart’, and ‘1780’ produced palatable fruit before frost in November. Cultivars were also rated for their ability to produce suckers that could be used for nursery production. In year 2, ‘Manzano’ and ‘1780’ produced more than six high-quality suckers for nursery propagation. Potential income for these cultivars was over $60 per plant. For the planting as a whole, sales of suckers at a field day averaged $7 per plant in year 2, and $17 per plant in year 3.

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Jeffrey H. Gillman, Mark W. Rieger, Michael A. Dirr, and S. Kristine Braman

Two experiments were conducted to determine the effect of drought stress on the susceptibility of Buddleia davidii Franch. `Pink Delight' to the two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae Koch). In the first experiment, drought stress was imposed by withholding water until predawn xylem pressure potential fell below -1 MPa. Shoot growth was 75% less in drought-stressed than in nonstressed plants. Mite population densities were not affected, but noninfested leaf area was 14% higher, and degree of mite damage was lower, in nonstressed plants. Evidently, the greater amount of new growth in nonstressed plants leads to lower spider mite densities by diluting populations. In a second experiment, nonstressed B. davidii `Pink Delight' plants were watered every 1 to 2 days and drought-stressed plants were watered every 3 days. Spider mite populations were monitored by sampling newly expanded and mature foliage. Mite populations on mature foliage were not affected by stress, but stressed plants grew less and had larger spider mite populations on their newly expanded foliage than did nonstressed plants.