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Clinton C. Shock, Erik B.G. Feibert, and Lamont D. Saunders

Long-day onion (Allium cepa L.) `Vision' was submitted to four soil water potential (SWP) treatments using subsurface drip irrigation in 1997 and 1998. Onions were grown on two double rows spaced 22 inches (56 cm) apart on 44-inch (112-cm) beds with a drip tape buried 5 inches (13 cm) deep in the bed center. SWP was maintained at four levels by automated, high frequency irrigations based on SWP measurements at an 8-inch (20-cm) depth. The check treatment had SWP maintained at -20 cbar (kPa) during the entire season. The other three treatments had SWP maintained at -20 cbar until 15 July, then reduced to -30, -50, or -70 cbar. Reducing the SWP level after 15 July below -20 cbar failed to reduce onion bulb decomposition in storage, but reduced colossal onion yield in 1997, and marketable and total yield in 1998.

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Michael E. Bartolo, Howard F. Schwartz, and Frank C. Schweissing

Severe storms with high winds, hail, rain, and blowing soil particles can injure onion (Allium cepa L.) leaf and neck tissues. Our study was conducted to determine the growth response of onions to simulated storm damage during bulb development. The effect of removing 33% and 67% of the onion foliage at 14, 28, 42, and 56 days before maturity was examined. In 2 years, 67% defoliation reduced yields more than 33% defoliation. At both levels, defoliation had a greater impact on total marketable yield and yield of individual market classes when it occurred near the onset of bulbing. Of the different market classes of onions, the jumbo (>8.25 cm in diameter) was most consistently affected by defoliation. A moderate (33%) and a severe (66%) foliage loss delayed crop maturity, decreased total marketable yield and potential market value, and changed the market class distribution of a sweet Spanish-type onion.

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Kevin A. Lombard, Emmanuel Geoffriau, and Ellen Peffley

Direct spectrophotometric determination of quercetin content in onions (Allium cepa L.) was investigated as a possible alternative to high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis. Quercetin content in five onion varieties was monitored at 362 nm and quantified using simple spectrophotometric and HPLC methods. HPLC revealed that 3,4'-Qdg and 4'-Qmg comprised up to 93% of total flavonol content detected in the studied varieties. These major quercetin conjugates combined (3,4'-Qdg + 4'-Qmg) and total flavonol conjugates quantified by HPLC correlated closely with spectrophotometer values. Correlation coefficients were 0.96 (P < 0.0001) for 3,4'-Qdg + 4'-Qmg and 0.97 (P < 0.0001) for total flavonol conjugates in onion. Simple spectrophotometric procedure proved to be a valid, efficient, and cost-effective method for the quantification of total quercetin in onion. Chemical names used: quercetin-3,4'-O-diglucoside (3,4'-Qdg); quercetin-4'-O-glucoside (4'-Qmg).

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Jane E. Lancaster, Julie Farrant, and Martin L. Shaw

Three onion (Allium cepa L.) cultivars, `Southport White Globe', `Grano', and `Pukekohe Longkeeper' were grown at low to high S (at 0.5, 1.8, 3.0 or 4.0 meq·L-1) in hydroponic culture. Differential solvent extractions of bulbs were used to isolate quantitatively cell contents, cell wall proteins, and cell wall residue. The weight of the cell fractions, their S content, and the S content of intact bulbs were determined. Bulb characteristics of fresh weight (FW), firmness, soluble solids concentration (SSC), and soluble sugars were also determined. For all three cultivars, bulb FW increased with S from 0.5 to 4.0 meq·L-1. Sulfur had a significant effect on bulb firmness. Onion bulbs grown with S at 0.5 meq·L-1, the lowest S concentration, were significantly softer than onion bulbs grown at the highest concentration of 4.0 meq·L-1. Varying the S supply had a major effect on dry weight (DW) allocation to the cell wall residue. Bulbs of all three cultivars grown at the lowest S had significantly less DW in the cell walls compared to S at 3.0 or 4.0 meq·L-1. In contrast to the effect of S supply on DW allocation, varying S supply had no effect on total bulb S, free SO4 -2, and on the S content of the cell contents and the cell wall residue and only a minor effect on cell wall proteins. There was no significant effect of S supply on either SSC or soluble sugars. At low S nutrition, which is limiting to the growth of onion bulbs, cell wall deposition is reduced, with a consequent decrease in bulb firmness. The S composition of the cellular components is maintained at the expense of bulb growth.

