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Mélanie Leclerc, Claude D. Caldwell, Rajasekaran R. Lada and Jeffrey Norrie

Field experiments conducted in 2002 and 2003 evaluated the effects of timing of inflorescence removal on propagule formation, growth and development of Astilbe ×arendsii, Hemerocallis spp. and Hosta spp. Four timings of inflorescence removal were tested: 1) no removal (control), 2) removal at inflorescence emergence, 3) removal at preflower, and 4) Removal at full flower. Propagule formation in Astilbe was not enhanced by inflorescence removal. Hemerocallis plants with their inflorescences removed at emergence produced 25% more divisions than plants with their inflorescences removed at preflower. For Hosta, plants with inflorescences removed at pre- and full flower produced respectively 40% and 53% more divisions than control plants. These results have economic implications for commercial bare-root production, which need to be verified on a larger field scale.

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F. Christine Pettipas*, Rajasekaran R. Lada and Claude D. Caldwell

Carrot (Daucus carota L. var sativus) production in Nova Scotia is challenging as carrots are grown under cool temperatures, rainfed conditions, and in mineral soils usually of low fertility. Growers must rely on fertilizer inputs to optimize yields. Excess application can result in high costs and may lead to soil and environmental problems. There is no up-to-date solidly-based, fertilizer recommendation available for carrot production in Nova Scotia. A greenhouse trial was conducted to identify the critical tissue(s) at various growth stages and optimal tissue nutrient concentrations for yield and quality. This will provide a diagnostic tool for assessing plant nutrient health and the opportunity to correct nutrient deficiencies to prevent yield losses, as well as provide an up-to-date fertilizer recommendation. Dicer carrot seeds, variety Red Core Chatenay were grown in sand culture system that used a gravity-fed drip irrigation system. Nine fertility treatments consisting of a complete 20-20-20 plus micronutrients fertilizer was used to deliver at 0, 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300, 350, and 400 ppm equivalent of N, P, and K. Soil and plant tissue samples were taken at 4 and 9 weeks and at final harvest at 13 weeks. Critical tissues varied for each element studied at each of the growth stages. Results suggest 0 and 50 ppm treatments did not provide enough fertilizer to obtain maximum growth while plants receiving above 300 ppm were found to be more susceptible to disease. The treatment with 100 ppm N, P, and K was optimal, being significantly higher in yield and quality than all treatments except 150 ppm.

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Mason T. MacDonald, Rajasekaran R. Lada, Martine Dorais and Steeve Pepin

Ethylene accumulation increases after harvest and culminates in needle abscission in balsam fir [Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.]. We hypothesize that water deficit induces ethylene evolution, thus triggering abscission. The purpose of this research was to investigate the role of temperature and humidity on postharvest needle abscission in the presence and absence of exogenous ethylene and link vapor pressure deficit (VPD) to postharvest needle abscission in balsam fir. In the first experiment, branches were exposed to 30%, 60%, or 90% humidity while maintained at 19.7 °C (VPD of 1.59, 0.91, or 0.23 kPa, respectively); in the second experiment, branches were exposed to 5, 15, or 25 °C (VPD of 0.35, 0.68, or 1.26 kPa, respectively) while maintained at 60% relative humidity. Needle retention duration, average water use, xylem pressure potential relative water content, and ethylene evolution were response variables. Reducing water loss or xylem tension by changing temperature or humidity effectively delayed needle abscission, although the 90% humidity treatment had the most profound effects. In the absence of exogenous ethylene, branches placed in 90% humidity had a fivefold increase in needle retention, 67% decrease in average water use, and had a final xylem pressure potential of –0.09 MPa. There was a near perfect relationship between VPD and needle retention (R2 = 0.99). These findings suggest that increasing xylem tension or decreasing water status may trigger ethylene synthesis and needle abscission. In addition, these findings demonstrate an effective means of controlling postharvest needle abscission by modifying temperature and/or relative humidity.

