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Nicacio Cruz-Huerta, Jeffrey G. Williamson, and Rebecca L. Darnell

Cool night temperatures have been reported to induce ovary swelling and consequent fruit deformation in bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.), resulting in unmarketable fruit. This response is a serious limitation to the success of winter production systems for bell pepper. Limited work has been done with other types of sweet pepper, so it is unknown how universal this response is. Furthermore, most prior work has examined effects on ovary diameter only, and there is limited characterization of other ovary traits in response to cool night temperature. The objectives of the present study were to determine the effects of low night temperature on ovary characteristics in different sweet pepper cultivars and to determine the parts of the ovary that are most affected by these factors. Three types of sweet pepper (bell, long-fruited, and cherry) were exposed to 22/20 or 22/12 °C day:night temperatures and flowers at anthesis were continuously harvested throughout the experiments. Ovary fresh weight (FW), diameter, and length across all types (and cultivars within type) were greater under 22/12 °C compared with 22/20 °C. The increase in ovary FW was the result of increases in both ovary wall and placenta FW. In general, all cultivars exhibited increases in ovary size under 12 °C compared with 20 °C night temperature. Differences in ovary FW resulting from night temperature became more pronounced with time. These results indicate that low night temperature effects on ovary swelling may be a universal response among sweet pepper types. Three to 4 weeks are required for maximum swelling response, suggesting that flower buds must be exposed to low night temperatures within the first week after flower bud initiation, because previous work found that flower bud initiation in bell pepper takes ≈4 weeks. However, the duration of low night temperatures necessary for this response remains unknown.

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Keith T. Birkhold, Karen E. Koch, and Rebecca L. Darnell

Carbon dioxide exchange, dry weight, C, and N content of `Bonita' and `Climax' blueberry (Vaccinium ashei Reade) fruit were measured from anthesis through fruit ripening to quantify developmental changes in amounts of imported C and N required for fruit development. Net photosynthesis occurred in fruit of both rabbiteye cultivars from petal fall through color break. During this time, fruit net photosynthesis declined from 16 μmol CO2/g fresh weight (FW) per hour for `Bonita' and 22 μmol CO2/g FW per hour for `Climax' to 0.2 μmol CO2/g FW per hour for both. Dark respiration for both cultivars declined following petal fall from 16 μmol CO2/g FW per hour to 3 μmol CO2/g FW per hour before increasing at fruit ripening to 9 μmol CO2/g FW per hour. Fruit C content was constant at 0.43 mg C/mg dry weight (DW) throughout development, while N content declined from 0.05 mg N/mg DW at petal fall to 0.01 mg N/mg DW at ripeness. DW accumulation and respiration accounted for 63% and 37%, respectively, of the total C requirement for fruit development. Fruit photosynthesis was estimated to contribute 15% of the total C required for fruit development in both cultivars; however, fruit photosynthesis supplied 50% of the C required during the first 10 days after bloom and 85% during the 5 days after petal fall. This large, early contribution of C from fruit photosynthesis may aid in the establishment of fruit until the current season's vegetative growth can supplement plant carbohydrate reserves in providing C for fruit development.

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Gerardo H. Nunez, James W. Olmstead, and Rebecca L. Darnell

Vaccinium arboreum (VA) is a wild blueberry species that exhibits wider soil pH tolerance and greater ability for iron and nitrate uptake than cultivated Vaccinium species, including southern highbush blueberry (SHB, V. corymbosum interspecific hybrids). The ability of VA and SHB to respond to iron deficiency by rhizosphere acidification was investigated. Rooted cuttings of the VA genotype FL09-502 and SHB ‘Emerald’ were transplanted to a hydroponic system filled with complete nutrient solution. After 14 days of acclimation at 45 µm iron, plants were transferred to unbuffered nutrient solutions containing 90 or 10 µm iron. ‘Emerald’ and FL09-502 plants grown in 10 µm iron exhibited less iron uptake and lower chlorophyll, total iron, and active iron contents than plants grown in 90 µm iron. Generally, there were no species-level differences in iron or nitrate uptake. Neither FL09-502 nor ‘Emerald’ acidified the rhizosphere in either the nutrient solution or in a gel-based assay, regardless of external iron concentration. A screen of 18 additional genotypes of VA and SHB confirmed that this response is absent in these taxa. Thus, rhizosphere acidification is not part of the iron deficiency response of SHB and VA. In addition, the ability to acidify the soil is not likely to be responsible for the wider soil pH tolerance of VA.