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U. Afek, E. Rinaldelli, J.A. Menge, E.L.V. Johnson, and E. Pond

The length of time required for vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhiza (VAM) colonization, the effect of root age, and the position of VAM inoculum with respect to the root system were tested on cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.), onion (Allium cepa L.), and pepper (Capsicum annuum L.). Colonization of onion by Glomus deserticola began 3 days after inoculation and reached 50% of the total root length after 21 days. Colonization by G. mosseae and G. intraradices began after 12 days and attained 15% and 37%, respectively, after 21 days. In cotton, colonization with G. deserticola and G. intraradices began 12 days following inoculation and increased to 20% and 18%, respectively, after 21 days. Colonization of cotton by G. mosseae was poor. In pepper, colonization with G. deserticola, G. mosseae, and G. intraradices began 3, 6, and 6 days after inoculation and, after 21 days, reached 60%, 13%, and 10%, respectively. In a second experiment, rapid colonization by G. deserticola took place in 3-day-old onion seedlings and increased to 51% 3 days after inoculation. Ten- and 17-day-old seedlings were far less responsive to VAM colonization but became highly infected at 30 days when new roots were produced. In a third experiment, inoculum placement 3 cm below seeds at planting in the field was the most effective for promoting colonization of cotton and onion by VAM. In fumigated field soil, mycorrhizae increased cotton growth an average of 28% when inoculum was applied below seeds compared to one- or two-sided band applications. Even in nonfumigated field soil, inoculum placed 3 cm below the seed and inoculum placed in a band at one side 2 weeks after planting significantly increased cotton growth. In onion, mycorrhizal inoculation improved growth in fumigated soil when it was placed below the seed, but did not stimulate growth in nonfumigated soil.

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Marilyn H.Y. Hovius and Irwin L. Goldman

Breeders have found field screening for onion white rot resistance to be unreliable since consistently moderate to high disease levels that significantly differentiate cultivars, do not occur over field sites and years. The objective was to see if a greenhouse or laboratory technique could predict field reaction of onion accessions. Onion (Allium cepa) accessions were grown in fields naturally infested with the white rot causing fungus (Sclerotium cepivorum) in 1999 and 2000 (New Zealand) and in 2000 and 2001 (Canada). The field disease levels were low at three sites, moderate at two and high at one. Field screening was not a reliable predictor of white rot reaction when disease incidence was low. Onion accessions were screened for resistance in the greenhouse using nonsterile muck soil (NSMS) and sterile muck soil (SMS) with S. cepivorum sclerotia as the inoculum source. Total disease incidence was significantly higher in the NSMS compared to the SMS and accessions showed significant variability for white rot reaction in both soils. Two laboratory-based techniques were used to test the effect of onion volatiles on mycelium growth in culture. The volatiles from susceptible accessions resulted in faster radial growth of S. cepivorum mycelium (on water agar) and height of aerial mycelium (on potato dextrose agar) than volatiles from resistant accessions. Disease incidence in the greenhouse, S. cepivorum culture growth rates on water agar media and aerial mycelial height were all good predictors of field disease incidence in a covariance analysis. The best predictor was aerial mycelial height, which was predictive of field disease incidence in four out of six field sites. Onion breeders can use the methods described in this study in breeding for white rot resistance.

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John A. McCallum, Meeghan Pither-Joyce, and Martin Shaw

Genetic and environmental factors affect onion (Allium cepa L.) pungency but the molecular basis for this variation is not understood. To initiate molecular analysis of onion sulfur metabolism we isolated cDNAs from onion associated with sulfur assimilation and compared gene expression and sulfur metabolism of mild and pungent onion cultivars. We isolated cDNAs encoding homologues of 5'adenosine-phosphosulfate (APS) reductase, γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase and serine acetyl transferase using a homology-based RT-PCR approach. Homologues of high-affinity sulfate transporters and sulfite reductase were isolated from an onion root differential cDNA library enriched for genes up-regulated by 48 hours sulfur deprivation. The influence of genotype and sulfur nutrition on root expression of selected genes was measured in an experiment in which a low pungency onion cultivar (`Houston Grano') and a high pungency cultivar (`Canterbury Longkeeper') were grown hydroponically in low (0.1 meq·L-1) or high (4.0 meq·L-1) sulfate medium and harvested before bulbing. `Canterbury Longkeeper' contained higher concentrations of (+)-S-methyl-L-cysteine sulfoxide in leaf and root than `Houston Grano' but cultivars did not differ in leaf trans-(+)-S-(1-propenyl)-L-cysteine sulfoxide concentrations. `Houston Grano' accumulated significantly higher concentrations of total N, nitrate, and basic amino acids in leaves and roots, suggesting these cultivars differ markedly in maintenance of S/N homeostasis. Steady-state transcript levels of APS reductase and high-affinity sulfate transporter in roots were significantly higher (2- to 3-fold) at low sulfate. By contrast, steady state levels of ATP sulfurylase transcript were significantly higher at high sulfate levels and in `Canterbury Longkeeper'. We conclude that differences in regulation of the sulfur assimilation pathway may underlie genetic differences in pungency.

