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Qin Shi, Yunlong Yin, Zhiquan Wang, Wencai Fan and Jianfeng Hua

The physiological acclimation of Taxodium hybrid ‘zhongshanshan 118’ (T.118) plants to a progressive drought stress and drought-stressed to recovery treatment (DS-R) was investigated in this study. Plants of control (C) treatment were watered daily throughout the experiment. Results indicated that water deficit reduced stomatal conductance (g S) to improve water use efficiency (WUE) and, as a consequence, net photosynthetic rate (P n), transpiration rate (T r), and intercellular CO2 concentration (C i) were also decreased in DS-R T.118 plants compared with C plants. These reductions became more significant with decreasing soil water availability. Correlation analysis showed g S was positively correlated (P < 0.01) with the soil water content as well as leaf relative water content (RWC). There was a tendency to accumulate proline, malondialdehyde (MDA), antioxidases, and membrane electrolyte leakage as stress intensity increased. Moreover, drought stress induced significant (P < 0.05) decline in total chlorophyll contents (Chlt) and increase of nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ) on day 8 as a photo-protective mechanism. Cluster analysis distinguished the adaption of T.118 plants to water deficit in two ways. First, photosynthesis was related to thermal dissipation, and second antioxidation was related to morphology and osmosis. Furthermore, tested parameters showed a reversed tendency and restored equivalently to C levels after 9 days of rewatering. These findings suggest that T.118 plants demonstrated considerable tolerance to short-term drought stress and recovery due to a high degree of plasticity in physiological acclimation.

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Waltram Ravelombola, Jun Qin, Yuejin Weng, Beiquan Mou and Ainong Shi

Little has been done with respect to breeding for salt-tolerant cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) cultivars despite of salt stress being a growing threat to cowpea production. Seedling stage is one the most susceptible stages to salt stress in cowpea. Establishing a streamlined methodology for rapidly screening a large number of genotypes will significantly contribute toward enhancing cowpea breeding for salt tolerance. Therefore, the objective of this study was to establish and validate a simple approach for salt tolerance evaluation in cowpea seedlings. A total of 30 genotypes including two controls (PI582468, a salt-tolerant genotype, and PI255774, a salt-sensitive genotype) were greenhouse-grown under 0 mm and 200 mm NaCl. A total of 14 above-ground traits were evaluated. Results revealed: (1) significant differences were observed in average number of dead plants per pot, leaf injury scores, relative salt tolerance (RST) for chlorophyll, plant height, and leaf and stem biomass among the 30 genotypes; (2) all PI255774 plants were completely dead, whereas those of PI582438 were fully green after 2 weeks of salt stress, which validated this methodology; (3) RST for chlorophyll content was highly correlated with number of dead plants and leaf injury scores; (4) RST for leaf biomass was moderately correlated with number of dead plants and leaf injury scores; and (5) RST in plant height was poorly correlated with number of dead plants and leaf injury scores Therefore, less number of dead plants per pot, high chlorophyll content, and less leaf injury scores were good criteria for salt tolerance evaluation in cowpea. This study provided a simple methodology and suggested straightforward criteria to evaluate salt tolerance at seedling stage in cowpea.

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Xiao-min Liu, Xin-zhi Zhang, Yi-min Shi and Dong-qin Tang

Genetic diversity of Narcissus was systematically studied on both morphological and molecular levels. Twenty-four characteristics of nine narcissi were observed and their differences evaluated by clustering method. The results showed that nine narcissi can be divided into two subclusters: one comprised by Narcissus pseudonarcissus, the other by Chinese Narcissus. The morphological diversity among five cultivars of N. pseudonarcissus is higher than that among four ecotypes of Chinese Narcissus (Narcissus tazetta var. chinensis). There are seven morphological characteristics in N. pseudonarcissus presenting obvious variations with coefficients from 33.33% to 91.67%. Only five morphological characteristics in Chinese Narcissus present certain variations with coefficients from 37.04% to 51.79%. On DNA level, two clusters are distantly related too. Based on the random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers, 13 out of 40 random primers yielded scorable polymorphisms between samples. Wide variations in banding profiles between cultivars or between ecotypes were observed with nearly every primer tested. Among 95 band positions that were scored for all the 9 narcissi, 81 are polymorphic (85.26%). Cluster analysis of the calculated similarity matrix revealed that the genetic diversity between these individuals within the same section is low. However, the genetic diversity between two sections is obviously higher. Taken together, the methods combined morphological characteristics and RAPD technique allow a deep evaluation of the variation of Narcissus on both section level and cultivar/ecotype level.

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Waltram Ravelombola, Ainong Shi, Jun Qin, Yuejin Weng, Gehendra Bhattarai, Bazgha Zia, Wei Zhou and Beiquan Mou

Impacts of drought stress on crop production can significantly impair farmer’s revenue, hence adversely impacting the gross national product growth. For cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.], which is a legume of economic importance, effects of drought at early vegetative growth could lead to substantial yield losses. However, little has been done with respect to breeding for cowpea cultivars withstanding drought at early vegetative growth. In addition, previous investigations have focused on how plant morphology and root architecture can confer drought tolerance in cowpea, which is not sufficient in efforts to unravel unknown drought tolerance–related genetic mechanisms, potentially of great importance in breeding, and not pertaining to either plant morphology or root architecture. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate aboveground drought-related traits of cowpea genotypes at seedling stage. A total of 30 cowpea genotypes were greenhouse grown within boxes and the experimental design was completely randomized with three replicates. Drought stress was imposed for 28 days. Data on a total of 17 aboveground-related traits were collected. Results showed the following: 1) a large variation in these traits was found among the genotypes; 2) more trifoliate wilt/chlorosis tolerance but more unifoliate wilt/chlorosis susceptible were observed; 3) delayed senescence was related to the ability of maintaining a balanced chlorophyll content in both unifoliate and trifoliate leaves; and 4) the genotypes PI293469, PI349674, and PI293568 were found to be slow wilting and drought tolerant. These results could contribute to advancing breeding programs for drought tolerance in cowpea.