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Rebecca L. Darnell, Horacio E. Alvarado-Raya, and Jeffrey G. Williamson

Annual production systems for red raspberry (Rubus idaeus L.) have been proposed for off-season production or for increasing crop diversity in warm winter climates. However, yields in these annual systems are low compared with annual yields in perennial production systems. The yield reduction may be from the root pruning that occurs during removal and shipment of the canes from the nursery. This would result in significant root loss and may decrease the availability of root carbohydrates for reproductive development. To investigate this, ‘Cascade Delight’ red raspberry plants were root pruned during dormancy, and growth and fruiting of these plants were compared with non root-pruned controls the next season. Dry weights of all organs except floricane stems increased throughout the growing season; however, root pruning decreased root, floricane lateral, and total fruit dry weight compared with no root pruning. The yield decrease observed in root-pruned plants was because of a decrease in flower and fruit number per cane compared with the control. Total carbohydrate concentration in roots of root-pruned and non root-pruned plants decreased significantly between pruning and budbreak; however, root carbohydrate concentration and content were always lower in root-pruned compared with non root-pruned plants. The lower root carbohydrate availability in root-pruned compared with non root-pruned plants during budbreak apparently limited flower bud formation/differentiation, resulting in decreased yield. These results suggest that yields in annual red raspberry production systems are limited because of the loss of root carbohydrates during removal from the nursery. Management practices that increase yield per plant (e.g., by ameliorating root loss) or increase yields per hectare (e.g., by increasing planting density) are needed to render the annual production system economically viable.

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Gerardo H. Nunez, Alisson P. Kovaleski, and Rebecca L. Darnell

Consumer perception plays an important role in the decision to purchase organic vs. conventional produce. A web-based survey was used to evaluate perceptions and purchase behavior toward organic produce in a sample population of college-aged students. The effect of formal education on this perception was also investigated. Most subjects in this sample population were aware of and had positive perceptions of organic produce and organic agriculture. The likelihood of being an organic consumer was similar across genders, ages, and fields of study. Subjects who reported to be organic consumers associated less risk with organic produce than those who reported to never have purchased organic produce. A 50-minute lecture about organic agriculture altered the perception students had about organic produce. After the lecture, students expressed bleaker perceptions about the health benefits and ethical soundness of organic agriculture. On the other hand, after the lecture students expressed a more positive perception of the policies and regulations that govern the organic foods market. Overall, data suggest that students’ perception of organic produce and agriculture is based on anecdotal evidence and that formal education on the topic of organic agriculture can affect this perception.

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Rebecca L. Darnell, Nicacio Cruz-Huerta, and Jeffrey G. Williamson

