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Chuanjiu He, Fred T. Davies and Ronald Lacey

There are advantages in growing plants under hypobaric (reduced atmospheric pressure) conditions in biomass production for extraterrestrial base or space-flight environments. Elevated levels of the plant hormone ethylene occur in enclosed crop production systems and in space-flight environments—leading to adverse plant growth and sterility. Objectives of this research were to characterize the influence of hypobaria on growth and ethylene evolution of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. cv. Buttercrunch). Growth was comparable in lettuce grown under low (25 kPa) and ambient (101 kPa) total gas pressures. However, tip burn occurred under ambient, but not low pressure—in part because of adverse ethylene levels. Under ambient pressure, there were higher CO2 assimilation rates and dark respiration rates (higher night consumption of metabolites) compared to low pressure. This could lead to greater growth (biomass production) of low pressure plants during longer crop production cycles.

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Fred Davies*, Chuanjiu He, Amanda Chau, Kevin Heinz and Jay Spiers

This research details the influence of fertility on plant growth, photosynthesis and ethylene evolution of chrysanthemum (Dendranthema grandiflora Tzvelev var. Charm) inoculated with western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis (Pergande). We tested the hypothesis that moderate levels of nitrogen would better control western flower thrips on chrysanthemum. While thrips are known to reduce plant quality, there have been few comprehensive studies on plant response to thrips population dynamics—analyzing changes in plant growth and development, plant gas exchange and ethylene evolution. Plants were exposed to four fertility levels that consisted of 0%, 10%, 20% and 100% (375 ppm N) of recommended nitrogen levels. Thrips abundance was greatest at high fertility. Thrips depressed plant vegetative and reproductive growth and altered carbohydrate partitioning. Thrips-inoculated (TI) plants also had reduced leaf area and lower leaf mass than thrips-free (NonTI) plants, but did not differ in specific leaf area [(SLA) leaf area (cm2)/leaf DM (g)]. However, high fertility plants had greater biomass and higher SLA, i.e., thinner leaves than low fertility treatments. Thrips reduced photosynthesis (Pn) and stomatal conductance (gs) in young, mature and older basal leaves, with gs showing greater sensitivity than Pn. Ethylene and chlorophyll levels in thrips damaged leaves did not differ from Non-TI plants.

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Chuanjiu He, Fred Davies*, Ronald Lacey and Que Ngo

Elevated levels of ethylene occur in enclosed crop production systems and in space-flight environments—leading to adverse plant growth and sterility. There are engineering advantages in growing plants at hypobaric (reduced atmospheric pressure) conditions in biomass production for extraterrestrial base or spaceflight environments. Objectives of this research were to characterize the influence of hypobaria on gas exchange and ethylene evolution of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. cv. Buttercrunch). Lettuce was grown under variable total gas pressures [50 and 101 kPa (ambient)]. The six chambered, modular low plant growth (LPPG) system has a Rosemount industrial process gas chromatograph (GC) for determining gas concentrations of oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen (N). With the LPPG system, changes in CO2 can be tracked during the light and dark periods on a whole canopy basis, and transpirate collected as a measurement of transpiration. During short growth periods of up to seven days, growth was comparable between low and ambient pressure. However, there was a tendency for leaf tip burn under ambient pressure, in part because of higher ethylene levels. Tip burn increased under high light (600 vs. 300 μmol·m-1·s-1) and high CO2 (600 vs. 100 Pa). The CO2 assimilation rate and dark respiration tended to be higher under ambient conditions. High humidity (100%) reduced CO2 assimilation rate compared to 70% RH. Ethylene was increased by high light (600 vs. 300 μmol·m-1·s-1) and high CO2 (600 vs. 100 Pa). Ethylene was higher under ambient than low pressure. Enhanced plant growth under low pressure may be attributed to reduced ethylene production and decreased dark respiration (lower night consumption of metabolites).

