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Qiang Liu and Yiwei Jiang

Recovery from submergence stress is vital for plant regrowth. The objective of this study was to characterize plant growth, carbohydrate, and antioxidant metabolism of creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) to foliar application of nitrogen and cytokinin (CK) after de-submergence. Creeping bentgrass (cv. Penncross and 007) were submerged under the water for 14 days and then foliar-sprayed at 1, 2, 3, 7, and 14 days after de-submergence with six types of chemical treatments, respectively: 1) water (W); 2) 10 mm urea (N10); 3) 20 mm urea (N20); 4) 10 µm CK; 5) N10 with CK (N10CK); and 6) N20 with CK (N20CK). Leaves were harvested at 20 days after chemical applications for various measurements. Compared with the nonstressed plants, plant height (HT), chlorophyll index (Chl), leaf dry weight (DW), water-soluble carbohydrate content (WSC), activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), and ascorbate peroxidase (APX) decreased, but catalase (CAT) and peroxidase (POD) activities, malondialdehyde (MDA), and total soluble protein (TSP) content increased in both cultivars exposed to 14 days of submergence. After de-submergence, plants treated with N alone (N10, N20) or combined with CK (N10CK, N20CK) generally had higher HT, DW, Chl, TSP, and a lower amount of MDA, compared with treatments of W or CK alone, whereas treatment using CK resulted in higher WSC for both cultivars. Foliar applications of N and CK had some effect on SOD, CAT, POD, and APX activities after de-submergence, but the effects were not consistent across chemicals and cultivars. The results indicated that foliar application of N or combined with CK promoted plant growth and reduced lipid peroxidation after de-submergence. The results also suggested a more positive role of foliar N application in comparison with a complex regulation of CK on creeping bentgrass regrowth after de-submergence.

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Lifei Chen, Youping Sun, Genhua Niu, Qiang Liu and James Altland

Relative salt tolerance of eight Berberis thunbergii (japanese barberry) cultivars (B. thunbergii ‘Celeste’, ‘Kasia’, ‘Maria’, ‘Mini’, and ‘Talago’; B. thunbergii var. atropurpurea ‘Concorde’, ‘Helmond Pillar’, and ‘Rose Glow’) was evaluated in a greenhouse experiment. Plants were irrigated with nutrient solution at an electrical conductivity (EC) of 1.2 dS·m−1 (control) or saline solutions at an EC of 5.0 or 10.0 dS·m−1 (EC 5 or EC 10) once a week for 8 weeks. At 4 weeks after treatment, all barberry cultivars in EC 5 had minimal foliar damage with visual scores of 4 or greater (visual score 0: dead, 5: excellent). At 8 weeks after treatment, in EC 5, ‘Helmond Pillar’, ‘Maria’, ‘Mini’, and ‘Rose Glow’ plants exhibited slight foliar salt damage with an average visual score of 3.5, whereas ‘Celeste’, ‘Concorde’, ‘Kasia’, and ‘Talago’ had minimal foliar salt damage with an averaged visual score of 4.4. However, most barberry plants in EC 10 exhibited severe foliar salt damage 4 weeks after treatment with the exception of ‘Concorde’ and were dead 8 weeks after treatment. Compared with control, at the end of the experiment (8 weeks of treatments), shoot dry weight (DW) of ‘Celeste’, ‘Helmond Pillar’, ‘Maria’, and ‘Rose Glow’ in EC 5 was reduced by 47%, 47%, 50%, and 42%, respectively, whereas shoot DW of ‘Concorde’, ‘Kasia’, ‘Mini’, and ‘Talago’ in EC 5 did not change. In EC 10, shoot DW of ‘Celeste’, ‘Concorde’, ‘Kasia’, and ‘Talago’ was reduced by 75%, 35%, 55%, and 46%, respectively. The averaged sodium (Na) concentration of all barberry cultivars in EC 5 and EC 10 was 34 and 87 times, respectively, higher than the control, whereas leaf chloride (Cl) concentration of all barberry cultivars in EC 5 and EC 10 was 14–60 and 29–106 times, respectively, higher than the control. Growth, visual quality, and performance index (PI) were all negatively correlated with leaf Na and Cl content in all cultivars, suggesting that excessive Na and Cl accumulation in the leaf tissue led to growth reduction, salt damage, and death. In summary, ‘Concorde’, ‘Kasia’, and ‘Talago’ were relatively salt tolerant; ‘Helmond Pillar’, ‘Maria’, ‘Mini’, and ‘Rose Glow’ were relatively salt sensitive; and ‘Celeste’ was in between the two groups. Generally, barberry plants had moderate salt tolerance and can be irrigated with marginal water at an EC of 5 dS·m−1 or lower with slight foliar damage.

