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Saadat Sarikhani Khorami, Kazem Arzani, Ghasem Karimzadeh, Abdolali Shojaeiyan and Wilco Ligterink

Plant genetic diversity is the fundamental of plant-breeding programs to improve desirable characteristics. Hence, evaluation of genetic diversity is the first step in fruit-breeding programs. Accordingly, the current study was carried out to evaluate 25 superior walnut genotypes in respect of phenotypic and cytological characteristics. For this purpose, 560 walnut genotypes in southwest of Iran were evaluated based on UPOV and International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) descriptor. After a 2-year primary evaluation, 25 superior genotypes were selected for future phenotypic and genome size assessment. Flow cytometry was used to estimate genome size of the selected superior genotypes. A high genetic diversity was found in walnut population collected from the southwest of Iran. The selected superior genotypes had high yield, lateral bearing, thin-shell thickness (0.90–1.64 mm), high nut (12.54–19.80 g) and kernel (7.02–9.91 g) weight with light (L) to extra light (EL) kernel color which easily can be removed from the shell. Also, FaBaCh2 genotype turned out to be protogynous being important as a pollinizer cultivar. In addition to extensive phenotypic analysis, genome size was determined. The studied genotypes were diploid (2n = 2x = 32) and varied in genome size from 1.29 (FaBaAv2) to 1.40 pg (FaBaNs12). Correlation analysis showed that lateral bearing, budbreak date, nut size, and weight were the main variables contributing to walnut production. A linear relationship was found between genome size and nut weight (r = 0.527**), kernel weight (r = 0.551**), and nut size index (NSI) (r = 0.487**). Therefore, genome size can be considered as a strong and valuable tool to predict nut and kernel weight and nut size.

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Azadeh Behrooz, Kourosh Vahdati, Farhad Rejali, Mahmoud Lotfi, Saadat Sarikhani and Charles Leslie

Drought stress is one of the main constraints limiting worldwide crop production. Arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM) and plant growth-promoting bacteria (PGPB) such as Azotobacter chroococcum and Azospirillium lipofrum have been shown to alleviate drought stress effects. Therefore, the interaction effect of AM fungi [Glomus mosseae, G. etunicatum, and a mix of these (G. mix), and PGPB bacteria (Azotobacter chroococcum + Azospirillium lipofrum)] was investigated in 1-year-old walnut seedlings (cv. Chandler) under normal and drought stress conditions. Drought stress reduced growth (plant height, root length, number of leaves, and fresh weight) and leaf nutrient content (N, P, and Zn) significantly of walnut plants. In contrast, proline, total soluble sugar, starch peroxidase enzyme activity, and total phenolic content of walnut leaves increased under this stress. Application of fungi or bacteria, and especially their simultaneous use, alleviated the negative effects of drought stress on walnut seedlings. AM fungi and PGPB increased significantly the content of some metabolites, including total phenolic content, proline level, peroxidase activity, total soluble sugar, and starch content as well as peroxidase enzyme activity. This led to an increase in walnut plant growth under the drought stress condition. Among AM fungi, G. etunicatum was more effective in reducing drought stress symptoms than either G. mosseae or the G. mix of fungi. In conclusion, use of G. etunicatum, along with PGPB, can reduce negative effects of drought stress on walnut seedlings.