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  • Author or Editor: Qi Zhang x
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Cold stress is one of the most important environmental factors affecting crop growth and agricultural production. Induced changes of gene expression and metabolism are critical for plants responding and acclimating to cold stress. Banana (Musa sp.) is one of the most important food crops in the tropical and subtropical countries of the world. Banana, which originated from tropical regions, is sensitive to cold, which can result in serious losses in commercial banana production. To investigate the response of the banana to cold stress conditions, changes in protein expression were analyzed using a comparative proteomics approach. ‘Brazil’ banana (Musa acuminata AAA group) is a common banana cultivar in southern China. ‘Brazil’ banana plantlets were exposed to 5 °C for 24 hours and then total crude protein was extracted from treatment and control leaves by phenol extraction, separated with two-dimensional gel electrophoresis, and subsequently identified by mass spectrometry (MS). Out of the more than 400 protein spots reproducibly detected, only 41 protein spots exhibited a change in intensity by at least 2-fold, with 26 proteins increasing and 15 proteins decreasing expression. Of these, 28 differentially expressed proteins were identified by MS. The identified proteins, including well-known and novel cold-responsive proteins, are involved in several cellular processes, including antioxidation and antipathogen, photosynthesis, chaperones, protein synthesis, signal transduction, energy metabolism, and other cellular functions. Proteins related to antioxidation, pathogen resistance, molecular chaperones, and energy metabolism were up-regulated, and proteins related to ethylene synthesis, protein synthesis, and epigenetic modification were down-regulated in response to cold temperature treatment. The banana plantlets incubated at cold temperatures demonstrated major changes in increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenging, defense against diseases, and energy supply. Increased antioxidation capability in banana was also discovered in plantain, which has greater cold tolerance than banana in response to cold stress conditions. Therefore, we hypothesized that an increased antioxidation ability could be a common characteristic of banana and plantain in response to cold stress conditions. These findings may provide a better understanding of the physiological processes of banana in response to cold stress conditions.

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Wild Rosa species, which are highly variable and locally adapted, are widely distributed in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region of China. These species possess many important horticultural traits that are not found in the gene pool of modern cultivated roses. However, little is known about their cytological characteristics, because few of them have been karyologically analyzed. Karyological data of 13 samples of seven wild Rosa taxa, including R. berberifolia, two botanical varieties of R. spinosissima, R. platyacantha, R. beggeriana, R. acicularis, and R. laxa, were investigated by means of squashes of shoot tips. The results showed that seven samples were diploid (2n = 2x = 14), whereas the other six samples were tetraploid (2n = 4x = 28). The karyotypes of all the test samples were composed of m and sm chromosomes, which include 1A, 2A, 1B, and 2B. There were differences in asymmetry index, centromere index, and distribution of relative lengths. The karyotype of the tetraploid R. laxa var. laxa sample from Aksu easily distinguished from the other R. laxa var. laxa samples tested in having the highest asymmetry index and the most evolved karyotype. This Aksu population merits recognition as a new botanical variety of R. laxa. The karyological data, most of which are first reports for their taxa, provide a comprehensive cytogenetic resource that can be used to better understand the taxonomy, evolution, and speciation in the genus Rosa and to identify candidate species for breeding programs.

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Informed assessment of priority genetic traits in plant breeding programs is important to improve the efficiency of developing cultivars suited to current climate and industry needs. The efficiency of genetic improvement is critical for perennial crops such as cranberries, as they usually involve more resources, time, and funding compared with other crops. This study investigated the relative importance of cranberry producers’ preferences for breeding traits related to fruit quality, productivity, plant physiology, and resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses. Industry responses revealed that fruit characteristics affecting fruit quality, including firmness, fruit size and anthocyanin content, and resistance to fruit rot, were the most desired traits in new cranberry cultivar release. These traits have the potential to increase the quality standards needed to process high-value sweetened dried cranberry products, positively affecting price premiums received by producers, which is critical for the economic viability of the cranberry industry. Our findings will be useful to breeders and allied scientists seeking to develop an advanced DNA-based selection strategy that would impact the global cranberry industry.