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Qin Shi, Yunlong Yin, Zhiquan Wang, Wencai Fan, Jinbo Guo and Jianfeng Hua

Roots are vital organs for resource uptake. However, the knowledge regarding the extent by which responses in roots influence plant resistance is still poorly known. In this study, we examined the morphological and physiological responses of lateral roots of Taxodium hybrid ‘Zhongshanshan 406’ (Taxodium mucronatum♀ and Taxodium distichum♂, T. 406) to 8 (DS-8) and 12 days (DS-12) drought. Control plants (CK-8 and CK-12) were well-watered throughout the experiment. Results indicated that drought resulted in significantly decreased root length, surface area, volume, and biomass and a relatively high death rate of roots (>2 mm). Specific root length (SRL) and specific root surface area (SRA) of drought-stressed T. 406 plants were reduced to enhance resource uptake. Meanwhile, root relative water content (RWC) of T. 406 plants in CK-12 treatment was 5.81 times of those in DS-12 treatment. Under drought stress and root superoxide dismutase and ascorbic acid (ASA) activities, proline and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) contents consistently increased to benefit the elimination of O2 . At the ultrastructural level, the organelle structure of T. 406 plant root tip was visibly damaged because of dehydration. The nucleus swelled and then exhibited uncommon features of disorganization and disruption. In short, our results provided substantial information about lateral root traits of T. 406 plants in response to drought stress, which is crucial to improve the drought resistance of Taxodium hybrid in the future breeding.

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Shi-Lin Tian, Li Li, Yue-Qin Tian, S.N.M. Shah and Zhen-Hui Gong

Abscisic acid (ABA) is an important plant hormone that plays an important role in stress responses. Previous studies have suggested that ABA can also accelerate ripening in climacteric and nonclimacteric fruit. Capsanthin is a carotenoid that confers red coloration to mature pepper (Capsicum annuum) fruit. However, the effect of ABA on capsanthin accumulation in pepper fruit has not been thoroughly studied. Herein, we aimed to evaluate the effects of ABA treatment on capsanthin accumulation in pepper fruit and on the expression of key genes involved in the capsanthin biosynthetic pathway. For this purpose, we treated pepper fruit with ABA at green mature stage. Our results indicate that ABA treatment increased capsanthin content in pepper fruit, with the best result obtained with 150 mg·L−1 ABA solution. Application of exogenous ABA also increased the expression levels of the capsanthin synthesis genes phytoene synthase (Psy), lycopene β-cyclase (Lcyb), β-carotene hydroxylase (Crtz), and capsanthin/capsorubin synthase (Ccs), likely explaining the significant capsanthin content increase in pepper fruit.

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Yuejin Weng, Jun Qin, Stephen Eaton, Yufeng Yang, Waltram Second Ravelombola and Ainong Shi

Cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp] is an annual legume crop grown worldwide to provide protein for human consumption and animal feed. The objective of this research was to evaluate the seed protein content in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cowpea germplasm for use in cowpea breeding programs. A field experiment was conducted with a randomized complete block design (RCBD) with three duplications in two locations, Fayetteville and Alma, in Arkansas, United States. A total of 173 USDA cowpea accessions were evaluated with the Elementar Rapid N analyzer III for their seed protein contents. The results showed that there was a wide range of seed protein content among the 173 cowpea genotypes, ranging from 22.8% to 28.9% with an average of 25.6%. The broad-sense heritability for seed protein among the 173 cowpea genotypes was 50.8%, indicating that seed protein content was inheritable and can be selected in breeding processing. The top five cowpea accessions with the highest seed protein contents were USDA accession PI 662992 originally collected from Florida (28.9%), PI 601085 from Minnesota (28.5%), and PI 255765 and PI 255774 from Nigeria and PI 666253 from Arkansas (28.4% each). PI 339587 from South Africa had the lowest protein content with 21.8%. The were also significant differences in seed protein contents observed among different seedcoat colors; the accessions with cream color exhibited higher protein content (27.2%) than others. This research could provide information for breeders to develop cowpea cultivars with higher seed protein content in a cowpea breeding program.

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Zhi-Rong Li, Kang-Di Hu, Fen-Qin Zhang, Shi-Ping Li, Lan-Ying Hu, Yan-Hong Li, Song-Hua Wang and Hua Zhang

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) is an important vegetable crop rich in vitamins and sulforaphane. However, the floral heads of broccoli experience rapid postharvest senescence. Here we found that hydrogen sulfide (H2S) treatment alleviated dark-promoted senescence in broccoli florets. H2S delayed the symptoms of senescence and maintained higher levels of chlorophyll and Rubisco and lower protease activity compared with water control. Gene expression analysis showed that H2S down-regulated the expression of chlorophyll degradation-related genes BoSGR, BoNYC, BoCLH1, BoPPH, and BoRCCR. Expression of lipoxygenase gene BoLOX1 and the genes involved in the ethylene synthesis pathway, BoACS2 and BoACS3, were also down-regulated by H2S. The reduced expression level in cysteine protease gene BoCP3 and aspartic protease gene BoLSC807 suggested the role of H2S in alleviating protein degradation during broccoli senescence. H2S up-regulated the expression of sulfur metabolism genes BoSR and BoOASTL, and the antioxidant gene BoCAT. These results show that H2S plays a vital role in alleviating broccoli senescence through a broad regulation on gene expression of reactive oxygen species (ROS) metabolism genes, ethylene synthesis genes, and protease genes.