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Nicole L. Waterland and Richard J. Gladon

Sowing germinated seeds for bedding plant production can decrease the production time and reduce profit losses from sporadically or poorly germinating seeds. Low concentrations of O2 have been used to control radicle length in Impatiens wallerana Hook. F., but only a brief exposure period could be used (12 to 24 h). The effects of prolonged exposures are unknown. Our first objective was to determine if impatiens seedlings could be acclimated to an extreme hypoxic environment by a preliminary exposure to a less severe hypoxic exposure. Our second objective was to determine the effects of longer-duration (greater than 24 h) treatments at low-O2 concentrations on hypocotyl and radicle length, abnormal seedling development, and subsequent plant growth and development. Our third objective was to provide a commercial recommendation of a low-oxygen treatment or treatments that could be used for temporary storage of unused germinated seeds. Germinated seeds were placed in various combinations of 0.5%, 1.0%, and 1.5% O2 for either 4 days (Expt. 1) or 3 days (Expt. 2) followed by 24 h in air to simulate shipping. Germinated seeds were less tolerant of 0.5% O2 than greater O2 concentrations, especially during the first 2 days of treatment, and more abnormal seedlings developed at 0.5% O2. Germinated seeds were more tolerant of 0.5% O2 during Days 3 and 4 of the treatment period or when days at 0.5% O2 were interspersed between days of 1.0% or 1.5% O2. This indicates that germinated impatiens seeds can tolerate extremely low-O2 for longer durations (greater than 24 h) when first acclimated to lower O2 concentrations. Treatment of 1.5% O2 for Days 1 and 2 followed by 0.5% O2 for Day 3 is recommended for commercial use. Hypocotyl and radicle length was controlled to 1 mm without development of abnormal seedlings. Fully grown plants from seedlings that received low-O2 treatments were not different from control plants with regards to hypocotyl and radicle length, percentage abnormal seedlings, and plant growth and quality, ensuring there were no long-term detrimental effects.

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Suejin Park, Youyoun Moon and Nicole L. Waterland

Water deficit stress can reduce the postproduction shelf life and marketability of floriculture crops. To alleviate the damage by water deficiency, plants need to limit transpirational water loss by inducing stomatal closure. Osmotic stress induces stomatal closure like the response to water deficit stress. It could be used as a convenient tool to enhance water deficit stress tolerance by reducing water loss. The objective of this research was to investigate whether osmotic treatment with a high concentration of chemical solutions could trigger a response to osmotic stress so that stomatal closure can be induced, resulting in enhanced water deficit stress tolerance in viola (Viola cornuta ‘Sorbet XP Yellow’). Osmotic treatments with CaCl2, Ca(NO3)2, NaCl, NaNO3, BaCl2, Ba(NO3)2, and mannitol were applied at the osmotic potentials (ψS) of −1.3 and −2.0 MPa. Chemical treatments [except Ca(NO3)2, NaCl, and mannitol] helped to delay wilting and gave a longer shelf life, up to 5.2 days over that of the control, 2.5 days. However, leaf necrosis was observed on the violas treated with NaCl, NaNO3, BaCl2, Ba(NO3)2, and mannitol. CaCl2 was the most effective agent in delaying wilting under water deficit stress in viola without leaf necrosis. Compared with the control, violas treated with CaCl2 at 200 and 300 mm showed an increase in shelf life by 2.6 and 1.2 days, respectively. Stomatal conductance (g S) was reduced within 4 hours after treatment with CaCl2 compared with that of control violas. Leaf relative water content (RWC) of control violas was dramatically reduced 3 days after treatment and fell below 50% on day 4, while CaCl2-treated violas maintained higher leaf RWC (70% to 81%) during the water deficit period. These results indicated that osmotic treatment with the high concentration of CaCl2 caused stomatal closure, resulting in a reduction of water loss and an extension of shelf life under water deficit stress in viola.

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Nicole L. Waterland, John J. Finer and Michelle L. Jones

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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Nicole L. Waterland, John J. Finer and Michelle L. Jones

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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Suejin Park, Sarah A. Mills, Youyoun Moon and Nicole L. Waterland

