The genus Actinidia contains more than 66 species and 118 taxa. The best-known species is A. deliciosa C.F. Liang et A.R. Ferguson, the commercially developed kiwifruit. The natural range of Actinidia is remarkably wide, extending from the tropics (latitude 0°0′) to cold temperate regions (500°N). However, the original distribution of most taxa of Actinidia is centered around the mountains and hills of south-central and southeast China, with the QinLing mountain as its northern boundary and the HengDuan mountain as its western boundary. Sixty-two species, 114 taxa have been found in China. Genetic variation ranging from morphological traits to DNA is discussed in here. 1) Morphological variation (mainly horticulturally important traits): fruit size varies from 2 to 100 g, fruit skin color ranges from brown to green to white to purple, fruit surface from setose to villose, and flesh color from green to purple. 2) Nutritional value and flavor: vitamin C content varies from 10 mg/100 g to 1000 mg/100 g fresh fruit, soluble solids ranges from 2% to 22%, and flavor includes variation form bitter and astringent to desirable sour-sweet. 3) Gender variation includes six phenotype/genotypes of female, inconstant female, male, fruiting male, neuter and hermaphrodite. 4) Ploidy variation is consist of 2x, 4x, 6x, 8x in both intra- and inter-taxa variation. 5) Isozyme genetic variation: high polymorphisms were detected in commercial cultivated species and 28 wild species. 6) Genetic diversity was evaluated by RAPD, SSR, PCR-RFLP of mtDNA and cpDNA, a high level of genetic diversity was found in both inter-taxa and intra-taxa. Conservation strategy for diverse genetic resources of Actinidia in China is also discussed.
Fenny Dane and Hongwen Huang
The genetic diversity within and between four geographic populations of the Ozark chinkapin was evaluated and partitioned in order to gain an understanding of the overall genetic diversity and structure of this species, which will be instrumental for its preservation and germplasm enhancement. Nuts of chinkapin trees along the natural range of the species in the Sylamore Ranger District of the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas were collected and evaluated with isozyme and RAPD markers scattered across the genome. Allozyme differences were detected among the geographic populations. Allele frequencies will be determined and subjected to genetic diversity statistics. A conservation plan will be recommended.
Bingru Huang and Hongwen Gao
Drought is among the most limiting factors for turfgrass growth. Understanding genetic variations and physiological mechanisms in turfgrass drought resistance would facilitate breeding and management programs to improve drought resistance. The experiment was designed to investigate shoot physiological responses of six tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) cultivars representing several generations of turfgrass improvement to drought stress. Grasses were grown in well-watered or drying (nonirrigated) soil for 35 days in the greenhouse. Net photosynthetic rate (Pn), stomatal conductance (gs), transpiration rate (Tr), relative water content (RWC), and photochemical efficiency (Fv/Fm) declined during drought progression in all cultivars, but the time and the severity of reductions varied with cultivar and physiological factors. The values of Pn, RWC, gs, and Tr decreased significantly for `Rebel Jr', `Bonsai', and `Phoenix' when soil water content declined to 20% after 9 days of treatment (DOT) and for `Houndog V', `Kentucky-31', and `Falcon II' when soil water content dropped to 10% at 15 DOT. A significant decrease in Fv/Fm was not observed in drought-stressed plants until 21 DOT for `Rebel Jr', `Bonsai', and `Phoenix' and 28 DOT for `Houndog V', `Kentucky-31', and `Falcon II'. The decline in Pn resulted mainly from internal water deficit and stomatal closure under mild drought-stress conditions. After a prolonged period of drought stress (35 DOT), `Falcon II', `Houndog V', and `Kentucky-31' maintained higher Pn than did `Rebel Jr', `Bonsai', and `Phoenix', which could be attributed to their higher Fv/Fm. This study demonstrated variation in drought resistance among tall fescue cultivars, which was related to their differential responses in photosynthetic capacity and water relations.
