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Christopher C. Gunter, Matthew D. Kleinhenz, and Jiwan P. Palta

Pathogenic bacteria (Erwinia spp.) can have a significant impact on stand establishment and sprout health. These bacteria cause soft rot of the seed piece, which is common in wet spring conditions resulting in great economic loss. Recent studies have demonstrated that the incidence and severity of soft rot can be significantly reduced by increasing tuber calcium. We investigated the influence of seed piece calcium on tuber production. Field growing potato plants were treated with supplemental calcium during tuber bulking (calcium at 168 kg·ha–1 from calcium nitrate or N-Hib) to increase the seed tuber medullary calcium levels. All three cultivars (`Superior', `Atlantic', `Dark Red Norland') responded to supplemental calcium application with increases in mean calcium contents, even though soil tests showed high native calcium levels (1000 kg·ha–1). Seed tubers were sampled for calcium by removing a longitudinal slice from the center of each tuber and planting one of the resulting halves for seed piece decay evaluation and the other for yield evaluation. Calcium nitrate-treated seed tubers produced higher yields compared to ammonium nitrate and N-Hib in `Atlantic' in `Dark Red Norland'. This trend did not hold true for `Superior'. Our results suggest that a) it is possible to increase seed piece tuber calcium levels with supplemental calcium application even in soils testing high in calcium and b) improving the calcium concentration of the seed piece can increase tuber yield in some cultivars.

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Karim M. Farag, Jiwan P. Palta, and Elden J. Stang

The application of ethanol for enhancing effectiveness of ethephon under field conditions on cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.) fruit was tested during three seasons (1986 to 1988). The formulation containing ethephon plus the surfactant Tergitol (0.3% or 0.5%, v/v) and ethanol (2.5%, 5%, or 10%) consistently increased anthocyanin content in the fruit by 28% to 54% over the control. In general, fruit size was not affected by the ethephon treatment containing ethanol and Tergitol. The application of ethephon plus surfactant did not increase the anthocyanin content in the fruit. The presence of ethanol in the ethephon and surfactant mixture, however, consistently enhanced the fruit anthocyanin content by 21% to 40% as compared to ethephon plus surfactant. No adverse effect of various treatments on vine growth or appearance was noticed over the three seasons. Chemical name used: (2-chloroethyl) phosphonic acid (ethephon).

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James S. Busse, Senay Ozgen, and Jiwan P. Palta*

Calcium deficiency in the potato shoot results in sub-apical necrosis. This is a physiological condition whereby necrotic lesions form a few millimeters below the shoot apex ultimately causing shoot tip senescence, loss of apical dominance, and the release of axillary buds. Using a Dark Red Norland tissue culture system, we studied the relationship of root zone calcium levels to shoot tip maintenance. Root zone calcium levels lower than 50 ppm resulted in shoot tip death and prolific branching from axillary buds. Chelator studies with EGTA and tracer studies with 45 Ca, indicated a direct involvement of calcium at the shoot tip for shoot tip maintenance. Interestingly, low root zone calcium deficiency syptoms could be mitigated with 0.001 to 0.01 μM of the auxin analog NAA. Developmental studies of calcium deficiency symptoms indicate no anatomical relationship with shoot tip necrosis as xylem conducting elements were found near the shoot apex regardless of the root zone calcium level. These results have important implications for potato shoot development especially during the early development stage from the seed piece.

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Rita A. Teutonico, Jiwan P. Palta, and Tom C. Osborn

Identification of the genes involved in freezing tolerance in oilseed Erussica could lead to genetic improvement of winter survival of this crop and other species, as well as provide greater understanding of the basis of cold stress tolerance in plants. We developed a genetic linkage map for B. rapa using restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs) and identified molecular markers which are linked to genes controlling vernalization requirement and freezing tolerance. We mapped the location of a group of cold-regulated (`cor') genes from Arabidopsis thaliana in this population and determined their association with freezing tolerance and vernalization requirement. We developed genetically fixed, recombinant inbred lines of B. rapa to assay the physiological processes involved in these cold responses. Specifically, we measured the differences in lipid composition of the plasma membranes of acclimated and nonacclimated plants of a subset of this population. We will determine if the genes involved in the physiological responses to cold temperature are also associated with the acquisition of freezing tolerance.