Low night temperatures and/or high source-sink ratios increase ovary swelling and subsequent fruit malformation in many sweet peppers (Capsicum annuum), including bell pepper. Although this response has been correlated with increased ovary carbohydrate accumulation, evidence for this is limited. Furthermore, it is unknown how the combined effects of night temperature and source-sink ratio affect ovary carbohydrate accumulation and ovary swelling. The objectives of the present work were to determine night temperature and source-sink effects on ovary swelling, net carbon exchange rate (CER), and soluble sugar and starch concentrations in bell pepper ovaries at anthesis. Source-sink and temperature effects were tested by comparing fruiting (low source-sink ratio or high sink demand) with non-fruiting (high source-sink ratio or low sink demand) ‘Legionnaire’ bell pepper plants grown at 22/20 °C [high night temperature (HNT)] or 22/12 °C [low night temperature (LNT)] day:night temperatures. Flowers that opened after imposition of the temperature and fruiting treatments were harvested at anthesis. Ovaries from harvested flowers were weighed and analyzed for non-structural carbohydrates. Leaf gas exchange measurements were performed every 3 days. Ovary fresh weight of flowers harvested at anthesis was highest in non-fruiting plants under LNT and lowest in plants grown under HNT regardless of fruiting status. Mean CER averaged over the experimental period was significantly higher in fruiting plants under HNT compared with all other treatments. There were no significant interactions between night temperature and fruiting status on ovary soluble sugar or starch concentrations. Low night temperature increased glucose, fructose, and starch concentration and decreased sucrose concentration in the ovary wall compared with HNT. There were no differences in soluble sugar or starch concentrations in the ovary wall between fruiting and non-fruiting plants. Thus, although both low temperature and high source-sink ratio (i.e., non-fruiting plants) resulted in ovary swelling, the mechanisms appear to differ. Whereas LNT effects on ovary swelling were associated with increased ovary carbohydrate accumulation, this association was not apparent when ovary swelling occurred in response to high source-sink ratios.

Open access

Rebecca L. Darnell and David C. Ferree

Abstract

The influence of environmental conditions on tree growth and cuticular covering of leaves of apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) was investigated in relation to spary uptake. Various interactions between environmental factors influenced growth responses. Under cooler temperatures (20°C), 75% shade reduced shoot growth and leaf number; however, under warmer temperatures (25°), shading had no effect. High soil water potential (−13 KPa) and 75% shade significantly reduced total leaf area per tree, while under low soil water potential (−33 KPa), shading had little effect. The dry weight of total leaves per tree decreased 46% as soil water potential decreased under full-sun conditions. Under shade, a decrease in soil water potential resulted in a 20% decrease in dry weight. Total stem dry weight decreased as temperature increased under full-sun conditions; however, temperature had little effect on stem dry weight in plants grown under shade. Under 75% shade, an increase in temperature decreased total specific leaf weight (SLW), while under full sun there was no temperature effect. SLW of newly formed leaves was not influenced by environmental interactions. Leaf epicuticular wax quantity increased as soil water potential decreased. A decrease in soil water potential increased the proportion of alkanes and wax esters in extracted leaf waxes. Alkane content also increased as temperature increased. The different environmental growing conditions influenced the photosynthetic mechanism and masked the effect of prometryn, a triazine herbicide, thereby rendering it unreliable as a method for determining foliar absorption.

Free access

Bruno Casamali, Jeffrey G. Williamson, Alisson P. Kovaleski, Steven A. Sargent, and Rebecca L. Darnell

The profitability of the fresh market blueberry industry in many areas is constrained by the extensive use and cost of soil amendments, high labor requirements for hand harvesting, and the inefficiencies of mechanical harvesters. Vaccinium arboreum Marsh is a wild species that has wide soil adaptation and monopodial growth habit. It has the potential to be used as a blueberry rootstock, expanding blueberry production to marginal soil and improving the mechanical harvesting efficiency of cultivated blueberry. The objectives of this research were to compare yield, berry quality, and postharvest fruit storage of own-rooted vs. grafted southern highbush blueberry (SHB) cultivars (Farthing and Meadowlark) grown on amended vs. nonamended soil and either hand or mechanical harvested. Yields of hand-harvested SHB during the first two fruiting years were generally greater in own-rooted plants grown on amended soil compared with own-rooted plants on nonamended soil or grafted plants on either soil treatment. However, by the second fruiting year, hand-harvest yields of grafted SHB were ≈80% greater than own-rooted plants when grown in nonamended soil. Yields of mechanical-harvested SHB grafted on V. arboreum and grown in either soil treatment were similar to yields of mechanical-harvested own-rooted plants in amended soil the second fruiting year, and greater than yields of own-rooted plants in non-amended soil. In general, mechanical harvesting reduced marketable yield ≈40% compared with hand harvesting. However, grafted plants reduced ground losses during harvest by ≈35% compared with own-rooted plants for both cultivars. Mechanical-harvested berries had a greater total soluble solids:total titratable acidity ratio (TSS:TTA) than hand-harvested berries, and berries harvested toward the end of the harvest season had a greater TSS:TTA than those from early-season harvests. As postharvest storage time increased, berry appearance ratings decreased and berry softness and shriveling increased, particularly in mechanical-harvested compared with hand-harvested berries. Firmness of mechanical-harvested berries decreased during storage, whereas firmness of hand-harvested berries remained relatively stable. However, fruit quality at harvest and during postharvest storage was unaffected by V. arboreum rootstocks or lack of pine bark amendment. This study suggests that using V. arboreum as a rootstock in an alternative blueberry production system has the potential to decrease the use of soil amendments and increase mechanical harvesting efficiency.

