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  • Author or Editor: Lisa Tang x
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In the past decade, FL citrus industry has been struck by Huanglongbing (HLB), a disease caused by the phloem-limited bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas). Besides tree decline, HLB causes a sharp increase in mature fruit drop before harvest, leading to a substantial reduction in citrus production. The aim of the study was to provide insights in HLB-associated mature fruit drop. For HLB-affected ‘Valencia’ and ‘Hamlin’ sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), trees exhibiting severe symptoms (“severe trees”) had a significantly higher rate of mature fruit drop compared with mildly symptomatic ones (“mild trees”). Interestingly, dropped fruit were smaller than those still attached to tree branches regardless of the symptom levels of trees; overall, fruit of severe trees were smaller than mild trees. The result suggests a negative effect of HLB on fruit growth that may lead to a high incidence to drop subsequently at maturity. This possibility is further supported by the difference in immature fruit size as early as 2 months after bloom between severe and mild trees. Although HLB-triggered phloem plugging due to callose deposition in citrus leaves, which results in disrupted carbohydrate transport, has been documented in literature, the results of the histological analysis demonstrated no consistent pattern of callose deposition in the mature fruit pedicel in relation to the drop incidence. Additionally, sugar concentration in juice was not significantly different between dropped and attached fruit, providing evidence that carbohydrate shortage is not the case for dropped fruit and thus not the predominant cause of HLB-associated mature fruit drop. Notably, the midday water potential was significantly lower for severe than mild trees during the preharvest period (2 weeks before harvest of the current crop) in late March, which was also the second week after full bloom of return flowering. This suggests that altered tree water status due to HLB might limit fruit growth during the initial stage of fruit development (immediately after flowering) and/or increase the incidence of mature fruit abscission, leading to elevated preharvest fruit drop. Together, the results suggest that in the presence of HLB, strategies to increase fruit size and minimize additional stresses (especially drought) for the trees may improve mature fruit retention.

Open Access

Irrigation decision support systems evolving in the domestic temperate tree fruit production industry incorporate measures of soil moisture status, which diverges from classic physiological indicators of edaphic stress. This study used an autonomous sensor-based irrigation system to impose a water deficit (soil matric potential targets of –25, –40, –60, and –80 kPa) on ‘Autumn Gala’, ‘CrimsonCrisp’, and ‘Golden Delicious’ apple (Malus domestica) cultivars grafted to ‘Budagovsky 9’ rootstock in the greenhouse (n = 60). It was hypothesized that relationships between physiological plant function, assessed via infrared gas exchange and chlorophyll fluorescence, and the soil matric potential may be used to advance emerging irrigation decision support systems. Complications arising from defoliation by day 11 at –60 and –80 kPa indicate the generation of substrate-specific soil–water relationships in research applications of autonomous sensor-based irrigation systems. ‘Autumn Gala’ carbon assimilation rates at –80 kPa declined from day 0 to day 8 (9.93 and 5.86 μmol⋅m–2⋅s–1 carbon dioxide), whereas the transpiration rate was maintained, potentially reducing observed defoliation as other cultivars increased transpiration to maintain carbon assimilation. Correlation matrices revealed Pearson’s r ≤ |0.43| for all physiological metrics considered with soil matric potential. Nevertheless, exploratory regression analysis on predawn leaf water potential, carbon assimilation, transpiration, stomatal conductance, and nonphotochemical quenching exposed speculatively useful data and data shapes that warrant additional study. Nonlinear piecewise regression suggested soil matric potential may useful as a predictor for the rate of change in predawn leaf water potential upon exposure to a water deficit. The critical point bridging the linear spans, –30.6 kPa, could be useful for incorporating in emerging irrigation decision support systems.

