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Rebecca L. Darnell

Containerized `Climax' and `Beckyblue' rabbiteye blueberry plants (Vaccinium ashei Reade) were exposed to 5 weeks of natural daylengths or shortened daylengths starting 30 Sept. `Beckyblue' plants exposed to short daylengths in the fall initiated more flower buds and had a shorter, more concentrated bloom period than did plants exposed to natural fall daylengths. Reproductive development of `Climax' was not influenced by photoperiod treatments. Leaf carbon assimilation of both cultivars increased under short days. Partitioning of translocated 14C-labeled assimilates to stem tissue increased under short photoperiods for `Beckyblue'; however, partitioning patterns in `Climax' were not affected. Increased carbon fixation and increased partitioning of carbon to stem tissue under short days may contribute to the observed effect of short days on enhancing reproductive development in `Beckyblue'.

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Rebecca L. Darnell

Containerized `Climax' and `Beckyblue' rabbiteye blueberry plants (Vaccinium ashei Reade) were exposed to 5 weeks of natural daylengths (i.e. gradually decreasing daylengths from 12 to 11 hr) or shortened daylengths (i.e. gradually decreasing daylengths from 10 to 8 hr) starting October 1. `Beckyblue' initiated twice as many flower buds under short days compared to longer days. The following spring, `Beckyblue' plants exposed to shortened photoperiods the previous fall had a greater percentage of floral budbreak (based on the number of flower buds formed within each treatment) and a shorter, more concentrated bloom period than did plants exposed to longer photoperiods the previous fall. Fresh weight per berry increased following the short fall photoperiod treatment, despite the fact that fruit number was higher. `Climax' did not respond to the photoperiod treatments in any way. Leaf carbon assimilation rates of both cultivars increased under short days, but there was no detectable effect of photoperiod on current carbon partitioning in either cultivar, suggesting that flower bud initiation is not limited by current source leaf assimilate supply under these conditions.

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Umpika Poonnachit and Rebecca L. Darnell

Vaccinium corymbosum, one of the cultivated blueberry species, is not well-adapted to mineral soils, which are generally marked by high pH, the predominance of NO3-N over NH4-N, and limited iron availability. A wild species, V. arboreum, grows naturally on mineral soils, and thus may be better adapted than V. corymbosum. This adaptation may be related to the ability of V. arboreum to assimilate NO3 and/or iron more efficiently than V. corymbosum. Both species were grown in a hydroponic solution containing 5.0 mM N as (NH4)2SO4 or NaNO3, and buffered to pH 5.5. Nitrate reductase (NR) and iron reductase (FeR) activities were measured. NR activity was higher in V. arboreum compared with V. corymbosum when grown with N03-N, while no difference between species was observed when grown under NH4-N. Activity of FeR was higher in V. arboreum compared with V. corymbosum, and higher under NO3-N compared with NH4-N. After 5 months in hydroponics, Fe was removed from one-half of the solutions. The activity of NRA in both species was higher under Fe-sufficient compared with Fe-limited conditions, but in both cases, activity was higher in V. arboreum compared with V. corymbosum. FeR activity continued to be higher in V. arboreum compared with V. corymbosum, and under NO3 compared with NH4-N. Activity decreased in both species under limited Fe conditions, and there were no interactions between species and Fe. These data indicate that V. arboreum possesses higher NR and FeR activities than V. corymbosum, under both Fe-sufficient and Fe-limited conditions. This may play a role in the better adaptability of V arboreum to mineral soil conditions.

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Keith T. Birkhold and Rebecca L. Darnell

The relative contribution of storage and currently assimilated N to reproductive and vegetative growth of `Bonita' and `Climax' rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei Reade) was estimated immediately before and during the fruit development period. Total and storage N decreased in roots and shoots of both cultivars during dormancy and early fruit development. The principle N storage form appeared to be protein, as indicated by a significant decline in total shoot and root protein during this same period. Storage N from roots and shoots in both cultivars was remobilized to flowers and/or fruit and new vegetative growth. At anthesis, 90% of the total N present in reproductive organs was estimated to come from storage N. By fruit maturity, ≈ 50% of the accumulated N was derived from storage pools. Storage N contributed 90% of the total N in developing vegetative growth of `Bonita' at leaf budbreak, which is concomitant with floral budbreak for this cultivar. Developing vegetative growth of `Climax' at leaf budbreak, which occurs ≈ 4 weeks after floral budbreak, derived ≈ 65% of its total N from storage and 35% from currently assimilated N. By fruit maturity, contribution of storage N to new vegetative growth had decreased to ≈ 20% in both cultivars, indicating that currently assimilated N became the principal N supply as vegetative growth became more established. Differences in timing of floral and vegetative budbreak between the two cultivars did not appear to affect allocation of either storage or currently assimilated N to new vegetative or reproductive growth.

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Donald J. Merhaut and Rebecca L. Darnell

Commercial blueberry production is limited primarily to soils where ammonium, rather than nitrate, is the predominant N form. However, Vaccinium arboreum, a species native to northern Florida, often is found growing in soils where nitrate is the major N form. This species may serve as a breeding source or rootstock for commercial blueberries, expanding the potential soil types that may be used for blueberry cultivation. In our study, in vivo nitrate reductase activity (NRA) was measured in roots and leaves of 2-year-old seedlings of V. arboreum and a commercial cultivar, V. corymbosum `Sharpblue'. Plants were grown hydroponically in sand culture and fertilized with a modified Hoagland's solution containing N as either ammonium, ammonium nitrate, or nitrate. Vaccinium arboreum averaged nitrite at 200, 60, and 20 nmol/g fresh weight per h for nitrate, ammonium nitrate, and ammonium fertilized plants, respectively. `Sharpblue' root NRA was significantly lower, averaging nitrite 50, 38, and 8 nmol/g fresh weight per h for nitrate, ammonium nitrate, and ammonium fertilized plants, respectively. NRA was much lower in leaves than roots of V. arboreum, averaging nitrite at ≈15 nmol nmol/g fresh weight per h across N treatments. No NRA was detected in the leaves of `Sharpblue', regardless of N treatment. These data suggest that V. arboreum may be used as a rootstock or breeding source to expand blueberry production into soil types that are higher in nitrate than the soils typically used for blueberry production.

