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  • Author or Editor: Bethany A. Kaufman x
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Ethylene gas can cause extensive damage to bedding plants during production, shipping, and retailing. Seedlings exposed to ethylene exhibit the triple response, which includes an exaggerated apical hook, thickened hypocotyl, and reduced hypocotyl elongation. Our objective was to determine if the hypocotyl elongation component of the seedling triple response could be used to predict the sensitivity of mature plants at the marketable stage. Eighteen common bedding plants were evaluated. For the seedling hypocotyl elongation screen, seeds were germinated and grown in the dark on filter paper saturated with various concentrations of 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC; the immediate precursor to ethylene). The relative hypocotyl length at each ACC concentration was compared with untreated control (0 μM) seedlings. Mature plants, with at least four open flowers, were treated with ethylene (0, 0.01, 0.1, 1, or 10 μL·L−1) in the dark for 24 hours. Phenotypic responses to ethylene, including flower abscission, flower senescence, leaf abscission, leaf chlorosis, and epinasty, were rated on a scale of 0 to 5. Five species exhibited very little reduction in hypocotyl elongation when grown on ACC (low sensitivity). The remaining species were classified as medium or high ethylene sensitivity at the seedling stage. The most common symptoms of ethylene damage observed in mature plants were leaf epinasty, flower abscission, and flower senescence. The severity of these responses was used to identify plants with high, medium, or low sensitivity to ethylene. For six of the bedding plant species that were equally responsive at both developmental stages, the seedling hypocotyl elongation screen would provide a reliable means of predicting the ethylene sensitivity of mature plants.

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