Open Access
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Effects of water-deficit stress and foliar-applied gibberellic acid (GA3) on ‘Washington’ navel orange (Citrus sinensis) floral gene expression and inflorescence number were quantified. Trees subjected to 8 weeks of water-deficit stress [average stem water potential (SWP) −2.86 MPa] followed by 3 weeks of re-irrigation (SWP recovered to > −1.00 MPa) produced more inflorescences in week 11 than trees well-irrigated (SWP > −1.00 MPa) for the full 11 weeks (P < 0.001). After 8 weeks of water-deficit stress, bud expression of flowering locus t (FT), suppressor of overexpression of constans1 (SOC1), leafy (LFY), apetala1 (AP1), apetala2 (AP2), sepallata1 (SEP1), pistillata (PI), and agamous (AG) increased during the re-irrigation period (weeks 9 and 10), but only AP1, AP2, SEP1, PI, and AG expression increased to levels significantly greater than that of well-irrigated trees. Foliar-applied GA3 (50 mg·L−1) in weeks 2 through 8 of the water-deficit stress treatment did not reduce bud FT, SOC1, or LFY expression, but prevented the upregulation AP1, AP2, SEP1, PI, and AG expression that occurred during re-irrigation in water-deficit stressed trees not treated with GA3. Applications of GA3 to water-deficit stressed trees reduced inflorescence number 95% compared with stressed trees without GA3. Thus, GA3 inhibited citrus (Citrus sp.) floral development in response to water-deficit stress through downregulating AP1 and AP2 expression, which likely led to the failed activation of the downstream floral organ identity genes. The results reported herein suggest that bud determinacy and subsequent floral development in response to water-deficit stress in ‘Washington’ navel orange are controlled by AP1 and AP2 transcript levels, which regulate downstream floral organ identity gene activity and the effect of GA3 on citrus flower formation. The water-deficit stress floral-induction pathway provides an alternative to low-temperature induction that increases the potential for successful flowering in citrus trees grown in areas experiencing warmer, drier winters due to global climate change.

Open Access

For field-grown ‘Valencia’ sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) affected by Huanglongbing [HLB (Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas)], trees that displayed more severe HLB symptoms (severe trees) had 74% fruit drop before harvest; however, the drop rate for less symptomatic trees (mild trees) was 45%. For mature fruit (3 weeks before harvest) still attached to the branches, 60% of them from severe trees were “loose fruit” [fruit detachment force (FT) < 6 kgf]. In contrast, only 13% of the attached fruit from the mild trees were loose. Overall, fresh weight and size of loose fruit were lower than “tight fruit” (FT > 6 kgf). Irrespective of the symptom levels of trees, the concentrations of glucose, fructose, and inositol in juice of loose fruit were the same or larger than those of tight fruit, suggesting that the shortage of carbohydrates is not the dominant cause of HLB-associated preharvest fruit drop. Expression levels of the cell wall modification genes encoding cellulase (endo-1,4-β-glucanase), polygalacturonase, and pectate lyase were greater in the calyx abscission zones of loose fruit compared to tight fruit, indicating that cell separation was occurring in the former at the time of collection. No differences in the expression levels of genes encoding the ethylene biosynthesis enzymes, including 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC) synthase (ACS) and ACC oxidase (ACO), and an ethylene-responsive transcription factor 1 (ERF1) were observed in tissues of loose and tight fruit. Interestingly, ACS, ACO, and EFR1 expressions were lower in calyx abscission zones and in leaves of the severe trees compared with those of mild trees, suggesting an ostensible, HLB-dependent reduction in ethylene biosynthesis and/or signaling close to harvest time. However, the role of ethylene in HLB-associated preharvest fruit drop remains to be determined. The results leave open the possibility of early ethylene production and action before the initiation of fruit abscission.

Free access

Fruit production of sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) in Florida has been declining with the presence of Huanglongbing [HLB; Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas)] disease. Through disruption of the balance of endogenous hormone levels, the disease has negative impacts on fruit development, mature fruit retention, and overall tree health. Thus, the goal of this research was to determine whether plant growth regulator gibberellic acid (GA3) can be used to improve the production issues caused by HLB. For ‘Valencia’ sweet orange, although foliar applied GA3 from September to January (33 mg·L−1 for five applications) resulted in 50% decrease in bloom the following spring (results presented in ), this treatment did not cause reduction in yield of current and subsequent crops. Moreover, a 30% average increase in yield in GA3-treated trees was observed over a period of 4 years. The size of mature fruit was also increased (by 4% to 5%) with reduced fruit drop rate near harvest in GA3-treated trees compared with nontreated control trees. Furthermore, the canopy density, an indicator of HLB severity, was maintained in trees applied with GA3 (from 90.8% light interception to 90.4%). In contrast, there was a substantial decrease in canopy density for control trees (from 91.6% to 84.0%). Gene expression analysis of abscission zone and leaves indicated that GA3-treated trees had enhanced oxidative stress mitigation mechanism and plant defense response. Given that there is no cure for HLB, these results presented a possible remedy of using GA3 in sustaining tree health for field-grown sweet orange affected by HLB.

