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Kaitlyn McBride, Richard J. Henny, Jianjun Chen and Terri A. Mellich

Adenium obesum (Forssk.), Roem. & Schult., commonly known as desert rose, is a high-value, container-grown ornamental plant produced worldwide for its bright floral display and striking sculptural caudex. Little scientific-based information exists regarding the effect of light intensity and nutritional levels on Adenium growth and flowering. In this study, A. obesum ‘Red’ and ‘Ice Pink’ were grown under full sun [with a measured maximum photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) of 1850 μmol·m−2·s−1], 30% shade (1255 μmol·m−2·s−1), or 50% shade (943 μmol·m−2·s−1) in 1.25-L pots top-dressed with controlled-release fertilizer Nutricote® Plus (18N–2.6P–6.6K) at rates to provide 0.4, 0.9, or 1.4 g of nitrogen (N) per pot. Canopy height and width, flower number, and visual quality ratings (based on plant size and form, foliage color, and flowering) were highest after 16 weeks of growth for both cultivars when fertilized with 1.4 g of N per pot. A 30% shade level resulted in plants with the highest flower numbers and quality ratings. Plants grown at 50% shade had the greatest canopy heights and widths, but flower numbers and quality ratings were low. In full sun, plants were smaller overall. In a second experiment, A. obesum ‘Red’ produced the highest shoot dry weight when grown 20 weeks at 30% or 50% shade with 1.4 g of N per pot. Root formation is an important measure of aesthetic value for this crop. As plants mature, roots enlarge dramatically and are often washed to expose sculptural forms. The highest root dry weights were measured at 1.4 g of N under both full sun and 30% shade.

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Jianjun Chen, Russell D. Caldwell and Cynthia A. Robinson

Gynura aurantiaca is a colorful foliage plant with creeping stems and velvety purple hairs that cover the green leaves. It grows rapidly, but is cultivated primarily for those attractive purple leaves. Annually during the spring, this plant produces prominent flowers both in appearance and smell, gaudy and malodorous. Flowering coupled with acquiring an over-grown leggy appearance have been key limitations in its production and use in interiorscaping. This study was undertaken to determine if an available commercial plant growth regulator could inhibit flowering. A-Rest (ancymidol), B-Nine (daminozide), Bonzi (paclobutrazol), cycocel (chlormequat chloride) and florel (ethephon) each diluted to three different concentrations were sprayed in two applications in early spring at 2-week intervals. Flowering and bud numbers and plant growth (number of lateral shoots, vine lengths and internode lengths) were recorded. Results indicated that applications of A-Rest, B-Nine, Bonzi and Cycocel, regardless of treatment concentrations, were ineffective in suppressing the flowering of this plant; whereas, florel completely suppressed flowering at the three concentrations used. The florel-treated plants also grew more lateral shoots, which produced a compact and dense bush-look, indicating that appropriate concentrations of florel application not only will stop flowering of purple passion but can also improve and prolong its aesthetic value as a potted or hanging-basket interior plant.

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Jianjun Chen, Russell D. Caldwell, Cynthia A. Robinson and Bob Steinkamp

Silicon (Si) is the second most-abundant element in soils, and its concentration in soil solution ranges from 0.1 to 0.6 mm, which is the same concentration range as some of the major nutrient elements such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and sulfur. Increasing evidence has recently suggested that Si plays important roles in improving plant growth. However, little information is available on Si effects on container-grown ornamental plants, particularly since most are grown in soilless media where Si sources are greatly limited. The objectives of this research were to evaluate Si absorption and translocation in diverse container-grown ornamental plants and to determine whether Si absorption could improve plant growth. Liners from 39 plant species were potted in peat and pine bark-based soilless media and grown in a shaded greenhouse. Plants were fertigated with a Peter's 24–8–16 water-soluble fertilizer containing 0, 50, and 100 mg·L–1 of Si. Once marketable sizes were reached, plants were harvested and fresh and dry weights determined; Si and other nutrient elements in roots and shoots were measured. Results indicated that 32 of the 39 evaluated species were able to absorb Si, with large quantities further transported to shoots. Of the 32 Si-responsive species, 17 showed significant dry weight increases, whereas the other 15 only exhibited Si absorption and translocation with no apparent growth responses. The seven non-responsive plant species showed no significant increases in neither Si absorption and translocation, nor dry weight.