Water stress during shipping and retailing reduces the postproduction quality and marketability of bedding plants. Antitranspirants can temporarily prevent plants from wilting by either physically blocking stomata or physiologically inducing stomatal closure, limiting transpirational water loss from leaves. The goal of this research was to evaluate the efficacy of commercially available antitranspirants on enhancing temporary water stress tolerance in bedding plants. Two physical antitranspirants [β-pinene polymer (βP) and vinyl-acrylic polymer (VP)], and three physiological antitranspirants [two sugar alcohol-based compounds (SACs) and a biologically active form of abscisic acid (s-ABA)] were applied to begonia (Begonia semperflorens-cultorum), new guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri), impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), petunia (Petunia ×hybrida), african marigold (Tagetes erecta), and french marigold (Tagetes patula). Physical antitranspirants were sprayed on foliage and physiological antitranspirants were drenched to the media. All antitranspirants were applied at half (0.5×), equal to (1×), or twice (2×) the manufacturer’s recommended rate. Extended shelf life was observed when βP or s-ABA was applied. Treatment with βP increased the shelf life of impatiens and african marigold by 1 and 1.3 days compared with control plants, respectively. The application of βP at 2× was more effective at delaying visual wilting than at lower rates (0.5× and 1×) in african marigold. Applications of s-ABA delayed wilting by 1.3 to 3.7 days in all tested cultivars. The shelf lives of impatiens and petunia treated with s-ABA at 2× were extended the most by 3.7 and 3.0 days compared with control plants, respectively. A rapid reduction of stomatal conductance (g S) was observed within 4 hours of βP or s-ABA application in plants showing delayed wilting symptoms. s-ABA treatment appeared to cause marginal leaf chlorosis in impatiens, whereas application of βP damaged the opened flowers in all tested cultivars. The application of VP or SACs did not extend shelf life in any treated plants. These results suggest that foliar application of βP on selected species and treatment with s-ABA on most of species would allow bedding plants to withstand water deficit during shipping and/or retailing.

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Nicole L. Waterland, Craig A. Campbell, John J. Finer and Michelle L. Jones

Drought stress is a major cause of postproduction decline in bedding plants. The plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) regulates drought stress responses by mediating stomatal closure, thereby reducing transpirational water loss. Exogenous ABA applications delay wilting and allow plants to survive short periods of severe drought. The effectiveness of the ABA biochemical, s-ABA (ConTego™; Valent BioSciences Corp., Libertyville, IL), at delaying wilting and extending shelf life during drought stress was evaluated in six bedding plant species. Spray and drench applications of 0 or 500 mg·L−1 s-ABA were applied to Impatiens walleriana (impatiens), Pelargonium ×hortorum (seed geranium), Petunia ×hybrida (petunia), Tagetes patula (marigold), Salvia splendens (salvia), and Viola ×wittrockiana (pansy). Water was subsequently withheld and wilting symptoms were compared between treated and control plants. s-ABA applications delayed wilting in all crops by 1.7 to 4.3 days. Leaf chlorosis was observed after s-ABA application in drought-stressed seed geraniums, marigolds, and pansies. In seed geraniums and marigolds, the drought stress itself resulted in leaf chlorosis that was equivalent to or more severe than the s-ABA application alone. In pansies, s-ABA applications induced leaf chlorosis that was more severe than the drought treatment. Overall, s-ABA was consistently effective at reducing water loss and extending shelf life for all species treated. Applications of s-ABA to bedding plants before shipping and retailing would allow plants to maintain marketability even under severe drought stress conditions.

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Nicole L. Waterland, Youyoun Moon, Janet C. Tou, Moo Jung Kim, Eugenia M. Pena-Yewtukhiw and Suejin Park

Kale (Brassica oleracea L. and other species) is considered a rich source of important minerals. Kale at the early stage of leaf development is assumed to contain higher levels of minerals than at maturity. However, literature supporting this assumption is scarce. In this study, the concentrations of macronutrients [potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and phosphorus (P)] and micronutrients [sodium (Na), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), and copper (Cu)] either essential to plant growth and development, or important to human health, were determined. Three kale cultivars (green leaf ‘Dwarf Blue Curled’ and red leaf ‘Scarlet’ in B. oleracea, and green leaf with purple midvein ‘Red Russian’ in Brassica napus) were evaluated at five different leaf developmental stages; cotyledon [microgreen 1 (MG1)], two true leaf [microgreen 2 (MG2)], four true leaf [baby leaf 1 (BL1)], six true leaf [baby leaf 2 (BL2)], and adult. As kale matured, total mineral (ash) decreased from 14.6–19.1% at the microgreen stages to 3.9–6.4% at the adult stage, on a dry weight (DW) basis. Microgreen kale contained higher concentrations of most minerals than adult kale, on a DW basis, in all cultivars. On a fresh weight (FW) (as consumed) basis, the highest level of total mineral concentration was detected at baby leaf stage 1 (1.3–1.7%) and there was no difference between microgreen and adult stages. Fresh microgreens generally contained lower K, Ca, Mg, Fe, and Zn than fresh baby leaves, and lower concentrations of Ca and Mg and higher Na compared with fresh adult kale. Overall, water content deceased from 95.1% at MG1 stage to 80.0% at adult stage. The variation in water content and mineral accumulation during leaf development might contribute to the discrepancy. In addition, fresh leaves of ‘Scarlet’ contained higher concentration of total minerals than that of ‘Dwarf Blue Curled’ or ‘Red Russian’. Although ‘Dwarf Blue Curled’ and ‘Red Russian’ are different species, their mineral content profile during leaf development was similar. Together, cultivar and leaf developmental stage influenced mineral content in kale.