Open Access

Under Florida conditions, sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) affected by Huanglongbing {HLB [Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas)]} frequently exhibits irregular flowering patterns, including off-season flowering and prolonged bloom period. Such patterns can increase the opportunity for temporal and spatial proliferation of pathogens that infect flower petals, including the fungal causal agent for postbloom fruit drop (PFD) Colletotrichum acutatum J.H. Simmonds. For the development of strategies to manipulate flowering, the effects of floral inhibitor gibberellic acid (GA3) sprayed monthly at full- and half-strength rates (49 and 25 g·ha−1, or 33 and 17 mg·L−1, respectively) with different regimens, starting from September and ending in November, December, or January, on the pattern of spring bloom were evaluated in field-grown HLB-affected ‘Valencia’ sweet orange at two locations in subsequent February through April for two separate years in this study. To further examine whether GA3 effects on flowering patterns vary in different cultivars, early-maturing ‘Navel’ sweet orange trees receiving no GA3 or full-strength GA3 monthly in September through January were included. Overall, for ‘Valencia’ sweet orange, monthly applications of GA3 at 49 g·ha−1 from September to December not only minimized the incidence of scattered emergence of flower buds and open flowers before the major bloom but also shortened the duration of flowering, compared with the untreated control trees. In addition, exogenous GA3 led to decreased leaf flowering locus t (FT) expression starting in December, as well as reduced expression of its downstream flower genes in buds during later months. When applied monthly from September through January at 49 g·ha−1, similar influences of exogenous GA3 on repressing flower bud formation and compressing bloom period were observed in ‘Navel’ sweet orange. These results suggest that by effectively manipulating flowering in HLB-affected sweet orange trees under the Florida climate conditions, exogenous GA3 may be used to reduce early sporadic flowering and thereby shorten the window of C. acutatum infection that causes loss in fruit production.

Open Access

The sensitivity of easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum) to either ethylene or methane (products of incomplete burning in gas-fired unit heaters) was tested during rooting [3 weeks at 18 °C (65 °F)], vernalization [6 weeks at 6 °C (43 °F)] and subsequent greenhouse forcing (15 weeks at 18 °C). Starting at planting, easter lilies were exposed for one of seven consecutive 3-week periods (short-term), or for 0, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, or 21 weeks starting at planting (long-term) to either ethylene or methane at an average concentration of 2.4 and 2.5 μL·L-1(ppm), respectively. Short- or long-term exposure to ethylene during rooting and vernalization had no effect on the number of buds, leaves, or plant height but increased the number of days to flower. Short-term exposure within 6 weeks after vernalization reduced the number of buds by 1 bud/plant compared to the control (no ethylene exposure). However, extensive bud abortion occurred when plants were exposed to ethylene during the flower development phase. Long-term exposure to ethylene from planting until after the flower initiation period resulted in only two to three buds being initiated, while continued long-term exposure until flowering caused all flower buds to abort. Short-term exposure to methane at any time had no effect on leaf yellowing, bud number, bud abortion, or height and had only a marginal effect on production time. Long-term exposure to methane from planting until the end of vernalization increased both the number of buds, leaves and height without affecting forcing time, leaf yellowing or bud abortion.

Full access

To determine how the dormancy-breaking agent hydrogen cyanamide (HC) advances budbreak in peach (Prunus persica), this study compared the transcriptome of buds of low-chill ‘TropicBeauty’ peach trees treated with 1% (v/v) HC and that of nontreated trees at 3 and 7 days after treatment (DAT), respectively, using an RNA sequencing analysis. The peak of total budbreak occurred 6 weeks earlier in the HC-treated trees (at 32 DAT) than the nontreated trees (at 74 DAT). There were 1312 and 1095 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) at 3 and 7 DAT, respectively. At 3 DAT, DEGs related to oxidative stress, including the response to hypoxia, lipid oxidation, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) metabolic process, were upregulated in HC-treated buds. Additionally, DEGs encoding enzymes for ROS scavenging and the pentose phosphate pathway were upregulated at 3 DAT but they were not differently expressed at 7 DAT, indicating a temporary demand for defense mechanisms against HC-triggered oxidative stress. Upregulation of DEGs for cell division and development at 7 DAT, which were downregulated at 3 DAT, suggests that cell activity was initially suppressed but was enhanced within 7 DAT. At 7 DAT, DEGs related to cell wall degradation and modification were upregulated, which was possibly responsible for the burst of buds. The results of this study strongly suggest that HC induces transient oxidative stress shortly after application, leading to the release of bud dormancy and, subsequently, causing an increase in cell activity and cell wall loosening, thereby accelerating budbreak in peach.

Free access