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Qiang Liu, Youping Sun, James Altland and Genhua Niu

Tatarian dogwood (Cornus alba) is an ornamental shrub with white fruits, creamy-white flowers, and red stems in fall through late winter and is widely used in residential landscape, public parks, and botanical gardens. Two greenhouse experiments were conducted to characterize the survival, morphological, aesthetic, and physiological responses of tatarian dogwood seedlings to salinity and drought stresses. In Expt. 1, tatarian dogwood seedlings grown in three soilless growing substrates (Metro-Mix 360, 560, and 902) were irrigated with a nutrient solution at an electrical conductivity (EC) of 1.2 dS·m−1 (control) or saline solution (by adding calculated amount of sodium chloride and calcium chloride) at an EC of 5.0 or 10.0 dS·m−1 once per week for 8 weeks. Results showed that substrate did not influence the growth of tatarian dogwood seedling. All plants irrigated with saline solutions at an EC of 10.0 dS·m−1 died, whereas those irrigated with saline solutions at an EC of 5.0 dS·m−1 exhibited severe foliar salt damage with an average visual score of 1.0 (on a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 = dead and 5 = excellent without foliar salt damage). Compared with the control, saline solutions at an EC of 5.0 dS·m−1 reduced plant height and shoot dry weight (DW) by 50.8% and 55.2%, respectively. Relative chlorophyll content [soil plant analysis development (SPAD) reading], chlorophyll fluorescence (Fv/Fm), and net photosynthesis rate (Pn) also decreased when plants were irrigated with saline solutions at an EC of 5.0 and 10.0 dS·m−1. Leaf sodium (Na+) concentration of tatarian dogwood seedlings irrigated with saline solutions at an EC of 5.0 and 10.0 dS·m−1 increased 11 and 40 times, respectively, compared with the control, whereas chloride (Cl-) concentration increased 25 and 33 times, respectively. In Expt. 2, tatarian dogwood seedlings were irrigated at a substrate volumetric water contents (volume of water/volume of substrate, VWC) of 15%, 20%, 25%, 30%, 35%, 40%, or 45% using a sensor-based automated irrigation system for 60 days. Results showed that drought stress decreased plant growth of tatarian dogwood seedlings with a reduction of 71%, 85%, and 87% in plant height, leaf area, and shoot DW, respectively, when VWC decreased from 45% to 15%, but all plants survived at all VWC treatments. Significant reductions of photosynthesis (Pn), stomatal conductance (g S), transpiration rate (E), and water potential were also found in plants at a VWC of 15%, compared with other VWCs. However, SPAD readings and Fv/Fm of tatarian dogwood seedlings were similar among the VWCs. In conclusion, tatarian dogwood seedlings were sensitive to the salinity levels tested in this study but could survive at all tested substrate volumetric water contents and exhibited resistance to drought conditions.

