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William B. Miller*, Martijn Verlouw, Susan S. Liou, Holly O. Cirri, Karen Snover-Clift, and Chris Watkins

Ethylene evolution is a consequence of Fusarium infection of tulip bulbs, yet little is known about the bulb-pathogen interactions involved in the induction or time course of ethylene synthesis. The resulting ethylene can affect adjacent, non-infected bulbs, and results in a variety of disorders, most notably flower abortion. Earlier work indicates that cultivars vary in their sensitivity to ethylene, but there are few data on ethylene production by cultivar. In this experiment, we assessed Fusarium-induced ethylene production in 36 tulip cultivars. Bulbs were wounded, inoculated with a liquid Fusarium suspension (isolated from infected bulbs) and held at 25 °C. Control bulbs were wounded, but not inoculated. Ethylene production was monitored by headspace analysis and gas chromatography. Ethylene increased rapidly after a lag phase of at least 8 days, but there were large differences in ethylene production among cultivars. Of the cultivars tested, `Furand' evolved more than 340 μL/kg/fwt/hr (≈250 μL/L/bulb/day) on the 11th day after infection, a rate ≈440-fold greater than in non-inoculated bulbs. Inoculated cultivars producing ethylene at rates exceeding 50 μLL/kg/hr included `Mary Belle', `Libretto', `Nashville', `Yonina', `Friso', and `Prominence'. About 25% of the cultivars produced ethylene at rates >10 μL/kg/hr, and ≈40% of cultivars produced less than this rate on day 11. High-ethylene producing tulips could be stored separately from other cultivars, or be given increased ventilation during storage or transportation. Knowledge of cultivar variation might also be useful in breeding programs. Further questions concerning the specific tissue responsible for ethylene synthesis (bulb, fungus, or both?) also arise.

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H. Brent Pemberton, Yin-Tung Wang, Garry V. McDonald, Anil P. Ranwala, and William B. Miller

Case-cooled bulbs of Lilium longiflorum `Nellie White' were forced to flowering. When the tepals on the first primary flower bud split, plants were placed at 2 °C in the dark for 0, 4, or 21 days. After storage, plants were placed in a postharvest evaluation room with constant 21 °C and 18 μmol·m-2·-1 cool-white fluorescent light. Lower leaves, upper leaves, and tepals of the first primary flower from a concurrent set of plants were harvested for carbohydrate analysis using HPLC. Storage time did not affect carbohydrate levels in the lower leaf or tepal samples, but sucrose and starch levels decreased while glucose and fructose levels increased in the upper leaf tissue with increasing storage time. These changes were correlated with a decrease in postharvest longevity for the first four primary flowers. Longevity of the fifth primary flower and total postharvest life of the five primary flowers was unaffected by storage.

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Shawn D. Lyons, William B. Miller, H. Christian Wien, and Neil S. Mattson

When grown in containers, pineapple lily (Eucomis sp.) can produce excessively long foliage and tall scapes, particularly in cultivars with tall pineapple lily (Eucomis comosa) parentage. Height control, through the use of plant growth regulators (PGRs), is necessary to improve crop quality of potted pineapple lily. In year 1 of these trials, bulbs of cultivars Reuben, Tugela Jade, and Tugela Gem were given substrate drenches of flurprimidol or paclobutrazol, each at 2, 4, or 6 mg per 6-inch pot. Drenches were applied at the “visible inflorescence” stage. As concentration increased, scapes were generally shorter in all cultivars for both PGRs, but there was no effect on foliage length or production time. At the rates tested, the reduction in scape length was insufficient to produce marketable plants of the three cultivars. In the second year, substrate drenches were applied at an earlier stage than in year 1, at “leaf whorl emergence,” when shoots were about 7 cm tall. The PGR treatments were notably more effective at controlling plant height in the second year. As concentration increased, scape and foliage length was reduced relative to the controls in all three cultivars for both PGRs. For all cultivars, inflorescence leaning and toppling were sharply reduced at all application rates compared with untreated controls. The reduction in plant height observed in year 2, particularly in plants treated with 4 or 6 mg/pot, resulted in plants with compact scapes and foliage proportional with their 6-inch containers.

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Shawn D. Lyons, William B. Miller, H. Christian Wien, and Neil S. Mattson

The objective of this study was to determine effects of bulb size on production time and factors influencing crop quality in pineapple lily (Eucomis sp.) cultivars developed originally for cut flower production. The percentage of bulbs producing an inflorescence increased as bulb size increased. One hundred percent of bulbs >18 cm circumference flowered in three of the four cultivars whereas ‘Tugela Jade’ exhibited 88% flowering. The number of flowers per inflorescence increased as bulb size increased. Scape length increased as bulb size increased in ‘Reuben’. Inflorescence length increased as bulb size increased in ‘Reuben’, ‘Tugela Jade’, and ‘Tugela Gem’. Days to anthesis from planting decreased as bulb size increased in ‘Reuben’ and ‘Tugela Jade’. For all cultivars, the largest bulbs produced the greatest number of leaves per plant and the highest quality inflorescences, largely attributable to the larger number of flowers produced per inflorescence compared with smaller bulbs.