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Jianjun Chen*, Richard Henny, C. Thomas Chao and Pachanoor Devanand

Calathea, the largest genus in the family Marantaceae, is composed of 100 species native to tropical America in moist or swampy forest habitats. Because of their brilliant patterns of leaf color and different textures plus ability to tolerate low light levels, calatheas have been widely produced as ornamental foliage plants for interiorscaping. Thus far, genetic relationships among its species and cultivars have not been documented. This study analyzed the relationships of 34 cultivars across 14 species using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers. Six EcoR I + 2/Mse I + 3 primer set combinations were used in this investigation. Each selected primer set generated 105 to 136 scorable fragments. A total of 733 AFLP fragments were detected of which 497 were polymorphic (68%). A dendrogram was constructed using the unweighted pair-group method of arithmetic averages (UP-GMA) technique and a principal coordinated analysis (PCOA) was used to analyze the relationships. The 34 cultivars were divided into four clusters. Cluster I had 19 cultivars derived from C. roseo-picta and C. loesnerii with Jaccard's similarity coefficients from 0.74 to 0.97, of which six are somaclonal variants or sports and two cultivars are genetic identical. Only C. kennedeae `Helen' is positioned in cluster II. Cluster III had 10 cultivars across seven species; Jaccard's similarity coefficients among them varied from 0.41 to 0.63. Four species were situated in cluster IV with Jaccard's similarity between 0.27 to 0.41. Results from this study indicate that broadening of genetic diversity is needed for cultivars in cluster I as they are the most commonly grown calatheas but genetically are very close.

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Jinggui Fang, Chih Cheng Chao, Richard J. Henny and Jianjun Chen

Plant tissue culture can induce a variety of genetic and epigenetic changes in regenerated plantlets, a phenomenon known as somaclonal variation. Such variation has been widely used in the ornamental foliage plant industry as a source for selection of new cultivars. In ornamental aroids alone, at least 63 somaclonal-derived cultivars have been released. In addition to morphological differences, many somaclonal aroid cultivars can be distinguished by amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis. However, a few cultivars have no detectable polymorphisms with their parents or close relatives by AFLP fingerprints. It is postulated that DNA methylation may be involved in the morphological changes of these cultivars. In this study, methylation-sensitive amplification polymorphism (MSAP) technique was used to study DNA methylation in selected somaclonal cultivars of Alocasia, Aglaonema, Anthurium, Dieffenbachia, Philodendron, and Syngonium. Results showed that polymorphisms were detected in the somaclonal cultivars, suggesting that DNA methylation polymorphisms may associate with tissue culture-induced mutation in ornamental aroids. This is the first study of methylation variation in somaclonal variants of ornamental foliage plants. The results clearly demonstrate that the MSAP technique is highly efficient in detecting DNA methylation events in somaclonal-derived cultivars.

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Brian J. Pearson, Richard M. Smith and Jianjun Chen

Hops (Humulus lupulus) is a perennial, herbaceous crop cultivated for its strobiles, or cones, which contain a resinous compound used for flavoring and aroma in food, tea, and beer. The United States is the second largest global producer of hops with greater than 15,000 ha in production. Increased demand for hop products has recently resulted in production of hops in nontraditional production areas (non-Pacific northwest U.S. region). To examine cultivation potential of hops within the southeastern United States, 60 hop rhizomes consisting of four varieties were transplanted into native, deep sand soil (Candler and Tavares-Millhopper soil series) within a protected, open-sided greenhouse and evaluated for growth, strobile yield, and brewing values for a period of 2 years. Plant bine length was recorded weekly for 20 weeks throughout year 1 with mean bine lengths of 609, 498, 229, and 221 cm at harvest for ‘Chinook’, ‘Columbus’, ‘Amalia’ and ‘Neo1’, respectively. Mean harvested strobile dry weight recorded for year 1 was 21.2, 17.9, 9.0, and 8.2 g/plant for ‘Columbus’, ‘Chinook’, ‘Neo1’ and ‘Amalia’, respectively. With the exception of ‘Neo1’, mean strobile mass was lower for all cultivars during year 2 with 16.6, 10.3, 25.8, and 2.6 g/plant for ‘Columbus’, ‘Chinook’, ‘Neo1’ and ‘Amalia’, respectively. Alpha acid concentrations by percentage strobile mass for year 1 were 6.8%, 9.7%, 3.8%, and 4.3% for ‘Columbus’, ‘Chinook’, ‘Amalia’, and ‘Neo1’, respectively. Alpha acids varied year 2 with concentrations of 4.8%, 10.4%, and 5.6% for ‘Columbus’, ‘Chinook’, and ‘Neo1’, respectively. Findings support viability of hop production in the southeastern United States and establish the benchmark for future varietal trialing investigations.