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Wanmei Jin, Qiang Zhang, Sunzhong Liu, Qinping Wei, Wanmei Jin, Zongming Cheng, Xiaohui Xue and Tingzhen Yang

Molecular markers are valuable tools in evaluating genetic diversity and fingerprinting plant germplasm. In this report, simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers were used for assessing genetic diversity in 41 dwarf and semidwarf and early flowering apple (Malus sp.) rootstocks. Sixty-two of 112 pairs of SSR primers generated multiple, scorable fragments. The total number of scored bands was 4138 with the polymorphic frequency ranging from 22.0% to 68.6% with a mean value of 58.5% in 737 alleles. The number of alleles per locus ranged from 6 to 19 with an average of 11.9 alleles. Polymorphic information content per locus was ranged from 0.176 to 0.885 with an average value of 0.606. These results suggested a complex genetic background and genetic diversity in these apple rootstocks. Based on three principal components and unweighted pair group mean average (UPGMA) of SSR data, the 41 apple rootstocks were divided into five groups. Group I contained M. xiaojinensis ‘Xiaojinhaitang'. Group II consisted of M. hupehensis var. pingyiensis ‘Pingyitiancha'. Group III contained M. baccata ‘Shandingzi' and its offspring. Group IV was composed of 16 apple rootstocks, including Malling and Malling Merton series from Great Britain; ‘Budagovski 9' from Russia; ‘Polish 22' from Poland; ‘Cornell-Geneva 24' from the United States; and ‘GM.256', ‘Nei Meng 11', ‘MD.001', ‘7734', and ‘7848' from China. Group V consisted of 16 Shao series rootstocks, which were offspring of M. honanensis × M. domestica ‘Ralls Genet'. This research suggests that the breeding can achieve best performance with more robust rootstock if crosses were performed among these five major groups of germplasms rather than within the major groups.

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Ben Hong Wu, Hai Qiang Huang, Pei Ge Fan, Shao Hua Li and Guo Jie Liu

Five peach cultivars [Prunus persica (L.) Batch] with different maturity dates were subjected to sink–source manipulation by girdling to isolate 1-year-old fruit-bearing shoots. Four treatments were performed: fruit were removed (−fruit); one fruit (+1 fruit) and two fruit (+2 fruit) were kept inside two girdling cuts; and two fruit were kept outside two girdling cuts (−fruit*). Photosynthetic responses for the five cultivars were similar and did not show genotypic differences. Generally, net photosynthetic rate (Pn), stomatal conductance (g s), and transpiration rate (E) were higher, and leaf temperature (Tl) was lower in +2 fruit than in +1 fruit, followed by −fruit and −fruit* which were not different. The results also indicated that water outflow from fruit into leaves did not influence photosynthesis, and lower photosynthesis in −fruit treatment was not due to water status of source leaves influenced by removing fruit. Pn tended to increase with Tl until Tl reached a critical level. Beyond the critical temperature level, Pn generally decreased. The critical Tl was roughly identified as 34–37 °C for the five cultivars. Both higher and lower substomatal CO2 (Ci) levels occurred in −fruit and −fruit* treatments than in +1 fruit and +2 fruit treatments, indicating that decreased Pn could be due to both nonstomatal and stomatal limitations. Further analysis of the relationship between Ci and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) showed that nonstomatal limitation under low sink demand took place mostly under high PAR. Thus, high light intensity, combined with Tl may play an important role in leaf photosynthetic regulation.

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Qiang Zhu, Monica Ozores-Hampton, Yuncong Li, Kelly Morgan, Guodong Liu and Rao S. Mylavarapu

