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Genhua Niu, Denise S. Rodriguez, and Terri Starman

Bedding plants are extensively used in urban landscapes. As high-quality water supply becomes limited in many parts of the world, the use of recycled water with high salt levels for landscape irrigation is being encouraged. Therefore, information on salt tolerance of bedding plants is of increasing importance. Two experiments were conducted, one in a 25% light exclusion shadehouse in summer (Expt. 1) and the other in a greenhouse in winter (Expt. 2). Plants were irrigated with saline solution at electrical conductivities of 0.8, 2.8, 4.0, 5.1, or 7.4 dS·m−1 created by adding NaCl, MgSO4, and CaCl2 to tap water to simulate the composition of local reclaimed water. In Expt. 1, shoot dry weight (DW) at the end of the experiments was reduced in all species at 7.4 dS·m−1 compared with the control (0.8 dS·m−1). The magnitude of reduction varied with species and cultivars. The salinity thresholds of irrigation water in which growth reduction occurred were 4.0 dS·m−1 for angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia) cultivars and ornamental pepper (Capsicum annuum) ‘Calico’ and 4.0 to 5.1 dS·m−1 for helenium (Helenium amarum), licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolatum), and plumbago (Plumbago auriculata). Shoot DW and growth index of ornamental pepper ‘Black Pearl’ and vinca (Catharanthus roseus) ‘Rose’ decreased linearly as salinity increased. All plants survived in Expt. 1 regardless of treatment, except for ornamental pepper ‘Purple Flash’. No visual injuries were observed in Expt. 1 regardless of treatment. Leaf sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl) concentrations varied with species and treatments. Ornamental pepper ‘Black Pearl’ had the highest leaf Cl concentrations at higher salinities compared with other species and cultivars. Leaf Na concentrations in licorice plant and plumbago were in the range of 10 to 30 g·kg−1 DW, higher than those in other species. In Expt. 2, shoot DW was reduced by salinity treatments in ornamental pepper ‘Black Pearl’, plumbago, and angelonia but not in other species. The three ornamental peppers, ‘Black Pearl’, ‘Calico’, and ‘Purple Flash’, exhibited slight foliar injuries on some plants in Expt. 2 as a result of high salinity in the root zone in the highest salinity treatment. Ornamental pepper ‘Black Pearl’ was most sensitive to salinity stress. In general, the bedding plants tested in this study are moderately tolerant to salt stress and may be irrigated with saline water up to 4.0 dS·m−1 with little reduction in aesthetical appearance.

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Genhua Niu, Denise Rodriguez, and Mengmeng Gu

Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) is a native shrub tolerating drought, heat, windy conditions, and alkaline or wet soils. However, its availability is somewhat low and little information is available on nutrient requirement and other culture information. Two greenhouse experiments were conducted to quantify the responses of Texas mountain laurel to different forms and rates of nitrogen (N) fertilizer. In Expt. 1, 1-year old seedlings were treated for 194 days with three NO3:NH4 ratios at 25:75, 50:50, and 75:25 and two rates of N at 100 and 200 mg·L−1 in a factorial design. There was no interaction between the N rate and form on any growth parameters. Nitrogen form did not significantly affect shoot dry weight, root dry weight, root–to-shoot ratio, or the total dry weight. There was no significant difference between N rate of 100 and 200 mg·L−1 on root dry weight, root-to-shoot ratio, or the total dry weight. The shoot dry weight of Texas mountain laurel fertilized with 100 mg·L−1 was higher compared with that of the plants fertilized at 200 mg·L−1. The reduced shoot dry weight at N of 200 mg·L−1 was the result of the higher substrate salinity. In Expt. 2, seedlings were fertilized with five N rates (50, 100, 150, 200, and 250 mg·L−1) for 203 days. Plants watered with 150, 200, and 250 mg·L−1 were taller than those fertilized with 50 mg·L−1. The shoot height of plants watered with 100 mg·L−1 was only significantly different from 50 mg·L−1. For rapid growth of Texas mountain laurel, a N rate range of ≈150 mg·L−1 was recommended supplied with a combination of NO3-N and NH4-N in the ratios of 0.3 to 3.0.

