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  • Author or Editor: Holly A. Little x
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‘Hamlin’ sweet orange trees on ‘Carrizo’ citrange and ‘Swingle’ citrumelo rootstocks were treated weekly with a commercial extract of the brown seaweed Ascophyllum nodosum at 5 and 10 mL·L−1 as either a soil drench or foliar spray. Half of the trees in each treatment were subjected to drought stress [irrigated at 50% of evapotranspiration (ET)], whereas the other half remained fully irrigated (100% ET). Drought stress reduced shoot growth and leaf photosynthesis but increased root and total plant growth relative to the amount of water applied, thus increasing whole plant water use efficiency. Trees treated with seaweed extract and drought-stressed had significantly more total growth than untreated drought-stressed trees for both rootstocks. The maintenance of growth by the seaweed extract under drought stress conditions was unrelated to photosynthesis. However, the seaweed extract treatment did have a significant effect on plant water relations. Soil drench-treated trees had more growth and higher stem water potential than foliar-treated or control trees after 8 weeks of drought stress. These results indicate that seaweed extract may be a useful tool for improving drought stress tolerance of container-grown citrus trees.

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The next wave of genetically engineered crops will use genes that modify gene regulation, plant metabolism, or signal transduction. The potential for these genes to have cascading effects on metabolism, physiology, and development increases the possibility for unintended effects that influence crop performance or environmental impact. This review examines altered ethylene signaling as an example of a complex trait with many horticultural applications. Genes for modified ethylene production or perception intended to regulate ripening, senescence, or stress or disease resistance have been observed to cause a broad range of secondary effects, including modified growth and development and increased severity to biotic and abiotic stresses. Successful use of complex traits in crop varieties will frequently require methods to reduce secondary effects, including the use of targeted gene expression. Risk assessment will need to consider observed pleiotropic effects on fitness within the context of potential environmental impacts.

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