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  • Author or Editor: Michelle Jones x
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Corolla senescence in petunias was accompanied by a decrease in total proteins and a corresponding increase in proteolytic activity. Transgenic petunias that contain the mutated ethylene receptor (35S:etr1-1) have reduced sensitivity to ethylene and delayed flower senescence. Declines in total protein levels and increases in proteolytic activity were also delayed in etr1-1 flowers and corresponded with corolla wilting. Experiments using class-specific proteinase inhibitors indicated that proteolytic activity in petunia corollas was largely due to cysteine proteinases. Total nitrogen levels within the corollas of both wild type and etr1-1 flowers also decreased during senescence. Nine cDNAs encoding putative cysteine proteinases (CPs) were identified from a petunia EST database developed at the University of Florida. Six of these cysteine proteinases showed increased transcript abundance during corolla senescence (senescence-associated CPs) while three decreased in abundance. Of the six senescence-associated cysteine proteinases, only five showed delayed up regulation in etr1-1 flowers that corresponded with corolla wilting. The role of ethylene in the regulation of protein degradation during flower senescence will be discussed.

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In Dianthus caryophyllus flowers the pollinated stigma gives rise to signals that are translocated throughout the flower and ultimately result in corolla senescence. Pollination leads to a rapid increase in ethylene production by the pollinated styles followed by ethylene biosynthesis from the ovaries, the receptacle tissue, and lastly the petals. The accumulation of ACC in these floral tissues also correlates with the sequential pattern of ethylene production. Ethylene production by the pollinated style can be defined temporally by three distinct peaks, with the first peak detected as early as 1 hour after pollination. In a carnation flower with multiple styles it is also possible to detect ethylene production from an unpollinated style on a pollinated gynoecium by 1 hour after pollination. This finding provides evidence for very rapid post-pollination signaling between styles. ACC synthase expression is induced in pollinated styles as early as 1 hour after pollination, but no message is detected in pollinated ovaries. ACC synthase enzyme activity is also absent in the pollinated ovaries despite the accumulation of large amounts of ACC in the ovary after pollination. This indicates that ACC must be translocated between organs after pollination. When a pollinated styles is removed from the flower at least 12 hours after pollination the corolla will still senesce. This indicates that the pollination signal has exited the style by this time. Evidence in carnations suggests that ACC and ethylene may both be involved in aspects of post-pollination signaling.

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The family Solanaceae, which includes both important crop and ornamental species, is generally considered to have high sensitivity to ethylene. Our objectives were to evaluate ethylene sensitivity between accessions with the family Solanaceae and to determine whether similar sensitivity was observed in seedlings and mature plants. For the seedling evaluations, seeds were germinated and grown in the dark on filter paper saturated with 0 or 100 μM 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC; the immediate precursor to ethylene). The relative hypocotyl length at 100 μM ACC was compared with untreated control (0 μM) seedlings. Mature plants were treated with 0 or 10 μL·L−1 ethylene in the dark for 24 hours. Ethylene responses including flower abscission, flower senescence, and epinasty were observed and quantified. Seedlings and mature plants were classified as having no response, low, medium, or high ethylene sensitivity based on the severity of the ethylene responses observed. Sensitivity differences were observed among seedling, juvenile, and mature plants, and a range of ethylene responses and symptom severity was observed between accessions within a species. The majority of the accessions were classified as medium or high ethylene sensitivity at both the seedling and mature plant stages. Solanum melongena ‘Black Beauty’ (eggplant) had a low response to ethylene at the seedling stage and a high response at the mature plant stage, whereas Petunia ×hybrida ‘Daddy Orchid’ had a high response at the seedling stage and a low response at the mature plant stage. Peppers (Capsicum annum), tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum), and tomatillos (Physalis ixocarpa) exhibited both floral and vegetative symptoms of ethylene damage, whereas calibrachoas (Calibrachoa ×hybrida), eggplants, nicotianas, and petunias exhibited only floral symptoms. The most common floral response to ethylene treatment was flower abscission, which was observed in almost all of the Solanum, Capsicum, and Nicotiana accessions. We consistently observed ethylene-induced epinasty in the genus Capsicum and in all of the Solanum except eggplant. Our results indicated that developmental stage influenced ethylene sensitivity, and there was not a consistent correlation between seedling and mature plant responses within the Solanaceae accessions that we evaluated.