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Yoshiaki Kitaya, Genhua Niu, Maki Ohashi, and Toyoki Kozai

Artificial lighting is widely used in controlled environment plant production to enhance plant growth and quality. However, high light intensity with artificial lighting is costly, and often causes increase of leaf temperature and, thus, leaf burn. We investigated the effects of photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) and photoperiod on the growth and morphogenesis of lettuce plug transplants under ambient and enriched CO2 levels. Three days after seeding, the plants were cultured under four PPF levels (100, 150, 200, and 300 μmol·m–2·s–1), two photoperiods (16 and 24 hr), and two CO2 levels (400 and 800 μmol·mol–1) for 18 days in growth chambers. Light source was fluorescent lamps. The air temperature around the plants was kept at 20°C. The results showed that dry weight of the plants increased linearly as PPF and daily integrated PPF (product of PPF and photoperiod) increased under both CO2 levels. At the same daily integrated PPF, higher CO2 level and longer photoperiod led to higher dry weight of the plants. CO2 enrichment increased significantly dry weight of the plants. The ratio of T/R and specific leaf area of the plants decreased quadratically as daily integrated PPF increased under both CO2 levels. The ratio of leaf length to leaf width of the plants decreased quadratically as PPF increased under the two photoperiods and CO2 levels.

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Raul I. Cabrera, James E. Altland, and Genhua Niu

Scarcity and competition for good quality and potable water resources are limiting their use for urban landscape irrigation, with several nontraditional sources being potentially available for these activities. Some of these alternative sources include rainwater, stormwater, brackish aquifer water, municipal reclaimed water (MRW), air-conditioning (A/C) condensates, and residential graywater. Knowledge on their inherent chemical profile and properties, and associated regional and temporal variability, is needed to assess their irrigation quality and potential short- and long-term effects on landscape plants and soils and to implement best management practices that successfully deal with their quality issues. The primary challenges with the use of these sources are largely associated with high concentrations of total salts and undesirable specific ions [sodium (Na), chloride (Cl), boron (B), and bicarbonate (HCO3 ) alkalinity]. Although the impact of these alternative water sources has been largely devoted to human health, plant growth and aesthetic quality, and soil physicochemical properties, there is emergent interest in evaluating their effects on soil biological properties and in natural ecosystems neighboring the urban areas where they are applied.

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Youping Sun, Guihong Bi, Genhua Niu, and Christina Perez

The goal of this experiment was to evaluate the efficiency of foliar application of dikegulac sodium on increasing the lateral branching of ‘Merritt’s Supreme’ bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla). Plants were grown in greenhouses at two locations including El Paso, TX and Kosciusko, MS. Two weeks before application of dikegulac sodium, half of plants were hand-pinched leaving two nodes. Foliar spray of dikegulac sodium at 400, 800, or 1600 mg·L−1 was then applied to pinched and unpinched plants. There were two additional control treatments: pinched or unpinched without application of dikegulac sodium. Data were collected at 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 80 days, and 10 months after treatments. Bigleaf hydrangea plants exhibited severe phytotoxicity including interveinal chlorosis or bleaching of new growth at 2 weeks after application of dikegulac sodium with more pronounced symptoms at higher dikegulac sodium concentrations. The severity of phytotoxicity symptoms became less significant at 6 weeks after treatment. The effect of dikegulac sodium on bigleaf hydrangea plant growth, number of branches, and number of flowers depended on both locations and dosages. In El Paso, TX, dikegulac sodium at 800 or 1600 mg·L−1 inhibited bigleaf hydrangea plant growth at 6 weeks and 80 days after treatment, and this effect disappeared at 10 months after treatment. Dikegulac sodium at all tested dosages doubled or tripled the number of branches of pinched or unpinched bigleaf hydrangea, respectively, at 80 days after treatment. At 10 months after treatment, the number of branches and flowers of bigleaf hydrangea plants tended to increase, but was insignificant. In Kosciusko, MS, dikegulac sodium at 1600 mg·L−1 reduced the plant growth at 6 weeks after treatment. This treatment increased the number of branches and flowers of unpinched plants by 196% and 95% and pinched plants by 53% and 31%, respectively, at 10 months after treatment. Dikegulac sodium application could be used to increase number of branches and flowers and produce compact ‘Merritt’s Supreme’ bigleaf hydrangea. However, the efficacy varied with environmental conditions.