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Dongliang Qiu, Xiangying Wei, Shufang Fan, Dawei Jian and Jianjun Chen

Leaf explants derived from in vitro–grown shoots of blueberry cultivars Bluejay, Pink Lemonade, Sunshine Blue, and Top Hat were cultured on woody plant medium (WPM) supplemented with 9.12 μm 6-(4-hydroxy-3-methylbut-2-enylamino) purine or zeatin (ZT) in combination with 1.23, 2.46, or 4.92 μm indole-3-butyric acid (IBA). Calluses were induced from the explants and adventitious shoots were regenerated. ‘Sunshine Blue’ and ‘Top Hat’ produced more than four shoots per explant but shoot numbers were less than one for each ‘Pink Lemonade’ explant and about 0.2 per ‘Bluejay’ explant. The results indicate that there is significant difference among cultivars in indirect shoot organogenesis. The differences may be related to their diverse genetic background as they are polyploid hybrids. Microcuttings derived from adventitious shoots of ‘Sunshine Blue’ rooted in vitro in WPM medium supplemented with 9.84 μm IBA and also rooted ex vitro in a peat-based substrate after cuttings were dipped or not dipped in IBA solutions. Direct rooting of microcuttings in the peat-based substrate was effective, suggesting that in vitro rooting may not be necessarily needed. Survival rate of ex vitro–rooted plants in a shaded greenhouse was high, more than 90%. The established shoot regeneration protocols could be used for rapid propagation of ‘Sunshine Blue’ and ‘Top Hat’ and for cultivar improvement through genetic transformation.

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Jin Cui, Juanxu Liu, Jianjun Chen and Richard J. Henny

Chlorophytum amaniense Engl. ‘Fire Flash’ is a popular exotic ornamental foliage plant as a result of its unique coral-colored midribs and petioles and tolerance to interior low light levels. Currently, demand for propagative materials exceeds the availability of seeds. This study was intended to develop an in vitro culture method for rapid propagation of this cultivar. Leaf and sprouted seed explants were cultured on a Murashige and Skoog basal medium supplemented with different cytokinins with 1.1 μM α-naphthalene acetic acid (NAA) or 2.3 μM 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D). Leaf explants showed poor responses in callus production and no adventitious shoots were obtained. Callus formation frequencies from sprouted seeds were 71% and 85% when induced by 9.8 μM N6-(2-isopentyl) adenine (2iP) with 1.1 μM NAA and 9.1 μM N-phenyl-N′-1,2,3-thiadiazol-5-ylurea (TDZ) with 1.1 μM NAA, respectively. Adventitious shoots occurred after the induced calluses were subcultured on the same concentrations of TDZ or 2iP with NAA. Shoot formation frequencies from calluses cultured on TDZ with NAA and 2iP with NAA were 92% and 85%, and the corresponding mean shoot numbers were 37 and 31 per piece of callus (1 cm3), respectively. Adventitious shoots rooted at 100% after transferring to the basal medium containing 4.4 μM 6-benzylaminopurine (BA) with 2.7 μM NAA. Plantlets, after transplanting to a soilless substrate were easily acclimatized in a shaded greenhouse under a photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) density of 200 μmol·m−2·s−1. Regenerated plants grew vigorously without undesirable basal branching or distorted leaves. This newly established regeneration method can provide the foliage plant industry with a means for rapidly propagating ‘Fire Flash’ liners in a year-round fashion.