Bingru Huang and Hongwen Gao
To investigate shoot physiological responses to drought stress of six tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) cultivars representing several generations of turfgrass improvement, forage-type `Kentucky-31', turf-type `Phoenix', `Phoenix', and `Houndog V', and dwarf-type `Rebel Jr` and `Bonsai' were grown in well-watered or drying soil for 35 days in a greenhouse. Net photosynthetic rate (Pn), stomatal conductance (gs), transpiration rate (Tr), relative water content (RWC), and photochemical efficiency (Fv/Fm) declined during drought progression in all cultivars, but the time and the severity of reductions varied with cultivars and physiological factors. Pn, RWC, gs, and Tr decreased significantly for `Rebel Jr', `Bonsai', and `Phoenix' when soil water content declined to 20% after 9 days of treatment (DOT) and for `Falcon II', `Houndog V', and `Kentucky-31' when soil water content dropped to 10% at 15 DOT. A significant decrease in Fv/Fm was not observed in drought-stressed plants until 21 DOT for `Rebel Jr', `Bonsai', and `Phoenix' and 28 DOT for `Houndog V', `Kentucky-31', and `Falcon II'. The decline in Pn was due mostly to internal water deficit and stomatal closure under short-term or mild drought-stress conditions. After a prolonged period of drought (35 DOT), higher Pn in `Falcon II', `Houndog V', and `Kentucky-31' could be attributed to their higher Fv/Fm.
Hongwen Huang and Desmond R. Layne
The pawpaw is the largest tree fruit native to the United States and the only temperate member of the tropical Custard Apple family (Annonaceae). In 1995, Kentucky State Univ. was established as the USDA-ARS-National Clonal Germplasm Repository for Asimina spp. Seedling trees from 400 pawpaw accessions representing 70 distinct geographic regions from 17 states are currently being grown at our research farm. In a preliminary study, 18 pawpaw cultivars were assayed in 30 enzyme systems using an isoelectric focusing polyacrylamide slab gel system of pH 4-9. Twelve enzymes produced high resolution without tissue specificity and were further used for evaluation of allozyme diversity of geographic populations. Degree of genetic diversity within populations and differentiation between populations as evaluated by the expected heterozygosity (He), the proportion of polymorphic loci (P), the average number of alleles per locus (A), chi-squared analysis of allele frequency heterogeneity, Nei's standard genetic distance (D), and identity (I) will be discussed. Dendrograms were generated by cluster analysis using the unweighted pair group method to demonstrate the relationships of geographic populations in the 17 states evaluated. The strategy for germplasm conservation and cultivar development through breeding will also be discussed.
Fenny Dane, Leigh K. Hawkins, and Hongwen Huang
Genetic variation among nine populations of Ozark chinkapin [Castanea pumila (L.) Mill. var. ozarkensis (Ashe) Tucker], threatened by their susceptibility to chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica (Murrill) Barr), was investigated. Population genetic parameters estimated from isozyme variation suggest the populations have a higher genetic diversity (He = 0.227) than populations of the other Castanea Mill. species on the North American continent, the American chestnut (C. dentata (Marsh.) Borkh.) High levels of heterozygosity were detected within the populations, but nonsignificant differences in genetic diversity were observed among the different populations. Principal component analysis based on isozyme allele frequencies or randomly amplified polymorphic DNA phenotype frequencies showed clustering of the same populations. Populations with high levels of genetic diversity and unusual alleles should be the focal point of conservation biologists for capturing much of the genetic variation of the species.