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Following a compatible pollination in carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus L. `White Sim'), a signal that coordinates postpollination events is translocated from the style to the ovary and petals. In this paper the roles of ethylene and its direct precursor, 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC), in this signaling were investigated. Following pollination, ethylene and ACC increased sequentially in styles, ovaries, and petals. Ethylene and ACC were highest initially in the stigmatic region of the style but by 24 hours after pollination were highest in the base. Activity of ACC synthase correlated well with ethylene production in styles and petals. In ovaries, ACC synthase activity decreased after pollination despite elevated ethylene production. Lack of ACC synthase activity in pollinated ovaries, coupled with high ACC content, suggests that ACC is translocated within the gynoecium. Further, detection of propylene from petals following application to the ovary provided evidence for movement of ethylene within the flower. Experiments that removed styles and petals at various times after pollination suggest there is a transmissible pollination signal in carnations that has reached the ovary by 12 hours and the petals by 14 to 16 hours.

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Microbial biostimulants can promote ornamental plant growth during production and improve crop performance under abiotic stresses. Even though biostimulants have shown potential in many agricultural applications, the effectiveness and specificity of many products are not well understood. The objective of this study was to analyze the growth-promoting effects of microbial biostimulants during the greenhouse production of floriculture crops. We evaluated 13 biostimulant products in greenhouse-grown zinnia (Zinnia elegans ‘Magellan Ivory’) and petunia (Petunia ×hybrida ‘Carpet White’) at low fertility (one-third of the optimal fertilizer concentration). Biostimulant products 1 and 2 containing multiple species of beneficial bacteria and fungi, and product 10 containing Bacillus subtilis QST 713, were found to increase various aspects of plant growth, including the growth index, leaf chlorophyll content (SPAD index), and shoot biomass. Both flower biomass and numbers were greater in petunia treated with product 1, and leaf size increased in zinnia treated with products 1, 2, and 10. Plants treated with these effective biostimulants at low fertility had similar or better growth and quality than untreated plants grown under optimal fertility. The concentration of various nutrient elements in leaves was higher in zinnia plants treated with biostimulant products 1, 2, or 10 compared with the negative control. Some putative mechanisms for biostimulant effectiveness, the possible reasons for biostimulant ineffectiveness, and the potential for using biostimulants as a sustainable cultural strategy are discussed. This study provides useful information about microbial biostimulant effectiveness, which is important for the development and utilization of biostimulants in the greenhouse production of floriculture plants.

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Salinity, drought and temperature frequently limit crop productivity. Transgenic Petunia ×hybrida cv. Mitchell with altered endogenous raffinose family oligosaccharides (RFO) due to over-expression (sense) or under-expression (antisense) of the tomato α-galactosidase gene show that antisense increases in RFO are associated with greater tolerance to freezing stress (Pennycooke et al., 2003). Because vegetative propagules of these antisense lines rooted and established more quickly than their sense counterparts, we hypothesized that antisense lines would also respond to salinity and wilting stress. Salinity treatment plants were exposed to 50-200 mm NaCl graduated 25 mm every 3 days and held at 200 mm for 13 days. Dry-down treatments were watered to pot capacity, then not watered until the onset of wilting. This was repeated in cycles for 26 days. Data were collected on plant growth, root/shoot ratios, and leaf water potential. Fresh and dry weights in four of the six antisense lines exceeded the wild type and sense lines. Osmotic potential for salinity and dry-down plants was 160% to 220% higher than control plants. Pearson correlations revealed that higher osmotic potential was partially associated with higher fresh weight (r = 0.7214, P = 0.02) and root/shoot ratios (r = -0.7414, P = 0.02) in salinity stressed plants. In the dry-down drought stressed plants, osmotic potential was not associated with fresh weight (r = 0.3364, ns) nor root/shoot ratio (r = -0.0431, ns). Salinity stress reduced root mass compared to control and dry down plants. Sense plants grew slowly and were highly variable.

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Geraniums are sensitive to ethylene during shipping and respond by abscising their petals. Treatment of stock plants with ethylene (ethephon) in order to increase cutting yield resulted in earlier flowering in Pelargonium × hortorum `Kim' and `Veronica', but did not result in increased susceptibility to petal abscission following exposure to 1.0 μL·L-1 ethylene. Treatment of `Kim', `Veronica', `Fox', and `Cotton Candy' with 1.0 μL·L-1 ethylene resulted in increased petal abscission within one hour, with `Fox' being the most sensitive and `Kim' the least. Pretreatment of florets with 1-MCP for 3, 6, 12, or 24 hours at concentrations of 0.1 or 1.0 μL·L-1 decreased petal abscission in all cultivars following exposure to 1.0 μL·L-1 ethylene. Treatment with 0.1 μL·L-1 1-MCP for 1 hour reduced petal abscission rates in ethylene treated florets to that of non-ethylene treated controls in all cultivars except Fox. `Fox' florets, which are more sensitive to ethylene, required 12 to 24 hours of exposure to 1-MCP to reduce petal abscission rates to that of control flowers. Pretreatment of geranium plants with 1-MCP can be used to reduce petal shattering during shipping. Chemical names used: 2-chloroethanephosphonic acid (ethephon); 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP).