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Chuanjiu He, Fred T. Davies, Ronald E. Lacey and Sheetal Rao

There are engineering and payload advantages in growing plants under hypobaric (reduced atmospheric pressure) conditions in biomass production for extraterrestrial base or spaceflight environments. Objectives of this research were to characterize the influence of hypobaria on growth, gas exchange, and ethylene evolution of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. cv. Buttercrunch). Elevated levels of the plant hormone, ethylene, occur in enclosed crop production systems and in space-flight environments—leading to adverse plant growth and sterility. Lettuce plants were grown under variable total gas pressures [25 (low) or 101 kPa (ambient)]. During short growth periods of up to 10 days, growth was comparable between low and ambient pressure plants. Regardless of total pressure, plant growth was reduced at 6 kPa pO2 compared to 12 and 21 kPa pO2. At 6 kPa pO2 there was greater growth reduction and stress with ambient (101 kPa) than low (25kPa) pressure plants. Plants at 25/12 kPa pO2 had comparable CO2 assimilation and a 25% lower dark-period respiration than 101/21 kPa pO2 (ambient) plants. Greater efficiency of CO2 assimilation/dark-period respiration occurred with low pressure plants at 6 kPa pO2. Low pressure plants had a reduced CO2 saturation point (100 Pa CO2) compared with ambient (150 Pa CO2). Low pO2 lowered CO2 compensation points for both 25 and 101 kPa plants, i.e., likely due to reduced O2 competing with CO2 for Rubisco. Ethylene was 70% less under low than ambient pressure. High ethylene decreased CO2 assimilation rate of 101/12 kPa O2 plants. The higher dark-period respiration rates (higher night consumption of metabolites) of ambient pressure plants could lead to greater growth (biomass production) of low pressure plants during longer crop production cycles.

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Sheetal Rao, Scott Finlayson, Chuanjiu He, Ronald Lacey, Raymond Wheeler and Fred T. Davies

The NASA Advanced Life Support (ALS) System for space habitation will likely operate under reduced atmospheric pressure (hypobaria). There are engineering, safety, and plant growth advantages in growing crops under low pressure. In closed production environments, such as ALS, excessive plant-generated ethylene may negatively impact plant growth. Growth of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) in the Low Pressure Plant Growth (LPPG) system was enhanced under low pressure (25kPa), due in part to decreased ethylene production. Under reduced pO2, ethylene production decreased under low as well as ambient conditions (He et al., 2003). During hypobaria, the expression of genes encoding ethylene biosynthesis enzymes, namely ACC synthase (ACS) and ACC oxidase (ACO), is not known. The primary objective of this research was to characterize the expression of ACS and ACO genes in response to hypobaria. Three-week-old Arabidopsis was used to determine the effects of hypobaria (25 kPa) and reduced O2 (12 kPa pO2) at the molecular level. Candidate gene expression was tested using quantitative real-time PCR at different times after treatment. Under low pressure, ACO1 expression is induced in the initial 12 hours of treatment, gradually decreasing with increased exposure. At 12 kPa pO2, ACO1 was induced under ambient conditions, suggesting that plants under low pressure may be more tolerant to hypoxic stress. The mechanism for enhanced growth of lettuce under hypobaric conditions will be studied further by analysis of the ACS and ACO gene families, and stress-responsive genes, namely late-embryogenesis abundant (LEA) proteins and dehydrins.

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James D. Spiers*, Fred T. Davies, Chuanjiu He, Amanda Chau, Kevin M. Heinz and Terri W. Starman

This research focused on the influence of insecticides on plant growth, gas exchange, rate of flowering, and chlorophyll content of chrysanthemum (Dendranthema grandiflora Tzvelev cv. Charm) grown according to recommended procedures for pot plant production. Five insecticides were applied at recommended concentrations at three different frequencies: weekly (7 days), bi-weekly (14 days), or monthly (28 days). A separate treatment was applied weekly at 4× the recommended concentration. Insecticides used were: acephate (Orthene®) Turf, Tree & Ornamental Spray 97), bifenthrin (Talstar®) Flowable), endosulfan (Thiodan®) 50 WP), imidacloprid (Marathon®) II), and spinosad (Conserve®) SC). Phytotoxicity occurred in the form of leaf burn on all acephate treatments, with the greatest damage occurring at the 4× concentration. Photosynthesis and stomatal conductance were influenced primarily by the degree of aphid and/or spider mite infestation—except for acephate and endosulfan treatments (weekly and 4×), which had reduced photosynthesis with minimal insect infestations. Plants receiving imadacloprid monthly had the greatest leaf dry mass (DM). Plants treated with acephate had lower leaf and stem DM with bi-weekly and 4× treatments. Spinosad treatments at recommended concentrations had reduced stem DM, in part due to aphid infestations. The flower DM was not significantly different among treatments. There were treatment differences in chlorophyll content as measured with a SPAD-502 portable chlorophyll meter.

