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Rebecca L. Darnell, Nicacio Cruz-Huerta and Jeffrey G. Williamson

Low night temperatures and/or high source-sink ratios increase ovary swelling and subsequent fruit malformation in many sweet peppers (Capsicum annuum), including bell pepper. Although this response has been correlated with increased ovary carbohydrate accumulation, evidence for this is limited. Furthermore, it is unknown how the combined effects of night temperature and source-sink ratio affect ovary carbohydrate accumulation and ovary swelling. The objectives of the present work were to determine night temperature and source-sink effects on ovary swelling, net carbon exchange rate (CER), and soluble sugar and starch concentrations in bell pepper ovaries at anthesis. Source-sink and temperature effects were tested by comparing fruiting (low source-sink ratio or high sink demand) with non-fruiting (high source-sink ratio or low sink demand) ‘Legionnaire’ bell pepper plants grown at 22/20 °C [high night temperature (HNT)] or 22/12 °C [low night temperature (LNT)] day:night temperatures. Flowers that opened after imposition of the temperature and fruiting treatments were harvested at anthesis. Ovaries from harvested flowers were weighed and analyzed for non-structural carbohydrates. Leaf gas exchange measurements were performed every 3 days. Ovary fresh weight of flowers harvested at anthesis was highest in non-fruiting plants under LNT and lowest in plants grown under HNT regardless of fruiting status. Mean CER averaged over the experimental period was significantly higher in fruiting plants under HNT compared with all other treatments. There were no significant interactions between night temperature and fruiting status on ovary soluble sugar or starch concentrations. Low night temperature increased glucose, fructose, and starch concentration and decreased sucrose concentration in the ovary wall compared with HNT. There were no differences in soluble sugar or starch concentrations in the ovary wall between fruiting and non-fruiting plants. Thus, although both low temperature and high source-sink ratio (i.e., non-fruiting plants) resulted in ovary swelling, the mechanisms appear to differ. Whereas LNT effects on ovary swelling were associated with increased ovary carbohydrate accumulation, this association was not apparent when ovary swelling occurred in response to high source-sink ratios.

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Nicacio Cruz-Huerta, Jeffrey G. Williamson and Rebecca L. Darnell

Cool night temperatures have been reported to induce ovary swelling and consequent fruit deformation in bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.), resulting in unmarketable fruit. This response is a serious limitation to the success of winter production systems for bell pepper. Limited work has been done with other types of sweet pepper, so it is unknown how universal this response is. Furthermore, most prior work has examined effects on ovary diameter only, and there is limited characterization of other ovary traits in response to cool night temperature. The objectives of the present study were to determine the effects of low night temperature on ovary characteristics in different sweet pepper cultivars and to determine the parts of the ovary that are most affected by these factors. Three types of sweet pepper (bell, long-fruited, and cherry) were exposed to 22/20 or 22/12 °C day:night temperatures and flowers at anthesis were continuously harvested throughout the experiments. Ovary fresh weight (FW), diameter, and length across all types (and cultivars within type) were greater under 22/12 °C compared with 22/20 °C. The increase in ovary FW was the result of increases in both ovary wall and placenta FW. In general, all cultivars exhibited increases in ovary size under 12 °C compared with 20 °C night temperature. Differences in ovary FW resulting from night temperature became more pronounced with time. These results indicate that low night temperature effects on ovary swelling may be a universal response among sweet pepper types. Three to 4 weeks are required for maximum swelling response, suggesting that flower buds must be exposed to low night temperatures within the first week after flower bud initiation, because previous work found that flower bud initiation in bell pepper takes ≈4 weeks. However, the duration of low night temperatures necessary for this response remains unknown.