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Kevin R. Kosola* and Rebecca L. Darnell

Cultivated Vaccinium species (e.g. highbush blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum, or cranberry, V. macrocarpon) commonly require acidic soil (pH 4.5 to 5.5) for optimum growth. Under these conditions, ammonium (NH4 +) is the dominant form of inorganic N. In contrast, V. arboreum, the sparkleberry can tolerate higher-pH mineral soils, where nitrate (NO3 -) is typically the predominant inorganic N form. This tolerance may be related to increased ability to acquire and utilize NO3—N. Measurements of 15NO3 - and 15NH4 + influx kinetics in excised roots of V. arboreum, V. corymbosum, and V. macrocarpon did not support this hypothesis. NO3 - influx kinetics measured from 10 micromolar to 200 micromolar NO3 - were similar among all three species. NO3 - influx was consistently lower than NH4 + influx at all concentrations for all three species.

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Raguel Cano—M and Rebecca L. Darnell

The effects of different GA3 concentrations and application times on fruit set, fruit development period, and fruit quality in rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei Reade) were studied. Flower clusters were sprayed with 100 or 250 ppm GA3 at 90% full bloom and again 7 days later, or with 125 ppm GA3 at 90% full bloom and again 7, 21, and 42 days later, under greenhouse conditions. Fruit set was monitored every 10 days and fruit weight, fruit development period, soluble solids, and titratable acidity were measured at harvest.

Fruit set in GA3 treatments averaged 69 to 76% compared to an average of 43% for the pollinated control. Weight of GA3 treated berries averaged 1.2, g while that of pollinated berries averaged 2.0 g. However, calculated total yield was greater for the GA3 treatments compared to the pollinated control, averaging 244 and 206 g/treatment, respectively. GA3 increased the fruit development period by 2 to 11 days, depending on the treatment. Soluble solids and titratable acidity were not affected by any treatment.

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Raouel Cano-Medrano and Rebecca L. Darnell

Exogenous applications of GA, have induced pathenocarpic fruit set in blueberry; however, size of GA,-treated fruit is smaller than pollinated fruit. The small fruit size in GA3-treated fruit may be related to either cell number and/or cell size. Thus, these parameters were examined throughout development in pollinated, non-pollinated and GA3-treated fruits. Fruit growth followed a double sigmoid pattern. During Stage I (0-25 DAA), fruit size in GA,-treated, pollinated, and non-pollinated fruits averaged 0.33, 0.39, and 0.16 g, respectively. There was little change in fruit size in Stage II (25-45 DAA). At ripening, fruit size averaged 1.7 g for GA,-treated and 2.6 g for pollinated fruits. Non-pollinated fruit abscised in Stage II. At anthesis, mesocarp cell number averaged 9910 cells per median cross sectional area and remained constant up to ripening. In Stage I, cell size in G A3-treated and pollinated fruits increased 7X and 9X respectively. Cell size in both fruit types increased 1.5X and 2.8X during Stage II and Stage 111, respectively. Fruit cell number was set at anthesis and differences in fruit size were due to differences in cell ellongation in Stage I.

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Rebecca L. Darnell and Jimmy G. Cheek

Graduate student enrollment in the plant sciences has decreased over the past several years, and there is increasing interest in recruitment/retention strategies. Before successful strategies can be implemented, however, the status of current plant science graduate programs needs to be determined. Survey data on graduate student demographics, research area, support levels, current recruitment strategies, and career opportunities were collected from 23 plant science graduate programs. Overall, 55% of graduate students in plant sciences were male and 45% were female; approximately 60% were domestic and 40% were international. Cellular/molecular biology and breeding/genetics were the two disciplines that had the greatest number of graduate students and the greatest number of job opportunities. Although most programs cited financial support as the biggest obstacle to recruitment, there was not a strong correlation between graduate student number/program and stipend amount. However, other funding factors besides stipend amount; such as stipend number, the guarantee of multiple years of support, the funding of tuition waivers, and health insurance costs, likely impact student number. As more of these costs are shifted to faculty, there appears to be an increasing inability and/or reluctance to invest grant funds (which support 60% of the plant science graduate students) in graduate student education. These data suggest that the decline in plant science graduate student enrollment may not be directly due to low stipend amounts, but rather to shifting of more of the total cost of graduate training to faculty, who may be unable/unwilling to bear the cost. There is also a clear shift in the research focus of plant science graduate students, as postdoctoral and career opportunities are weighted towards molecular biology/genetics, leaving the more applied plant science areas particularly vulnerable to low graduate enrollment.

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Rebecca L. Darnell and Frederick S. Davies

Potted `Tifblue', Woodard', and `Climax' rabbiteye blueberry plants (Vaccinium ashei Reade) were exposed to artificial or natural chilling regimes (< 7C) ranging from 100 to 1000 hours during the dormant season to determine the effects on budbreak and fruit set. Insufficient chilling increased the days to 50% vegetative and floral budbreak in all three cultivars. The amount of floral budbreak increased in `Tifblue' and `Woodard', but decreased in `Climax' as chilling increased. Insufficient chilling did not decrease percent fruit set of hand-pollinated flowers in any cultivar, indicating that the fruit-setting potential of these cultivars is unrelated to chilling.