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Juan C. Díaz-Pérez, William M. Randle, George Boyhan, Ronald W. Walcott, David Giddings, Denne Bertrand, Hunt F. Sanders, and Ronald D. Gitaitis

Sweet onions (Allium cepa L.) are typically grown on bare soil and irrigated with high-pressure systems such as sprinklers or center-pivots. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of irrigation system and mulch on bolting, bulb yield and bulb quality over 3 years. The experimental design was a split plot, where the main plot was irrigation system (drip or sprinkler) and the subplot was the type of mulch (bare soil, black plastic film or wheat straw). The results showed that individual bulb weight and bulb yields under drip irrigation were similar to those under sprinkler irrigation. Plants grown on bare soil had the highest total yield during the three seasons and among the highest marketable yield. There were no consistent differences in the bulb number or yield of plants on plastic film mulch compared to those of plants on wheat straw mulch. Plants on wheat straw mulch had reduced foliar nitrogen content. Variability in yields among mulches and seasons was partly explained by changes in seasonal root zone temperature and soil water potential. Total and marketable yields and weight of individual bulbs increased with increasing root zone temperatures up to an optimum at 15.8 °C, followed by reductions in yields and individual bulb weight at >15.8 °C. Onion bolting increased with decreasing foliage nitrogen content, with plants on wheat straw having the highest bolting incidence. Bolting also increased with decreasing root zone temperatures for the season. Total and marketable yields increased with decreasing mean seasonal soil water potential down to -30 kPa. Irrigation system and mulches had no consistent effect on the soluble solids content or pungency of onion bulbs.

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Jessica A. Gutierrez and Christopher S. Cramer

Fusarium basal rot (FBR), caused by Fusarium oxysporum Schlechtend.:Fr. f. sp. cepae (H.N. Hans.) W.C. Snyder & H.N. Hans, is a soilborne fungal disease that affects bulb onions (Allium cepa L.) worldwide. Short-day onion cultivars that are resistant to FBR are lacking. The goal of this project was to screen fall-sown onion germplasm for FBR resistance using a mature bulb field screening at harvest and after 4 weeks in storage. The project was conducted for 2 years, and in each year, 26 fall-sown onion lines were grown in a field known to produce a high incidence of fusarium-basal-rot-infected bulbs. When all the bulbs in a plot were mature, the basal plates of 20 bulbs were cut transversely and each plate was rated for disease severity on a scale of one (no diseased tissue) to nine (70% or more diseased). Bulbs were stored and rerated at 2 and 4 weeks after harvest. Disease severity and incidence were higher in the first year than in the second year. Both severity and incidence increased as bulbs were stored for 4 weeks. NMSU 00-25 exhibited the lowest disease severity and incidence in both years at harvest time and after storage. `Buffalo' and `Cardinal' exhibited the highest severities and incidences across both years and at harvest time and after storage. Other entries exhibited high or low disease severity and incidence but not consistently across years and between harvest time and after storage. In the development of FBR resistant cultivars, breeding lines should be evaluated over multiple years and bulbs should be stored for 4 weeks before being screened.

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R.G. Linderman and E.A. Davis

Formation and function of arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM) are affected by levels of fertility in soil or fertilizers applied to soilless container mixes. For AM fungi, phosphorus (P) is the main element influencing colonization of host plant roots. The question addressed in this study was whether inorganic or organic fertilizers were more compatible with the formation and function of AM. Several controlled-release inorganic (CRI) fertilizers were compared with several organic (OR) fertilizers at different rates (½× to 4× the recommended rate) to determine (1) threshold levels of tolerance by the AM fungus Glomus intraradices in relation to root colonization, and (2) growth responses of `Guardsman' bunching onion (Allium cepa) and `Orange Cupido' miniature rose (Rosa spp.) plants grown in a soilless potting mix or sandy loam soil. AM colonization in soil was greatly decreased or totally inhibited by CRI fertilizers with high P content at the 2× rate or greater, whereas colonization was decreased but never eliminated by low-P OR fertilizers at the 3× rate or greater. Shoot growth of onions was similar with or without AM inoculation when fertilized with CRI, but in general was only enhanced by OR fertilizers if inoculated with AM fungi, compared to the noninoculated controls. Shoot and root growth of onions were significantly increased by AM inoculation when OR fertilizers were used at the 1× rate. In contrast, root growth was not increased by the combination of CRI fertilizers and AM fungal inoculation. Inoculation of miniature roses grown in sandy loam amended with 25% peat and perlite and fertilized with all the CRI or OR fertilizers resulted in high AM colonization, but without much AM-induced growth increase except where OR fertilizers or CRI fertilizers with low P were used. In a soilless potting mix, growth of miniature roses was less with OR fertilizers at the rates used than CRI fertilizers, but mycorrhiza formation was greater in the former unless P was low in the latter. These results indicate that release of nutrients from organic fertilizers, as a result of microbial activity, favors AM establishment and function more than most inorganic fertilizers unless P levels of the latter are low.