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Huan Xiong, Feng Zou, Sujuan Guo, Deyi Yuan, and Genhua Niu

Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima), which is native to China, has been cultivated as a nontimber forest tree species for 4000 years. This species has been found to display self-sterility, which results in a significantly lower seed set following self-pollination (SP) compared with that following cross-pollination (CP). Self-sterility can be induced by prezygotic or postzygotic late-acting self-incompatibility (LSI) or early-acting inbreeding depression (EID). To elucidate the causes of self-sterility in chestnut, we investigated pollen–pistil interactions, fertilization, and early ovule development following SP and CP by using a paraffin section technique and fluorescence microscopy. The fruit set percentage and seed characteristics also were evaluated among different pollination treatments. The results show that there were no significant differences in pollen tube behavior following SP vs. CP, regardless of the stigmatic or stylar level. Double fertilization was significantly greater following CP (18.09%) than SP (2.58%). The significantly lower percentages of ovule penetration and double fertilization in the selfed vs. crossed ovules support a prezygotic LSI mechanism in C. mollissima. The fruit set resulting from chase-pollination (CHP; 53.85% to 63.64%) was greater than that resulting from SP (12.12% to 14.00%). In addition, the distribution of aborted seed sizes after SP showed a widely clumped pattern. Abortion occurred at different stages during seed development rather than at a uniform stage, which supported the idea that EID was operating in C. mollissima. Levels of self-sterility in the chinese chestnut trees ranged from 88.2% to 90.5%. Thus, partial prezygotic LSI and EID contributed to self-sterility in the C. mollissima ‘Yanshanzaofeng’, with prezygotic LSI rejecting part of the self-pollen in the ovary and EID aborting part of the self-fertilized seeds.

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Zejin Zhang, Dongxian He, Genhua Niu, and Rongfu Gao

Dendrobium officinale, endemic to China, is a rare and endangered medicinal herb. As a result of its high economic value, slow growth, and diminishing wild population, protected cultivation is preferred. However, little information is available on its growing environment and photosynthetic characteristics. In this study, the photosynthetic patterns of D. officinale were investigated under various environmental conditions by measuring the net CO2 exchange rates continuously for several days or weeks. Under non-stressed growth chamber conditions with 12-hour light and 12-hour dark periods, D. officinale had concomitance of C3 and crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) photosynthesis patterns. Different degrees of CAM in D. officinale, expressed as the percentage of CO2 exchanges in the dark period to the daily amount of CO2 exchanges, were observed depending on environmental conditions. With decreasing substrate water content, a typical CAM pattern was found, and concomitance of C3 and CAM patterns was found again when plants were rewatered. The accumulation of leaf titratable acidity during a dark period increased as substrate dried out but decreased again as plants were rewatered. A shorter light–dark cycle (4-hour light and 4-hour dark periods) led to a C3 pattern alone. The substrate moisture and light–dark cycle were inducible factors for switching between C3 and CAM patterns in D. officinale. These results indicate that D. officinale is a facultative CAM plant and the C3 pathway can be induced by controlling the growing environment. Further studies are needed to identify the optimal environmental conditions to enhance the growth of D. officinale.

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Youping Sun, Genhua Niu, Joseph G. Masabni, and Girisha Ganjegunte

A greenhouse experiment was conducted to determine the relative salt tolerance of pomegranate (Punica granatum) cultivars. Twenty-two pomegranate cultivars were irrigated weekly with a saline solution at an electrical conductivity (EC) of 10.0 dS·m–1 for 4 weeks and subsequently with a saline solution at an EC of 15.0 dS·m–1 for another 3 weeks (salt treatment). Another group of uniform plants was watered with a nutrient solution without additional salts at an EC of 1.2 dS·m–1 (control). No visual foliar salt damage (leaf burn, necrosis, or discoloration) was observed during the entire experimental period; however, salt treatment impacted pomegranate growth negatively, with a large variation among cultivars. Salt treatment reduced shoot length by 25% and dry weight (DW) by 32% on average for all cultivars. Cluster analysis classified the 22 tested pomegranate cultivars in two groups. The group consisting of ‘Arturo Ivey’, ‘DeAnda’, ‘Kazake’, ‘Russian 8’, ‘Apseronski’, ‘Purple Heart’, ‘Carolina Vernum’, ‘Chiva’, ‘Kunduzski’, ‘Larry Ceballos 1’, ‘ML’, ‘Salavatski’, ‘Spanish Sweet’, and ‘Wonderful’ was more salt tolerant than the group including ‘Al-Sirin-Nar’, ‘Kandahar’, ‘Surh-Anor’, ‘Early Wonderful’, ‘Angel Red’, ‘Ben Ivey’, ‘Utah Sweet’, and ‘Mollar’. The sodium (Na) concentration in the leaf tissue of all 22 pomegranate cultivars was less than 1 mg·g–1 on a DW basis. All pomegranate cultivars in the salt treatment had an average leaf chloride (Cl) content of 10.03 mg·g–1 DW—an increase of 17% from the control. These results indicate that pomegranate plants have a strong capability to exclude Na and Cl accumulation in leaf tissue. In conclusion, the pomegranate plant is very tolerant to saline water irrigation up to an EC of 15 dS·m–1 with little foliar salt damage and a slight growth reduction. Investigation is needed to determine the effects of saline water on the fruit yield and nutritional quality of pomegranate.

