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H.C. Wien

In one greenhouse and two field experiments, eight or ten pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) cultivars were subjected to low-light stress by use of shade cloth (reducing light by 80%) or to foliar sprays of ethephon at 75 or 150 pi-liter-]. Both low-light stress and ethephon identified `Ace', 'Canape', and. `Belrubi' as less susceptible to flower and flower bud abscission than other cultivars in the first field experiment. In the 2nd year, air mean maxima of 32C caused severe abscission in controls and shaded plants, and complete loss of flowers in those sprayed with ethephon. Abscission of disbudded pedicels was not related to abscission susceptibility of eight cultivars when subjected to shade. While ethephon spray can serve as a satisfactory abscission screening tool under unstressed growing conditions, low-light stress imposed by shading may be used under a wider range of conditions. Chemical name used: 2-chloroethyl phosphoric acid (ethephon).

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H.C. Wien

When pumpkins are grown in elevated temperatures (32/27 °C day/night) for 1 week during flower development, fewer female flower buds are formed than at normal temperatures (20/15 °C) and only a small percentage of these reach anthesis. To determine if application of the ethylene-releasing compound ethephon can overcome the suppression of female flowers at high temperatures, `Baby Bear' pumpkin plants were sprayed at the two-leaf stage with 100 or 300 μL L–1 ethephon and then grown in hot and cool greenhouse compartments. At 20/15 °C, 17% of the first 15 main stem nodes produced female flower buds on control plants and virtually all of these developed into open flowers. The higher rate of ethephon increased female bud percentage to 37%. At 32/27 °C, only 3% of the nodes formed female flower buds and 2% flowered. Application of ethephon did not significantly increase female expression at high temperature, and none of the buds reached anthesis. Treatment with the inhibitor of ethylene action silver thiosulfate reduced female flower bud formation at the low temperature and entirely suppressed female flower buds at high temperature. In two additional experiments, these treatments were applied to two cultivars grown at a less extreme 32/20 and at 20/15 °C. Female buds and open flowers were moderately increased by ethephon in the high temperatures, suggesting that ethephon might foster female flowering in less extreme temperatures. Further work is needed to determine if ethephon treatment can overcome the heat-induced inhibition of female flowers in pumpkin under field conditions.

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H.C. Wien and Y. Zhang

Catfacing of tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) fruit describes the enlarged blossom-end scar and ridged, flattened or irregular fruit shape often found on plants subjected to low temperature during ovary development. Experiments were conducted to determine if GA3 foliar sprays could be used as a screening tool for catfacing. Concentrations of 5 to 50 μM of GA3, applied once at transplanting, significantly increased catfacing incidence on the susceptible `Revolution', whereas the resistant `Valerie' was less affected. Two applications 8 days apart extended symptoms to later clusters formed on branches and may be useful for screening cultivars of a wide range of earliness. Plant apex removal may also be possible as a fruit catfacing screening tool. Chemical name used: gibberellic acid (GA3).

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H.C. Wien and Yiping Zhang

A series of greenhouse experiments was conducted with `Shamrock' bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) to gain insight into the flower abscission mechanism and to investigate methods to reduce reproductive structure abscission due to low light intensity. Foliar sprays of STS reduced stress-induced abscission. Application of the synthetic auxin NAA to the ovary substituted for pollination to effect fruit set under nonstress conditions, but did not improve fruit set compared to pollinated controls under low-light stress. Ovary treatment with GA3 and BA either alone or combined with NAA had similar results to NAA treatment alone. Foliar sprays of NAA or CPA also did not improve fruit set under low-light stress conditions. Application of NAA in an aqueous paste to the abscission zone prevented abscission but inhibited fruit growth. Taken together, the results indicate that stress-induced abscission is not prevented by auxin application to the ovary or foliage. The interaction of ethylene and auxin in reproductive structure abscission under stress conditions requires further investigation. Chemical names used: 6-benzylaminopurine (BA), p-chlorophenoxy acetic acid (CPA), gibberellic acid (GA,), silver thiosulfate (STS).

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A.D. Turner and H.C. Wien

Cultivars of bell pepper differ in susceptibility to bud/flower abscission. Reduction in the level of assimilate, and alterations in assimilate partitioning may be involved in the processes leading to bud/flower abscission. Four growth analysis experiments were conducted to determine whether two pepper cultivars differing in susceptibility to stress-induced abscission showed corresponding differences in growth and rates and dry matter partitioning when subjected to shade stress. The reduction in RGR and NAR with shading was significantly greater for the abscission-susceptible `Shamrock' than the more tolerant `Ace'. Partitioning of dry matter to reproductive structures was reduced by shading. There were no cultivar differences in the proportion of dry matter partitioned to young developing leaves. Fully expanded leaves comprised a larger proportion of total dry matter in `Shamrock'. The lower NAR of `Shamrock' under stress may have led to greater bud/flower abscission than `Ace' under shade stress. If preferential partitioning of dry matter to competing structures (developing leaves) is also involved, it was not detected using this technique.

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H.C. Wien and A.D. Turner

In a preliminary experiment, tomatoes were induced to catface by a temperature treatment of 2 weeks at 16/10C (day/night), starting at the 6-leaf stage. Fruits of the second and third, but not the first cluster showed catface symptoms. If catfacing induction could be further delayed by growing transplants in a non-inducing environment until most flower primordia have been initiated, plants might escape the disorder. In 2 field trials, plants were greenhouse-grown for 33, 47, or 61 days, and induced to catface by a GA3 foliar spray (15 ul·1-1) at transplanting. Catfacing was significantly increased by GA, sprays (23 vs 11% of all fruits in 1989, 22 vs 8% in 1990). In both years, there was a highly significant interaction between plant age and catfacing incidence, with high levels for young and medium-aged, but lower levels for old GA-treated transplants. Marketable yields were highest for youngest and medium-aged plants in 1989 and 1990, respectively. Old plants were checked in growth after transplanting and produced lowest yields in both years. Avoiding catfacing by use of old transplants thus has doubtful practical value.

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H.C. Wien and A.D. Turner

When GA3 foliar sprays are applied to tomatoes at transplanting (7.5 ppm, twice, one week apart) the lowest main stem clusters bear fruits which have large blossom-end scars (catfacing). Later flowering clusters are less affected as long as the plants are being grown under normal temperature conditions. Preliminary trials (Wien and Zhang, Hort Sci. 26:583-585, 1991) indicated that cultivar differences in catfacing susceptibility were reflected in GA3-induced catfacing differences. In 1990 and 1991, field trials were conducted in Freeville, N.Y. to compare the catfacing susceptibility of 14 and 18 fresh tomato cultivars respectively, using GA3 treatment. Catfacing was measured by counting the percentage of fruit on the third main stem, primary branch and two basal clusters that had blossom scars longer than 1 cm. Of the 14 cultivars common to both seasons, Valerie, Sunrise and Basketvee were least affected by catfacing in both control and GA3-treated plots, and Starfire, New Yorker and Olympic were most catfaced. GA3 spray shows promise for selecting catfacing-susceptible tomato cultivars.