Phosphorous (P) has a significant role in root growth, fruit and seed development, and plant disease resistance. Currently, no P fertilizer recommendations are available for vegetables grown on calcareous soils in Florida. The objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of different P rates on leaf tissue P concentration (LTPC), plant growth, biomass accumulation, fruit yield, and postharvest quality of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) grown on a calcareous soil. The experiment was conducted with soils containing 13 to 15 mg·kg−1 of P extracted by ammonium bicarbonate-diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (AB-DTPA). Phosphorus fertilizers were applied at rates of 0, 29, 49, 78, 98, and 118 kg·ha−1 of P before laying polyethylene mulch. Tomatoes were grown using drip irrigation during the winter seasons of 2014 and 2015. No significant responses to P rates were found in LTPC during both growing seasons. Plant height, stem diameter, and leaf chlorophyll content at 30 days after transplanting (DAT) were significantly affected by P rates in 2015, but not in 2014. The responses of plant biomass were predicted by linear models at 60 DAT in 2014 and at 30 DAT in 2015. There were no significant differences in plant biomass at 95 DAT in both years. At the first and second combined harvest, the extralarge fruit yield was unaffected in 2014, but predicted by a quadratic-plateau model with a critical rate of 75 kg·ha−1 in 2015. The total season marketable yields (TSMY) and postharvest qualities were not significantly affected by P rates in either year. Phosphorous rate of 75 kg·ha−1 was sufficient to grow a tomato crop during the winter season in calcareous soils with 13–15 mg·kg−1 of AB-DTPA-extractable P.

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Qiang Liu, Youping Sun, Genhua Niu, James Altland, Lifei Chen and Lijuan Jiang

Because of limited supply of high-quality water, alternative water sources have been used for irrigation in water-scarce regions. However, alternative waters usually contain high salt levels, which can cause salt damage on salt-sensitive plants. A greenhouse study was conducted to evaluate the relative salt tolerance of 10 common ornamental taxa to saline water irrigation. The 10 taxa studied were Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Orange Storm’ and ‘Pink Storm’ (Chaenomeles Double Take); Diervilla rivularis ‘G2X885411’, ‘G2X88544’ (Diervilla Kodiak®, Black, Orange, and Red, respectively), and ‘Smndrsf’; Forsythia ×intermedia ‘Mindor’ (Forsythia Show Off®); Hibiscus syriacus ‘ILVOPS’ (Hibiscus Purple Satin®); Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Smhmtau’ and ‘Smnhmsigma’ (Hydrangea Let’s Dance® Blue Jangles® and Rave, respectively); and Parthenocissus quinquefolia ‘Troki’ (Parthenociss quinquefolia Red Wall®). Plants were irrigated with a nutrient solution at an electrical conductivity (EC) of 1.2 dS·m−1 (control) or saline solutions at EC of 5.0 or 10.0 dS·m−1 (EC 5 or EC 10) eight times on a weekly basis. The results indicated that the 10 ornamental taxa had different morphological and physiological responses to salinity. The C. speciosa and D. rivularis plants in EC 5 had severe salt foliar damage, whereas those in EC 10 were dead. Hibiscus syriacus ‘ILVOPS’ performed well in EC 5 treatment with a shoot dry weight (DW) reduction of 26%, but those in EC 10 had severe foliar salt damage. Hydrangea macrophylla, F. ×intermedia ‘Mindor’ and P. quinquefolia ‘Troki’ were the most salt tolerant with minor foliar salt damage. The two H. macrophylla cultivars had the highest shoot sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl) concentrations with a visual quality of 3 (scale 0 to 5 with 0 for dead plants and 5 for excellent performance), indicating that H. macrophylla plants adapted to elevated salinity by tolerating high Na and Cl concentrations in leaf tissue. Forsythia ×intermedia ‘Mindor’ and P. quinquefolia ‘Troki’ had relatively low leaf Na and Cl concentration, indicating that both taxa are capable of excluding Na and Cl. Chaenomeles speciosa and D. rivularis were sensitive to salinity with great growth reduction, severe foliar salt damage, and high Na and Cl accumulation in leaf tissue.