Open Access

Yellow-leafed cultivars usually do not grow as vigorous as their green-leafed counterparts, which affect their use in landscapes. To breed Forsythia cultivars with both yellow leaves and vigorous growth, crosses between F. ‘Courtaneur’ (♀) and Forsythia koreana ‘Suwon Gold’ (♂) were conducted, and 52 F1 hybrid progenies with different leaf colors (green, chartreuse, and yellow) were obtained. The progenies were categorized into three groups [Yellow Group (YG), Chartreuse Group (CG), and Green Group (GG)] based on leaf colors. The growth index (GI) and the number of branches and leaves of YG progenies were significantly lower at 2%, 35%, and 34% of GG progenies. As the leaves changed from green to chartreuse and to yellow, chlorophyll content, leaf thickness, and chlorophyll fluorescence parameters decreased and the chloroplast structures were disintegrated gradually, which influenced the leaf photosynthetic activity and led to weak growth. Compared with yellow-leafed progenies, the leaf chlorophyll content and leaf thickness of chartreuse-leafed progenies were significantly higher at 71% and 9%. The chloroplast structure of stroma lamella of chartreuse-leafed progenies was relatively intact. Carboxylation efficiency (CE), photochemical efficiency of PS II (F v/F m), and the number of branches and leaves of GG progenies were significantly higher than YG progenies; however, they have no significant difference with CG progenies. The results were promising for breeding new forsythia cultivars from moderate growth and chartreuse leaves.

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The availability and cost of agricultural labor is constraining the specialty crop industry throughout the United States. Most soft fruits destined for the fresh market are fragile and are usually hand harvested to maintain optimal quality and postharvest longevity. However, because of labor shortages, machine harvest options are being explored out of necessity. A survey on machine harvest of blueberries (Vaccinium sp.) for fresh market was conducted in 2015 and 2016 in seven U.S. states and one Canadian province. Survey respondents totaled 223 blueberry producers of various production sizes and scope. A majority (61%) indicated that their berries were destined for fresh markets with 33% machine harvested for this purpose. Eighty percent said that they thought fruit quality was the limiting factor for machine-harvested blueberries destined for fresh markets. Many producers had used mechanized harvesters, but their experience varied greatly. Just less than half (47%) used mechanical harvesters for fewer than 5 years. Most respondents indicated that labor was a primary concern, as well as competing markets and weather. New technologies that reduce harvesting constraints, such as improvements to harvest machinery and packing lines, were of interest to most respondents. Forty-five percent stated they would be interested in using a modified harvest-aid platform with handheld shaking devices if it is viable (i.e., fruit quality and picking efficiency is maintained and the practice is cost effective). Overall, the survey showed that blueberry producers have great concerns with labor costs and availability and are open to exploring mechanization as a way to mitigate the need for hand-harvest labor.

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Developing new blueberry cultivars requires plant breeders to be aware of current and emerging needs throughout the supply chain, from producer to consumer. Because breeding perennial crop plants (such as blueberry) is time- and resource-intensive, understanding and targeting priority traits is critical to enhancing the efficiency of breeding programs. This study assesses blueberry industry breeding priorities for fruit and plant quality traits based on a survey conducted at commodity group meetings across nine U.S. states and in British Columbia (Canada) between Nov. 2016 and Mar. 2017. In general, industry responses signaled that the most important trait cluster was fruit quality including the firmness, flavor, and shelf life. Fruit quality traits affect price premiums received by producers; influence consumer’s preferences; and have the potential to increase the feasibility of mechanical harvesting, all critical to the economic viability of the industry. There were differences across regions in the relative importance assigned to traits for disease resistance, arthropod resistance, and tolerance to abiotic stresses. Our findings will be useful to researchers seeking solutions for challenges to the North American blueberry industry including development of new cultivars with improved traits using accelerated DNA-based selection strategies.

Open Access