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Beth Ann A. Workmaster, Jiwan P. Palta, and Jonathan D. Smith

In Wisconsin, the cranberry plant (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.) is protected from freezing temperatures by flooding and sprinkle irrigation. Due to the high value of the crop, growers typically overprotect by taking action at relatively warm temperatures. Our goal is to provide recommendations for improved frost protection strategies by studying seasonal hardiness changes in different parts of the cranberry plant (leaves, stems, buds, flowers, fruit). Stages of bud growth were defined and utilized in the hardiness determinations. Samples were collected from mid-April to mid-Oct. 1996 and cuttings were subjected to a series of freezing temperatures in a circulating glycol bath. Damage to plant parts was assessed by visual scoring and observation, ion leakage, and evaluation of the capability to regrow. The following results were obtained: 1) Overwintering structures, such as leaves, stems, and buds, can survive temperatures <–18°C in early spring, and then deacclimate to hardinesses between 0 and –2°C by late spring. 2) In the terminal bud floral meristems are much more sensitive to freeze–thaw stress than are the vegetative meristems. 3) Deacclimation of various plant parts occurred within 1 week, when minimum canopy temperatures were above 0°C, and when the most numerous bud stage collected stayed the same (bud swell). 4) Fruits >75% blush can survive temperatures of –5°C for short durations. By collecting environmental data from the same location we are attempting to relate plant development, frost hardiness, and canopy temperatures (heat units).

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Yu-Kuang Chen, John B. Bamberg, and Jiwan P. Palta

Tetraploid somatic hybrids between S. tuberosum (tbr) and S. commersonii (cmm) have been produced to incorporate desirable traits such as cold hardiness from cmm into cultivated potatoes. While nonacclimated freezing tolerance (NA) of these somatic hybrids were as low as tbr fusion parent, their acclimation capacity (ACC) approximated that of the parental mean. In order to further explore the potential of using these somatic hybrids in breeding programs and to examine the segregation of genes conferring NA and ACC in somatic hybrids, progenies have been developed from either selfing somatic hybrids or crossing them with a tuberosum breeding line, Wis 231. In total, 48 selfed and 6 backcross progenies were characterized for the expression of NA and ACC. The NA derived from cmm was still poorly recovered in both sets of progenies. However, ACC did show some variation ranging from the level of sensitive fusion parent to that of the selfed parent, HA 26-5. None of the progeny had ACC as high as their cmm parent. Our results suggest that the expression of NA was suppressed by the cold sensitive genome of tbr. Thus, ACC is the form of cold tolerance from cmm, which appears to be most easily accessed though these somatic hybrids.

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Sandra E Vega, Jiwan P. Palta, and John B. Bamberg

Frost injury limits the cultivation of potatoes in many regions around the world. We are currently studying the factors that contribute to frost survival in potato in an attempt to improve its frost tolerance. Wild potato species have been distinguished for their high degree of non-acclimated frost tolerance (growing under normal conditions) and their high cold acclimation capacity (able to increase frost tolerance upon exposure to cold). Cold acclimation can be reversed upon exposure to warm temperatures (deacclimation). The ability to gain freezing tolerance rapidly in response to low temperatures as well as not being able to deacclimate rapidly in response to warm daytime temperatures would be advantageous for a plant against spring or fall freezes. Last year we presented evidence for the variability in the speed of cold acclimation among 7 wild tuber-bearing potato species (S. acaule, S. commersonii, S. megistacrolobum, S. multidissectum, S. polytrichon, S. sanctae-rosae and S. toralapanum). The same set of species was used for the present study to find out if there is also variability for the speed of deacclimation. Relative freezing tolerance of these species was measured before and after cold acclimation as well as after one day of deacclimation (exposure to warm temperatures). Our results suggest that there are differences in the speed of deacclimation among these species. We found that while some species lost near a half of their hardiness, others lost only a third or less of their hardiness after one day of deacclimation.

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Matthew D. Kleinhenz, Christopher C. Gunter, and Jiwan P. Palta

A direct comparison was made of several commercially available calcium sources applied on two different schedules for their effectiveness in increasing tuber medullary and periderm tissue calcium concentrations in 170–284-g tubers of the cultivar Atlantic grown on a Plainfield sandy loam. Plots (6 x 3 m) were arranged in a CR design in 1993 and a RCBD in 1994 (eight replications). Paired measurements of tuber Ca concentration and internal quality (±hollow heart, ±internal brown spot) were made on individual tubers produced in plots with no additional or additional Ca (168 kg Ca/ha) supplied from either gypsum, liquid calcium nitrate, or NHIB. Two Ca and N application schedules were compared: 1) application at emergence and hilling (non-split), 2) application at emergence, hilling, and 4 and 8 weeks after hilling (split). All plots received 224 kg H/ha balanced with ammonium nitrate. In general, tuber yield and grade were unaffected by treatments in 1993 and 1994, but overall percent A-grade was lowest and percent B-grade highest in 1993 compared with 1994 data. In 1993, all treatments receiving Ca had greater mean tuber medullary and periderm tissue Ca concentration values and a greater percentage of tubers with an elevated Ca concentration compared with non-Ca-supplemented controls. The overall incidence of tuber internal defects was 5% in 1993. All split schedule treatments receiving Ca showed 0% internal defects. In contrast, nearly 8% of the tubers from control plots showed some defect. The medullary tissue Ca concentration of 65% of the tubers having either defect was below the median value of Ca concentration for the entire experiment in 1993. Similar evaluations are underway for the 1994 crop. These data suggest that tuber calcium concentration may be related to the incidence of these internal defects.