Free access

Alisson P. Kovaleski, Jeffrey G. Williamson, James W. Olmstead, and Rebecca L. Darnell

Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) production is increasing worldwide, particularly in subtropical growing regions, but information on timing and extent of inflorescence bud development during summer and fall and effects on bloom the next season are limited. The objectives of this study were to determine time of inflorescence bud initiation, describe internal inflorescence bud development, and determine the relationship between internal inflorescence bud development and bloom period the next spring in two southern highbush blueberry [SHB (Vaccinium corymbosum interspecific hybrids)] cultivars. ‘Emerald’ and ‘Jewel’ SHB buds were collected beginning in late summer until shoot growth cessation in late fall for dissection and identification of organ development. Inflorescence bud frequency and number, vegetative and inflorescence bud length and width throughout development, and bloom were also assessed. Inflorescence bud initiation occurred earlier in ‘Emerald’ compared with ‘Jewel’. Five stages of internal inflorescence bud development were defined throughout fall in both cultivars, ranging from a vegetative meristem to early expansion of the inflorescence bud in late fall. ‘Emerald’ inflorescence buds were larger and bloomed earlier, reflecting the earlier inflorescence bud initiation and development. Although inflorescence bud initiation occurred earlier in ‘Emerald’ compared with ‘Jewel’, the pattern of development was not different. Timing of inflorescence bud initiation influenced timing of bloom with earlier initiation resulting in earlier bloom.

Free access

Gerardo H. Nunez, Hilda Patricia Rodríguez-Armenta, Rebecca L. Darnell, and James W. Olmstead

Root growth and root system architecture (RSA) are affected by edaphic and genetic factors and they can impact plant growth and farm profitability. Southern highbush blueberries [SHBs (Vaccinium corymbosum hybrids)] develop shallow, fibrous root systems, and exhibit a preference for acidic soils where water and ammonium are readily available. The amendments used to create these soil conditions negatively affect the profitability of SHB plantations. Hence, breeding for RSA traits has been suggested as an alternative to soil amendments. Vaccinium arboreum is a wild species that is used in SHB breeding. V. arboreum exhibits greater drought tolerance and broader soil pH adaptation than SHB, and—according to anecdotal evidence—it develops deep, taproot-like root systems. The present study constitutes the first in-depth study of the RSA of Vaccinium species with the intention of facilitating breeding for RSA traits. Root systems were studied in rhizotron-grown seedling families. In separate experiments, we tested the effect that growth substrate and family pedigree can have on root growth and RSA. Subsequently, a genotyping by sequence approach was used to develop single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers that could be used along with the phenotyping method to investigate the heritability of RSA traits and look for marker-trait associations. We found that RSA is affected by growth substrate and family pedigree. In addition, we found that V. arboreum exhibited greater maximum root depth and a lower percentage of roots in the top 8 cm of soil than SHB, and interspecific hybrids generally exhibited intermediate phenotypes. Also, we found that RSA traits exhibit moderate to low heritability and genetic correlations among them. Finally, we found 59 marker-trait associations. Among these markers, 37 were found to be located in exons, and 16 of them were annotated based on protein homology with entries in National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) GenBank. Altogether, the present study provides tools that can be used to breed for root architecture traits in SHB.