Ying Wang, Ming Kang, and Hongwen Huang
Cross-species amplification of 55 microsatellite loci developed in european chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) and japanese chestnut (C. crenata Sieb & Zucc.) was tested in three chestnut species from China [C. mollissima Blume, C. seguinii Dode, and C. henryi (Skan.) Rehder & Wilson]. Among all the tested loci, 47 (85.5%), 47 (85.5%), and 44 (80%) were successfully amplified in each of the three Chinese species, respectively. All microsatellite loci tested from C. crenata successfully amplified in the Chinese species, while only 80.5%, 80.5%, and 73.2% of the loci originating from C. sativa amplified in the three Chinese species. The level of polymorphism and mean number of alleles was 58.2% and 4.12 for C. mollissima, 60% and 4.64 for C. seguinii, and 60% and 4.76 for C. henryi, with mean observed heterozygosity ranging from 0.440 to 0.549 and mean expected heterozygosity ranging from 0.506 to 0.615. Transferability of Castanea Mill. microsatellites provides a powerful tool for chestnut breeding programs and conservation genetic studies of Castanea species.
Donglin Zhang, Hongwen Huang, and Dongyan Hu*
Horticultural plants include fruit, vegetable, ornamental, turf, medicinal, beverage, spice, and other economic species. Although these plants originally derive from wild populations and play a vital role in our daily life, their importance on protecting biodiversity has not been addressed. With tremendous driving force of their monetary value, farmers, gardeners, breeders, and researchers have domesticated, selected, and bred many new horticultural crops, which ultimately increase biological diversity in cultivated plant communities. Both morphological and molecular data from 90 accessions of cultivated Cephalotaxus and 48 accessions of cultivated Chamaecyparis thyoides demonstrated their wide range of morphological differences and more than 43% of genetic dissimilarity coefficients. In US alone, one new cultivar of Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum was released to the nursery industry every year since the first plant was introduced from Wuhan Botanical Garden in 1983. Obviously, human activities rapidly accelerate evolutions. To preserve and reproduce new and rare taxa, regeneration of these plants is challenging. Rooting of Magnolia grandiflora stem cuttings, overcoming Cephalotaxus seed dormancy, experimenting Pinus strobus embryogenesis, and overwintering Stewartia cuttings should be applied for reproduction studies of unusual horticultural clones. For plants that could not be regenerated with today's propagation methods, their seeds, tissues, pollen, and embryos should be preserved as some USDA labs do for heirloom horticultural crops. In the future, with aid of advanced science and technology, we should be able to regenerate those plants from preserved materials and increase biological diversity.
J.D. Norton, Hongwen Huang, and Fenny Dane
The Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima Blume) is a valuable germplasm resource for horticultural traits such as resistance to chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica), excellent quality, wide adaptation, and consistent high yield. The Chinese chestnut breeding program was established at Auburn Univ. in 1933 from nuts directly introduced from China by the USDA. A recurrent selection breeding program with progeny from the 1933, 1953, and 1991 plantings with selection for blight resistance, precocity, nut size, and storage quality, yield, and pest resistance. Cultivars released from the 1933 planting were `Alaling,' `Alamore', and `Black Beauty'. `AU-Cropper', `AU-Leader', and `AU-Homestead' were named from the 1953 planting. Two blight-resistant, precocious seedlings, AU-91-P1-26 and AU-P4-26, appear to be very promising selections for improvement of all Chinese chestnut cultivars for nut size and other selection traits. Since there is little information available regarding heritability of certain traits in perennial tree species, results of 65 years of breeding at Auburn Univ. should provide us with guidance for further improvement of selection traits in chestnut breeding.
Hongwen Huang, Fenny Dane, and Joseph Norton
Allozyme genetic variability in three chestnut (Castanea) species was investigated using 19 loci from ten enzyme systems. G-tests of heterogeneity of isozymic allele distribution showed significant differences in both intraspecific and interspecific populations. C. mollissima was found to possess a significantly higher value of mean gene heterozygosity (H=0.3050±0.0419), percentage of polymorphic loci (P=84.21%) and average number of alleles per locus (A=2.05) than any other species in the Castanea section Eucustanon. When the genetic variability of populations of C. mollissimo from four regions in China was investigated, population from the Changjiang river region showed a markedly higher mean gene heterozygosity (H=0.3480±0.0436) than populations from the other regions. An approximately identical genetic distance between the population from the Changjiang river region and populations from three other regions was observed, while populations from the latter regions showed almost the same genetic distance from each other.