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Björn H. Karlsson, Jiwan P. Palta, and Peter M. Crump

Our previous research has provided evidence that in-season calcium applications can increase tuber calcium and improve tuber quality with reduced internal defects. To determine if increasing the tuber calcium concentration also mitigates tuber bruise incidence, five commercially relevant potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) cultivars (`Russet Burbank', `Atlantic', `Snowden', `Superior', and `Dark Red Norland') were grown during three seasons, 1999–2001. Three split applications of a calcium/nitrogen water soluble blend totaling 168 kg·ha–1calcium were made starting at hilling. All plots, including controls, received an equal amount of total nitrogen in a season. Tubers were allowed to be bruised during normal machine harvest standard to commercial production in Wisconsin. Over 100 tubers from each replication (5–10 replications/treatment) were cut and examined for the incidences of bruise and internal brown spot. Paired samples of medullary tissue were taken for measuring calcium concentration. As expected, tuber tissue calcium concentration increased significantly, in all cultivars and in all years, with in-season calcium application. Bruise incidence varied among cultivars and seasons. Although tuber calcium concentration varied among seasons, `Atlantic' and 'Snowden' consistently had the lowest calcium concentration, whereas `Superior' and `Dark Red Norland' consistently had the highest calcium concentration. Meta-analysis of pooled data for three years showed that blackspot bruise incidence was significantly reduced with calcium application in `Atlantic', `Burbank', and `Snowden'. On the other hand, `Dark Red Norland' and `Superior' had low incidence of bruise and were unaffected by calcium applications. Regression analyses of pooled data from all cultivars for three years revealed a significant quadratic relationship between blackspot bruise and tuber tissue calcium as well as between blackspot bruise and internal brown spot. A linear to plateau plot of medullary calcium concentration versus blackspot bruise incidence revealed that bruise incidence is minimized between 200 and 250 μg/kg (dry wt)–1 tuber calcium concentration. To our knowledge, ours is the first study providing evidence for reducing bruise by improving tuber calcium. Variations in the bruise incidences among cultivars generally followed tuber calcium concentration suggesting a genetic control. Given the role of calcium in improved membrane health and enhanced wall structure, and as a modulator of physiological responses, it is not surprising that internal brown spot and bruise incidences are reduced by in-season application to calcium-deficient cultivars.

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Mustafa Ozgen, Jiwan P. Palta, and Stephen B. Ryu

Ethephon [2-(chloroethyl) phoshonic acid] is used widely to maximize the yield of ripe tomato fruits. However, ethephon causes rapid and extensive defoliation, overripening, and promotes sunscald damage to the fruit. Recent studies from our laboratory have provided evidence that lysophosphatidylethanolamine (LPE) can reduce leaf senescence. We investigated the potential use of LPE to reduce damaging effect of ethephon on tomato foliage and influence on the activity of phospholipase D (PLD). Disruption of membrane integrity has been suggested as a primary cause of senescence in plants. PLD is known to be a key enzyme, which initiates the selective degradation of membrane phospholipids in senescing tissues. Two-month-old tomato plants (`Mountain Spring') grown in greenhouse condition were sprayed with water, 200 ppm LPE, and 1000 ppm ethephon. In addition, LPE spray prior to ethephon or mixture with ethephon were also tested. Leaves were sampled after 0, 2, 5, 24, 72, and 168 h of spray application, for PLD activity measurements. Spray of LPE prior to ethephon spray or inclusion of LPE in the ethephon spray reduced foliar injury by ethephon. Activity of soluble PLD was increased dramatically in leaves sprayed with ethephon initially and than dropped by 7 days. We also found that LPE-treated leaves had lower PLD activity than the ethephon-treated leaves. Plants treated with LPE-ethephon mixture also showed significantly lower PLD activity. These results suggest that LPE treatments mitigate ethephon injury to tomato plants. Furthermore, it appears that this mitigation involves modulation of the activity of PLD.