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Richard J. Henny, James R. Holm, Jianjun Chen and Michelle Scheiber

Colchicine application successfully induced tetraploids from in vitro-cultured diploid Dieffenbachia × ‘Star Bright M-1’. Shoot clumps, each with six to eight small, undifferentiated shoot primordia, were cultured in liquid Murashige and Skoog (MS) medium and treated with colchicine at rates of 0, 250, 500, or 1000 mg·L−1 for 24 h. In vitro survival of shoot clumps significantly decreased as colchicine concentrations increased. Shoot clumps that survived were transferred to colchicine-free MS medium containing 2.0 mg·L−1 N6-isopentenyl) adenine and 0.10 mg·L−1 indole-3-acetic acid. Shoots were harvested during four subsequent subcultures and planted in a soilless substrate in a shaded greenhouse. The number of plants that survived 6 months after ex vitro planting was 690, 204, 59, and 69 for colchicine treatments at 0, 250, 500, and 1000 mg·L−1, respectively. The 332 plants from colchicine treatments along with 90 control plants (selected from 690 in the control treatment) were evaluated morphologically in a shaded greenhouse. Overall plant growth, including crown height, plant canopy, and leaf size, of colchicine-treated plants was significantly less than controls. Based on the growth data, 10, 32, 15, and 16 plants from the 0, 250, 500, and 1000 mg·L−1 colchicine rates, respectively, were selected and analyzed by flow cytometry. Flow cytometry confirmed the presence of 13 tetraploids and 29 mixoploids among the 63 colchicine-treated selections; all 10 plants from the control were diploid. A colchicine rate of 500 mg·L−1 produced a higher percentage of tetraploids (10.2%) than did the 250 (2.9%) or 1000 mg·L−1 (1.4%) rates. Subsequent comparisons showed tetraploids had significantly smaller and thicker leaves, greater specific leaf weights, and longer stomata than diploids. Tetraploids also showed increased net photosynthetic rate, decreased g S, decreased intercellular CO2 concentration, decreased transpiration rate, and increased water use efficiency. Tetraploids appeared robust and their smaller size could make them potentially more durable plants used as living specimens for interior decoration.

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Xiaoming Wang, Jianjun Chen, Yongxin Li, Qiying Nie and Junbin Li

‘Jincuilei’ is a mutant selected from Lonicera macranthoides Hand.-Mazz. It produces abundant flowers that never open with a chlorogenic acid (CGA) content up to 6.0%. Propagation through rooting or grafting has only a 30% survival rate. This study was undertaken to establish an efficient protocol for rapidly regenerating this mutant. Leaf explants were inoculated on Gamborg's B5 medium supplemented with different concentrations of 6-benzyladenine (BA) and 2,4-dichlorophenozyacetic acid (2,4-D). The optimal combination for callus induction was 4.4 μm BA with 2.26 μm 2,4-D, which resulted in 86.7% of leaf explants producing calluses in 4 weeks. Calluses produced from this optimal medium were cultured on B5 medium containing different concentrations of kinetin (KT) and α-naphthalene acetic acid (NAA). The best formulation for shoot induction was B5 medium containing 0.9 μm KT and 5.4 μm NAA in which 73.4% of cultured calluses produced shoots in 8 weeks, and shoot numbers ranged from three to six per callus piece (1 cm3). Adventitious shoots were cut and rooted in half-strength Murashige and Skoog medium supplemented with 14.8 μm 3-indolebutyric acid. Roots initiated 10 d after culture, and rooting percentages ranged from 98% to 100%. Plantlets grown in a container substrate in a shaded greenhouse had over a 95% survival rate. During the last 6 years, over four million plantlets were regenerated using this established procedure, and there was no somaclonal variation. Fresh and dry weights of 1000 flowers, CGA contents, and dry flower yields of the regenerated plants were not significantly different from those of the stock ‘Jincuilei’ propagated by cutting, indicating that plants regenerated from this established procedure were stable. This established in vitro culture method has led to rapid commercial production of this medicinal plant on more than 1500 ha of production field.