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Jun Yuan, Liyuan Huang, Naifu Zhou, Hui Wang, and Genhua Niu

Aluminum (Al) toxicity and phosphorus (P) deficiency are two crucial factors limiting the production of Camellia oleifera, which is grown commercially in red acidic soils in Southern China. The current study characterized the different forms of P and Al in the red acidic soils of C. oleifera plantations. Soil and plant tissue samples taken from 32 Camellia plantations across Hunan province were analyzed. Furthermore, a pot experiment with nutrient solutions of different Al and P contents was carried out to investigate P and Al uptake and their effect on C. oleifera growth. The results showed that the P content extracted by NaOH (Fe-P) was the highest in all types of soil samples (rhizosphere, 0–20 cm, and 20–40 cm zones), followed by P extracted by NH4F (Al-P), H2SO4 (Ca-P), and Na3C6H5O7 (O-P). HCl (In-Al), NH4Ac (Ha-Al), and Na4P2O7·10H2O (Or-Al) extracted Al were the main forms and accounted for 22.8%, 23.1%, and 23.8% of total Al, respectively. KCl extracted Al (Ex-Al) contents in the rhizosphere, 0–20 cm, and 20–40 cm soil zones were 4.78, 4.86, and 4.59 mg·kg−1, respectively. P contents in roots, young leaves, and old leaves were 0.80, 0.82, and 0.64 mg·kg−1, respectively. The highest Al content of 11.35 g·kg−1 was found in the old leaves, followed by roots and young leaves. Correlation analyses revealed that P in roots was positively associated with available P (AP) and Al-P in rhizosphere. P in roots and young leaves also had a positive correlation with Ex-Al, whereas Al in old leaves was positively correlated with In-Al and total Al. Significant correlations between Al-P, Ex-Al, and AP were detected. The pot experiment indicated that adding Al or P alone increased plant growth and Al or P uptake, respectively. When adding both Al and P, significant synergistic effect was found. These results suggest that Al is beneficial to C. oleifera, which may be the adaptive mechanism of C. oleifera to use insoluble Al-P in red acidic soil.

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Xiaoya Cai, Terri Starman, Genhua Niu, Charles Hall, and Leonardo Lombardini

A greenhouse study was conducted to evaluate the response of four garden roses (Rosa ×hybrid L.), ‘RADrazz’, ‘Belinda’s Dream’, ‘Old Blush’, and ‘Marie Pavie’, to drought stress. Plants grown in containers were subjected to two watering treatments, well-irrigated [water as needed: ≈35% substrate moisture content (SMC) at re-watering] and cyclic drought stress (withholding irrigation until plants exhibit incipient wilting: ≈10% SMC, then re-watering to field capacity for subsequent dry down). Shoot growth and flower number were reduced in the drought treatment compared with the well-irrigated plants in all cultivars with least reduction in ‘RADrazz’. Drought stress reduced root growth in ‘Belinda’s Dream’ and ‘Marie Pavie’, whereas there was no difference in root growth in ‘RADrazz’ and ‘Old Blush’. Decreased SMC induced reduction in net photosynthetic rate (Pn), stomatal conductance (g S), transpiration rate (E), and midday leaf water potential (ψ). Leaf water use efficiency (WUE) increased as SMC decreased in all cultivars. However, the relationship between these physiological parameters and SMC differed among the cultivars. At SMC between 10% and 20%, ‘RADrazz’ had higher Pn, g S, E, and WUE compared with the other three cultivars. Therefore, ‘RADrazz’ was the most drought-tolerant during container production among the cultivars investigated. With lower gas exchange rates and greater reduction in flower number at low SMC, ‘Marie Pavie’ was less drought-tolerant compared with the other three cultivars.