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Anil P. Ranwala, William B. Miller, Terri I. Kirk, and P. Allen Hammer

The interactions of ancymidol drenches, postgreenhouse cold storage, and hormone sprays on postharvest leaf chlorosis and flower longevity of `Nellie White' Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum Thunb.) were investigated. Ancymidol drenches (0.5 mg/plant twice) during early growth resulted in leaf chlorosis in the greenhouse which intensified further during postharvest. Cold storage (4 °C) of puffy bud stage plants for 2 weeks also accelerated leaf chlorosis. The combination of ancymidol treatment with cold storage resulted in the most severe leaf chlorosis. Promalin (GA4+7 and BA each at 100 mg·L-1) sprays completely prevented postharvest leaf chlorosis, whereas ProGibb (GA3 at 1000 mg·L-1) was ineffective. Cold storage reduced flower longevity and increased bud abortion, however, the degree of bud abortion varied among experiments in different years. Both ProGibb and Promalin sprays increased flower longevity. Compared to positive DIF (difference between day and night temperature) grown plants, forcing under negative DIF (-8 °C) increased the severity of postharvest leaf chlorosis. Leaves were sampled from basal, middle, and upper sections of the stem after 4 and 12 days in a postharvest evaluation room, and analyzed for soluble carbohydrates and N. Total leaf soluble carbohydrates and N concentrations were less in basal and middle sections of negative DIF-grown plants than in positive DIF-grown plants. Leaf chlorosis was associated with depletion of soluble carbohydrates and N in the leaves. Chemical names used: α-cyclopropyl-α-(p-methoxyphenyl)-5-pyrimidinemethanol (ancymidol); gibberellic acid (GA3); gibberellins A4A7 (GA4+7); N-(phenylmethyl)-1H-purine 6-amine (benzyladenine).

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William B. Miller, Anil P. Ranwala, Garry Legnani, Merel Langens-Gerrits, Geert-Jan de Klerk, Johannes Eckelmann, and Michael Ernst

Ornamental geophytes comprise a large and diverse group of plants characterized by underground storage organs that serve the obvious function of reserve storage and subsequent supply during early stages of shoot growth. Relative to many agronomic and horticultural crops, the fundamental physiological bases of carbon metabolism, partitioning, and utilization in geophytes are unclear. One reason is diversity in organ morphology (bulb, corm, tuber, root, rhizome, etc.), storage carbohydrate (starch, fructan, glucomannan, etc.), and growth habit (e.g., synanthous vs. hysteranthous flowering). Knowledge of factors that control accumulation and mobilization of carbohydrate reserves may lead to manipulations that considerably improve the quality and culture of these crops. We are utilizing a variety of techniques and experimental systems to study selected internal and external controls or influences on geophyte carbohydrate metabolism and partitioning. Specific examples to be discussed include bulb storage temperature effects on starch and fructan metabolism in Tulipa, effects of carbon source and dormancy breaking treatments on starch and glucomannan metabolism in in vitro-grown Lilium bulblets, photoperiod control of fructan accumulation in Dahlia seedlings, and biochemical and molecular features of soluble and wall-bound invertases in developing Lilium longiflorum flower buds.

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William B. Miller, Neil S. Mattson, Xiaorong Xie, Danghui Xu, Christopher J. Currey, Kasey L. Clemens, Roberto G. Lopez, Michael Olrich, and Erik S. Runkle

Ethephon [(2-chloroethyl) phosphonic acid] is a plant growth regulator that releases ethylene on application and can abort flowers, stimulate branching, and inhibit stem elongation. Although ethephon is used as a foliar spray during the commercial production of many ornamental crops, its effectiveness as a drench has not been widely investigated. We performed experiments to quantify the effects of an ethephon drench on growth and flowering of a range of bedding plant and Narcissus cultivars and to assess the effect of lime on ethylene release from a peat substrate. A substrate drench of 0, 100, 250, or 500 mg·L−1 ethephon was applied to 12 potted Narcissus cultivars at one location, and up to 200 mg·L−1 was applied to 24 cultivars of bedding plants at three locations. Compared with untreated controls, ethephon generally reduced plant height at flowering and the effect increased with increased concentration. For example, Narcissus treated with a 250 mg·L−1 ethephon drench had stems that were 20% to 40% shorter at the end of flowering than control plants. However, ethephon drenches generally caused a 2- to 3-day flowering delay, and two cultivars had a phytotoxic response. Among the bedding plants studied, a 100-mg·L−1 ethephon drench suppressed plant height at flowering by greater than 30% in Catharanthus, Celosia, Dianthus, and Verbena, but by only 10% to 15% in Lobelia, Lycopersicon, and Tagetes. The drenches also delayed flowering in 10 of the 16 crops measured and decreased dry mass accumulation in all of the crops measured. Ethephon release from peat substrate became maximal ≈120 h after application and was dramatically increased by incorporation of dolomitic lime up to a rate of 9.5 kg lime per m3 of peat. Collectively, these studies show that ethephon substrate drenches inhibit stem elongation in a broad range of floriculture crops, but can also delay flowering and reduce biomass accumulation.