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James D. Spiers, Fred T. Davies Jr., Chuanjiu He, Carlos E. Bográn, Kevin M. Heinz, Terri W. Starman and Amanda Chau

This study evaluated the influence of insecticides on gas exchange, chlorophyll content, vegetative and floral development, and plant quality of gerbera (Gerbera jamesonii Bolus `Festival Salmon'). Insecticides from five chemical classes were applied weekly at 1× or 4× their respective recommended concentration. The insecticides used were abamectin (Avid), acephate (Orthene), bifenthrin (Talstar), clarified hydrophobic extract of neem oil (Triact), and spinosad (Conserve). Photosynthesis and stomatal conductance were reduced in plants treated with neem oil. Plants treated with neem oil flowered later—and at 4× the recommended label concentration had reduced growth, based on lower vegetative dry mass (DM) and total aboveground DM, reduced leaf area, thicker leaves (lower specific leaf area), higher chlorophyll content (basal leaves), and reduced flower production. Plants treated with acephate at 4× the recommended label concentration were of the lowest quality due to extensive phytotoxicity (leaf chlorosis). Plants treated with 1× or 4× abamectin or spinosad were of the highest quality due to no phytotoxicity and no thrips damage (thrips naturally migrated into the greenhouse). The control plants and plants treated with 1× bifenthrin had reduced quality because of thrips feeding damage; however gas exchange was not negatively affected.

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James D. Spiers, Fred T. Davies, Chuanjiu He, Carlos Bogran, Amanda Chau, Kevin M. Heinz and Terri W. Starman

This research focused on the influence of insecticides on gas exchange, chlorophyll content, vegetative and floral development, and overall plant quality of gerbera (Gerbera jamesonii var. `Festival Salmon'). Insecticides from five chemical classes were applied weekly at 1× and 4× the recommended concentrations. Insecticides used were: abamectin (Avid® 0.15 EC), acephate (Orthene® Turf, Tree & Ornamental Spray 97), bifenthrin (Talstar® Nursery Flowable), clarified hydrophobic extract of neem oil (Triact® 70), and spinosad (Conserve® SC). Phytotoxicity occurred in the form of leaf chlorosis on all acephate treatments, with the greatest damage occurring at the 4× concentration. Photosynthesis and stomatal conductance were significantly reduced in plants treated with neem oil extract. Plants treated with the neem oil extract (1× and 4×) flowered later and had reduced growth [lower shoot dry mass (DM) and total DM]. Plants that received 4× the recommended concentration of neem oil extract had reduced leaf area, thicker leaves (lower specific leaf area), higher leaf chlorophyll content, and reduced flower production, as determined by flower number and flower DM. Plants treated with acephate 4× concentration were the lowest quality plants due to extensive phytotoxicity (leaf burn), which also reduced photosynthesis. The highest quality plants were treated with spinosad and abamectin due to zero phytotoxicity and/or no thrips damage (thrips naturally migrated into the greenhouse). The control plants and plants treated with bifenthrin 1× were not marketable due to thrips damage; however, plant growth characteristics and gas exchange were not statistically different.

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James D. Spiers, Fred T. Davies, Scott A. Finlayson, Chuanjiu He, Kevin M. Heinz and Terri W. Starman

This research focused on the effects of nitrogen fertilization on jasmonic acid accumulation and total phenolic concentrations in gerbera. The phytohormone jasmonic acid is known to regulate many plant responses, including inducible defenses against insect herbivory. Phenolics are constitutive secondary metabolites that have been shown to negatively affect insect feeding. Gerbera jamesonii `Festival Salmon Rose' plants were grown in a growth chamber and subjected to either low fertilization (only supplied with initial fertilizer charge present in professional growing media) or high fertilization (recommended rate = 200 mg·L-1 N). Plants were fertilized with 200 mL of a 15N–7P–14K fertilizer at 0 or 200 mg·L-1 N at each watering (as needed). Treatments consisted of ±mechanical wounding with a hemostat to one physiologically mature leaf and the subsequent harvest of that leaf at specified time intervals for jasmonic acid quantification. Total phenolics were measured in physiologically mature and young leaves harvested 0 and 10 hours after ±mechanical wounding. Low-fertility plants had reduced aboveground dry mass, were deficient in nitrogen and phosphorus, and had about a 10× higher concentration of total phenolics when compared to high fertility plants. In low-fertility plants, young leaves had greater concentrations of phenolics compared to physiologically mature leaves. There were no differences in total phenolics due to wounding. The effect of nitrogen fertilization on jasmonic acid accumulation will also be discussed.