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Drought stress during the shipping and retailing of floriculture crops can reduce postproduction shelf life and marketability. The plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) mediates drought stress responses by closing stomata and reducing water loss. Applications of exogenous s-ABA effectively reduce water loss and allow a variety of species to survive temporary periods of drought stress. Unfortunately, s-ABA application can also lead to leaf chlorosis, which reduces the overall quality of economically important bedding plant species, including Viola ×wittrockiana (pansy). The goal of this research was to determine how to prevent s-ABA-induced leaf chlorosis in pansy and a closely related species, Viola cornuta (viola). All concentrations of both spray (250 or 500 mg·L−1) and drench (125 or 250 mg·L−1) s-ABA applications induced leaf yellowing. Young plants at the plug stage and 11-cm finished plants with one to two open flowers were further evaluated to determine if the developmental stage of the plants influenced s-ABA effectiveness or the development of negative side effects. Both plugs and finished pansies and violas developed leaf chlorosis after s-ABA applications, but symptoms were generally more severe in finished plants. The individual application of benzyladenine (BA), gibberellic acid (GA4+7), or the ethylene perception inhibitor, 1-methylcyclopropene, before s-ABA application had no effect on the development of s-ABA-induced leaf chlorosis. However, applications of 5 or 10 mg·L−1 BA and GA4+7 as a mixture (BA + GA4+7) before a drench or spray application of s-ABA prevented leaf chlorosis. The application of s-ABA and BA + GA4+7 would allow floriculture crops to tolerate temporary periods of drought stress without any loss of postproduction quality.

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Ethylene gas can cause extensive damage to bedding plants during production, shipping, and retailing. Seedlings exposed to ethylene exhibit the triple response, which includes an exaggerated apical hook, thickened hypocotyl, and reduced hypocotyl elongation. Our objective was to determine if the hypocotyl elongation component of the seedling triple response could be used to predict the sensitivity of mature plants at the marketable stage. Eighteen common bedding plants were evaluated. For the seedling hypocotyl elongation screen, seeds were germinated and grown in the dark on filter paper saturated with various concentrations of 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC; the immediate precursor to ethylene). The relative hypocotyl length at each ACC concentration was compared with untreated control (0 μM) seedlings. Mature plants, with at least four open flowers, were treated with ethylene (0, 0.01, 0.1, 1, or 10 μL·L−1) in the dark for 24 hours. Phenotypic responses to ethylene, including flower abscission, flower senescence, leaf abscission, leaf chlorosis, and epinasty, were rated on a scale of 0 to 5. Five species exhibited very little reduction in hypocotyl elongation when grown on ACC (low sensitivity). The remaining species were classified as medium or high ethylene sensitivity at the seedling stage. The most common symptoms of ethylene damage observed in mature plants were leaf epinasty, flower abscission, and flower senescence. The severity of these responses was used to identify plants with high, medium, or low sensitivity to ethylene. For six of the bedding plant species that were equally responsive at both developmental stages, the seedling hypocotyl elongation screen would provide a reliable means of predicting the ethylene sensitivity of mature plants.

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Drought stress during shipping and retailing reduces the postproduction quality and marketability of potted plants. Plants respond to drought stress by closing their stomata and reducing transpirational water loss. This stress response is mediated by the plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA). Exogenous applications of s-abscisic acid (s-ABA), the biologically active form of the hormone, can enhance drought tolerance and extend shelf life in a variety of bedding plants. However, little is known about the effectiveness of s-ABA at enhancing drought tolerance in perennial crops like chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum ×morifolium). ‘Festive Ursula’ chrysanthemum plants were drenched (0, 125, 250, or 500 mg·L−1) or sprayed (0, 500, or 1000 mg·L−1) with s-ABA. All applications containing s-ABA effectively delayed wilting by reducing stomatal conductance (g S). Shelf life was extended from 1.2 to 4.0 days depending on the concentration of s-ABA. Spray applications of 500 mg·L−1 s-ABA to six additional chrysanthemum cultivars increased shelf life from 1.6 to 3.8 days following drought stress. s-ABA treatment also allowed severely drought-stressed chrysanthemums to recover and remain marketable after rewatering. Growers can treat chrysanthemums with s-ABA to reduce water use during shipping and to delay wilting if plants are not adequately watered during retailing.

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