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  • Author or Editor: Thomas Björkman x
  • Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science x
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During production of plug transplants, the high plant density results in rapid stem elongation as plants compete for light. The resulting tall, weak-stemmed plants are difficult to transplant and are easily damaged. One technique that can prevent excessive elongation is mechanical stimulation by brushing. Wide adoption of brushing is limited by a lack of information on how plants respond to variations in applying the technique. Our investigation examined how tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum cv. Oh8245) seedling growth responded to varying doses of mechanical stimulation, varying intervals between brush strokes during stimulation, time of day that stimulation was applied, and growth stage at which application started. Seedlings were grown in 288-cell flats at 2100 plants/m2. Daily doses from 0 to 40 brush strokes were applied from canopy closure until the nontreated plants reached a canopy height of 15 cm. The final height was reduced by ≈20% for all brushed treatments, with little further effect with >10 strokes/d. Intervals between strokes as long as 10 minutes resulted in the same reduction in the rate of stem elongation as the same daily dose applied in one continuous treatment. Treatments were similarly effective whether applied in the morning or late afternoon. Treatments begun at a canopy height of 6 (canopy closure), 8, or 10 cm gave similar reductions in the rate of stem elongation. Plants grew 6 mm·d-1 when they were not treated and 3 mm·d-1 when treated. Therefore, the final height was directly related to the number of treatment days. Stimulation appears to be sensed and integrated over at least half an hour and the reduction in the rate of stem elongation expressed over the subsequent daily cycle of growth. All results indicate that there is substantial flexibility in applying brushing for controlling elongation in tomato transplants.

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Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis) and broccoli (B. oleracea var. italica) differ in the developmental stage of the reproductive meristem at harvest. A cauliflower head is formed by arrest at the inflorescence meristem stage and broccoli at the flower bud stage, and the horticultural value of the crop depends on synchronous development across the head. In other plant species, gibberellin (GA) can promote floral development and is therefore a candidate for providing the early developmental cues that shape the curd morphology. This research investigated the effect of GAs on the two horticulturally important transitions of the reproductive meristem: initiation of the inflorescence meristem and initiation of floral primordia on the proliferated inflorescence meristems. GA is known to affect the former in many species, but effects on the latter have not been determined. It is also not known whether one or both active forms produced by the two GA biosynthetic pathways is involved in the reproductive transitions in this crop. GAs from the early-13 hydroxylation pathway (GA3) and the non-13 hydroxylation pathway (GA4+7) were applied to the shoot apical meristems of cauliflower and broccoli at three developmental stages: adult-vegetative, curd initiation, and curd enlargement. GAs applied during the adult vegetative stage caused the curd to form faster and after fewer additional nodes in both cauliflower and broccoli. GAs applied to the inflorescence meristem did not cause floral primordia to form nor did the expression of transition-associated genes change. Integrator genes BoLFY and SOC1 had constant expression over 24 hours, and meristem-identity genes BoAP1-a and BoAP1-c remained undetectable. However, GAs applied early during the reproductive phase increased bract development in cauliflower curds. This study shows that GAs from both pathways can trigger the vegetative-to-reproductive transition in both cauliflower and broccoli, resulting in earlier curd formation. However, GAs did not advance the inflorescence-meristem-to-floral-primordium transition; on the contrary, they increased bract incidence in cauliflower, a sign of reversion toward the vegetative stage, suggesting that another pathway is responsible for this second transition in cauliflower and broccoli.

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Sweet corn (Zea mays L.) varieties carrying the sh2 gene are in high demand, but such varieties have poor stress tolerance, especially during plant establishment. Trichoderma harzianum Rifai strain 1295-22 is a biocontrol fungus developed to provide season-long colonization of crop roots. It has the potential to reduce root rot and increase root growth. In the absence of detectable disease, colonization by Trichoderma increased root and shoot growth by an average of 66%. The enhancement was not uniform among the plants. Low- and intermediate-vigor plants were larger in the presence of Trichoderma, but high-vigor plants were not further enhanced by the fungus. Seeds that were subjected to oxidative stress with 0.05% NaOCI had much-reduced vigor; subsequent treatment with Trichoderma fully restored vigor. This result indicates that the damage caused by hypochlorite is specifically repaired by Trichoderma. Treatment of imbibed but unemerged seeds with cold (5/10 °C night/day) for varying periods reduced subsequent growth. Plants with Trichoderma-colonized roots were 70% larger at all durations of cold treatment. The absence of interation indicates the growth reduction due to cold and the growth enhancement due to Trichoderma are by different mechanisms. Allelopathic reduction in root growth by rye was mimicked by applying benzoxazolinone to the soil. Trichoderma-colonized roots grew faster, but the characteristic shortening of the radicle still occurred. There was no interaction between Trichoderma and allelopathy, indicating that these two treatments affect growth by independent mechanisms. The different ways that growth was enhanced by Trichoderma lead us to propose that this fungus acts, in part, by reversing injurious oxidation of lipids and membrane proteins. Root growth is markedly enhanced by colonization with Trichoderma harzianum. This enhancement can restore some stress-induced growth reduction and may directly reverse oxidative injury.

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Broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. var. italica Plenck) and cauliflower (B. oleracea var. botrytis DC) are closely related botanical varieties. The underlying genetic bases of their phenotypic differences from each other are not well understood. A molecular genetic marker enabling B. oleracea germplasm curators and breeders to predict phenotype from seeds or seedlings would be a valuable tool. Mutant alleles at flower developmental pathway loci BoAP1-a, Bo-CAL-a, and glucosinolate biosynthetic pathway locus BoGSL-ELONG have been reported to be associated with a cauliflower phenotype. We surveyed mutant alleles at these three loci in a genetically diverse sample of broccoli and cauliflower accessions from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Plant Genetic Resources Unit (PGRU) and the University of Warwick, Genetic Resources Unit of Warwick HRI (HRI). Phenotypic and genotypic data were collected for multiple plants per accession during two field seasons. Simple genetic models assuming dominance or codominance of alleles were analyzed. Goodness-of-fit tests rejected the null model that the mutant genotype was associated with a cauliflower phenotype. A correlation analysis showed that BoAP1-a and BoCAL-a alleles or loci were significantly correlated with phenotype but the fraction of variation explained was low, 4.4% to 6.3%. Adding BoGSL-ELONG to the analysis improved predictive power using the linear regression procedure, Maximum R-square Improvement (max R 2). In the best three-variable model, only 24.8% of observed phenotypic variation was explained. Because tested genetic models did not hold robustly for the surveyed accessions, it is likely that there are multiple genetic mechanisms that influence whether the phenotype is broccoli or cauliflower. Our results in commercial cultivars indicate that other genetic mechanisms are more important in determining the horticultural type than are BoAP1-a and BoCAL-a.

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