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  • Author or Editor: Bjorn H. Karlsson x
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Supplemental calcium application has been shown in our previous work to improve tuber quality and reduce internal defects. We evaluated the response under field conditions of five commerically significant cultivars to a combination of calcium nitrate, calcium chloride and urea (168 kg·ha-1 per season) over three seasons. We were able to determine that the cultivar with the greatest response to supplemental calcium for reduced bruising, `Atlantic' had the lowest levels of tuber tissue calcium. Conversely, cultivars with least response to supplemental calcium, `Dark Red Norland' and `Superior', had the highest levels of tuber tissue calcium. `Snowden' was both intermediate in response to calcium and tuber tissue concentration. Based on data for 3 years, we determined that across cultivars the calcium concentration at which tubers no longer respond is ≈250 ppm and ranges for individual years from 195 to 242 ppm. These results suggest that seasonal variation for individual cultivars may affect the tuber need for calcium for reduced bruising. Although the exact mechanism is not known, we believe that calcium supplemented to bulking tubers may lead to improved cell membrane stability, increased wall structure or enhanced ability of tubers to repair following injury. The results of our study show that supplemental calcium fertilization has the ability to significantly reduce the incidence of tuber bruising for several cultivars.

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Recent studies suggest cold-regulated heat-stable proteins mitigate the potential damaging effects of low water activity associated with freezing. A proposed function of these proteins is stabilization of enzymes during exposure of plants to subzero temperatures. To test this hypothesis for tuber-bearing Solanum L. species we determined the quantitative expression of heat-stable proteins, the qualitative changes in dehydrin proteins, and the capacity of heat-stable proteins to cryoprotect a freeze-thaw labile enzyme lactate dehydrogenase (LDH). We used five tuber-bearing Solanum species (S. tuberosum L. `Red Pontiac', S. acaule Bitter, S. sanctae rosea Hawkes, S. commersonii Dunal, and S. cardiophyllum Bitter), which vary in nonacclimated relative freezing tolerance (NA RFT), acclimated relative freezing tolerance (AC RFT), and acclimation capacity (ACC). The protein fraction containing a mixture of heat-stable proteins demonstrated cryoprotective capacities greater or equal to other cryoprotective compounds (bovine serum albumin, polyethylene glycol, glycerol, and sucrose). Heat-stable proteins extracted from acclimated S. commersonii had superior cryoprotective capacity than those extracted from nonacclimated S. commersonii plants. Interestingly, in the presence of these proteins extracted from acclimated plants (in S. commersonii and S. sanctae rosea), LDH activity was elevated above that of unfrozen controls. No quantitative relationships were found between heat-stable protein concentration and NA RFT, AC RFT, or ACC among the five species. This was also true for dehydrin protein expression. Cold acclimation treatment resulted in increased dehydrin expression for acclimating and nonacclimating species. In three of the cold acclimating species (S. acaule, S. sanctae rosea, and S. commersonii), an increase in dehydrin expression may play a role in increased freezing tolerance during cold acclimation. In the cold sensitive, nonacclimating species (S. tuberosum and S. cardiophyllum), however, an increase in dehydrin level maybe related to the response of these species to changed (perhaps stressful) environment during cold treatment. By exploiting the genetic variation in NA RFT and ACC for five tuber-bearing species, we were able to gain new insight into the complexity of the relationship between heat-stable protein and cold response.

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Our previous research has provided evidence that in-season calcium applications can increase tuber calcium and improve tuber quality with reduced internal defects. To determine if increasing the tuber calcium concentration also mitigates tuber bruise incidence, five commercially relevant potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) cultivars (`Russet Burbank', `Atlantic', `Snowden', `Superior', and `Dark Red Norland') were grown during three seasons, 1999–2001. Three split applications of a calcium/nitrogen water soluble blend totaling 168 kg·ha–1calcium were made starting at hilling. All plots, including controls, received an equal amount of total nitrogen in a season. Tubers were allowed to be bruised during normal machine harvest standard to commercial production in Wisconsin. Over 100 tubers from each replication (5–10 replications/treatment) were cut and examined for the incidences of bruise and internal brown spot. Paired samples of medullary tissue were taken for measuring calcium concentration. As expected, tuber tissue calcium concentration increased significantly, in all cultivars and in all years, with in-season calcium application. Bruise incidence varied among cultivars and seasons. Although tuber calcium concentration varied among seasons, `Atlantic' and 'Snowden' consistently had the lowest calcium concentration, whereas `Superior' and `Dark Red Norland' consistently had the highest calcium concentration. Meta-analysis of pooled data for three years showed that blackspot bruise incidence was significantly reduced with calcium application in `Atlantic', `Burbank', and `Snowden'. On the other hand, `Dark Red Norland' and `Superior' had low incidence of bruise and were unaffected by calcium applications. Regression analyses of pooled data from all cultivars for three years revealed a significant quadratic relationship between blackspot bruise and tuber tissue calcium as well as between blackspot bruise and internal brown spot. A linear to plateau plot of medullary calcium concentration versus blackspot bruise incidence revealed that bruise incidence is minimized between 200 and 250 μg/kg (dry wt)–1 tuber calcium concentration. To our knowledge, ours is the first study providing evidence for reducing bruise by improving tuber calcium. Variations in the bruise incidences among cultivars generally followed tuber calcium concentration suggesting a genetic control. Given the role of calcium in improved membrane health and enhanced wall structure, and as a modulator of physiological responses, it is not surprising that internal brown spot and bruise incidences are reduced by in-season application to calcium-deficient cultivars.

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Cold-induced changes in gene expression have been demonstrated in a number of species that vary in freezing tolerance and acclimation capacity. Relative freezing tolerance was measured based on ion leakage for both nonacclimated and acclimated S. commersonii and S. cardiophyllum parents, F1 and backcross progeny segregating for cold tolerance and acclimation capacity. Western blot analyses showed increase in a dehydrin band (47 kD)(antisera courtesy of T. Close) following cold acclimation of cold tolerant S. commersonii, and a slight increase in cold sensitive S. cardiophyllum. Expression of 47 kD cosegregated with non acclimated freezing tolerance but not with acclimated freezing tolerance. Our results show that (i) expression of dehydrins is a heritable trait in the Solanum diploid population, (ii) there is no direct relationship between relative freezing tolerance and the presence or absence of dehydrm protein following cold acclimation and (iii) based on assays measuring the residual activity of the lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) enzyme following freezing, the cryoprotective influence of `boiling stable' proteins was species dependent and is related to the freezing tolerance of the species. Supported by USDA/NRI grant 91-3700-6636 to J.P.P. and J.B.B..

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