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Qiang Zhu, Monica Ozores-Hampton, Yuncong Li, Kelly Morgan, Guodong Liu and Rao S. Mylavarapu

Florida produces the most vegetables in the United States during the winter season with favorable weather conditions. However, vegetables grown on calcareous soils in Florida have no potassium (K) fertilizer recommendation. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of K rates on leaf tissue K concentration (LTKC), plant biomass, fruit yield, and postharvest quality of tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum L.) grown on a calcareous soil. The experiment was conducted during the winter seasons of 2014 and 2015 in Homestead, FL. Potassium fertilizers were applied at rates of 0, 56, 93, 149, 186, and 223 kg·ha−1 of K and divided into preplant dry fertilizer and fertigation during the season. No deficiency of LTKC was found at 30 days after transplanting (DAT) in both years. Potassium rates lower than 149 kg·ha−1 resulted in deficient LTKC at 95 DAT in 2014. No significant responses to K rates were observed in plant (leaf, stem, and root combined) dry weight biomass at all the sampling dates in both years. However, at 95 DAT, fruit dry weight biomass increased with increasing K rates to 130 and 147 kg·ha−1, reaching a plateau thereafter indicated by the linear-plateau models in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Predicted from quadratic and linear-plateau models, K rates of 173 and 178 kg·ha−1 were considered as the optimum rates for total season marketable yields in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Postharvest qualities, including fruit firmness, pH, and total soluble solids (TSS) content, were not significantly affected by K rates in both years. Overall, K rate of 178 kg·ha−1 was sufficient to grow tomato during the winter season in calcareous soils with 78 to 82 mg·kg−1 of ammonium bicarbonate-diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (AB-DTPA)-extracted K in Florida.

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Cai-Hong Jia, Ju-Hua Liu, Zhi-Qiang Jin, Qiu-Ju Deng, Jian-Bin Zhang and Bi-Yu Xu

A full-length cDNA isolated from banana (Musa acuminata L. AAA group) fruit was named MaMDH, containing an open reading frame encoding 332 amino acids that represents the gene for cytoplasmic malic dehydrogenase (MDH). Sequence analysis showed that MaMDH shares high similarity with MDHs from castor bean (XP_002533463), tobacco (CAC12826), peach (AAL11502), and chickpeas (CAC10208). Real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis of MaMDH spatial expression showed that it was expressed in all organs examined: roots, rhizomes, leaves, flowers, and fruits. The expression was the highest in flowers followed by the fruits and roots, whereas the rhizomes and leaves displayed the lowest expression levels. Real-time quantitative PCR revealed that MaMDH exhibited differential expression patterns in post-harvest banana fruits correlating with ethylene biosynthesis. In naturally ripened banana fruits, MaMDH expression was in accordance with ethylene biosynthesis. In accordance, for banana fruits treated with the ethylene analog 1-methylclopropene (1-MCP), MaMDH expression levels were inhibited and remained constant. After treatment with ethylene, MaMDH expression in banana fruits significantly increased with ethylene biosynthesis and peaked 3 days after harvest, which was 11 days earlier than that in naturally ripened banana fruits. These results suggest that MaMDH expression is induced by ethylene to regulate post-harvest banana fruits ripening.

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Wei Hu, Ju-Hua Liu, Xiao-Ying Yang, Jian-Bin Zhang, Cai-Hong Jia, Mei-Ying Li, Bi-Yu Xu and Zhi-Qiang Jin

The banana, a typical climacteric fruit, undergoes a postharvest ripening process followed by a burst in ethylene production that signals the beginning of the climacteric period. Postharvest ripening plays an important role in improving the quality of the fruit as well as limiting its shelf life. To investigate the role of glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) in climacteric ethylene biosynthesis and fruit ripening in postharvest banana, a GAD gene was isolated from banana, designated MuGAD. Coincidently with climacteric ethylene production, MuGAD expression as well as the expression of the genes encoding the Musa 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate synthase (MaACS1) and Musa 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate oxidase (MaACO1) greatly increased during natural ripening and in ethylene-treated banana. Moreover, ethylene biosynthesis, ripening progress, and MuGAD, MaACS1, and MaACO1 expression were enhanced by exogenous ethylene application and inhibited by 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP). Taken together, our results suggested that MuGAD is involved in the fruit ripening process in postharvest banana.