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Mélanie Leclerc, Claude D. Caldwell, Rajasekaran R. Lada and Jeffrey Norrie

Field experiments were conducted in 2002 and 2003 to evaluate the effects of selected plant growth regulators on propagule production in Hemerocallis `Happy Returns' and Hosta `Gold Standard'. Benzyladenine (BA), chlormequat chloride (Cycocel), ethephon (Ethrel), prohexadione calcium (Apogee), and an experimental preparation of commercial seaweed extract (Acadian Seaplants Limited Liquid Seaweed Concentrate) amended with BA and IBA were tested at two times of application and three rates of application. Results with Hemerocallis showed that the application of the seaweed/PGR mixture at 3000 mg·L–1, Cycocel at 3000 mg·L–1 or BA at 2500 mg·L–1 applied at flowering, increased the number of plants producing two divisions compared to control plants. In Hosta, no increase in divisions under any treatments was observed.

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F. Christine Pettipas, Rajasekaran R. Lada, Robert Gordon and Tess Astatkie

Increasing temperature as a result of global climate change is expected to exert a great influence on agricultural crops, possibly through effects on photosynthesis. Response to temperature of leaf gas exchange parameters of carrot (Daucus carota L. var. sativus) cultivars Cascade, Carson, Oranza, and Red Core Chantenay (RCC) were examined in a controlled growth room experiment. Leaf net photosynthetic rate (PN), stomatal conductance (gs), and transpiration rate (E) were measured at temperatures ranging from 15 to 35 °C at 370 μmol·mol-1 (CO2) and 450±20 μmol·m-2·s-1 PAR. The cultivars responded similarly to increasing temperature and did not differ in most photosynthetic parameters except gs. The PN increased between 20 and 30 °C, thereafter increasing only slightly to 35 °C. On average, increasing temperature from 20 to 30 °C increased PN by 69%. Carboxylation efficiencies (Ca/Ci ratio) ranged from 1.12–2.33 mmol·mol-1 while maximum PN were 3.25, 3.90, 5.49, 4.19 μmol·m-2·s-1 for Carson, RCC, Cascade, and Oranza, respectively. The E did not reach maximum at 35 °C while gs peaked at 30 °C and then decreased by 93% at 35 °C. The water use efficiency (WUE) decreased with an increase in temperature due to increases in both PN and E. The results indicate that increasing temperatures above the seasonal average (<20 °C) increases both PN and E up to 30–35 °C. An increase in photosynthesis due to an increase in temperature is expected to hasten growth. Carrots may be able to withstand a moderate increase in temperature.

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Rajasekaran R. Lada, F. Christine Pettipas, Steve Kyei-Boahen, Robert Gordon and Tess Astatkie

Genotypes and environmental parameters interactively act on plants and modify their yield responses through modifying photosynthetic processes. In order to optimize yield, it is critical to understand the photosynthetic behavior of the crop as altered by genotypes and environment. Leaf gas exchange parameters of carrot (Daucus carota L.) cultivars Cascade, Carson, Oranza, and Red Core Chantenay (RCC) were examined in response to various irradiances, fertility levels, moisture regimes, and to elevated CO2 concentrations. Leaf net photosynthetic rate (PN), stomatal conductance (gs), and transpiration rate (E) were measured. Cultivars responded similarly to increasing PAR and CO2 concentrations and did not differ in photosynthetic parameters. Increasing PAR from 100 to 1000 μmol·m-2·s-1 increased PN, which did not reach saturation. The gs and E increased to a peak between 600 and 800 &#956;mol·m-2·s-1, then rapidly declined, resulting in a sharp increase in water use efficiency (WUE). Increasing CO2 concentrations from 50 to 1050 μmol·mol-1 increased PN until saturation at 650 μmol·mol-1. The gs and E increased to a peak at 350 μmol·mol-1 and then declined. WUE increased linearly with increasing CO2. Carrots exposed to drought over a period of 5 days decreased PN and E. The PN decrease was cultivar specific. Nutrient concentrations of 0 to 400 ppm gave a similar pattern of decrease for PN, E, and gs. Treatment of 50 ppm had the highest PN, E, and gs. The WUE generally increased with increasing nutrient concentration.

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F. Christine Pettipas, Rajasekaran R. Lada, Claude D. Caldwell and Steve Kyei-Boahen

A reduction in the atmospheric deposition of sulfur (S) and S-containing fertilizers has greatly reduced S inputs to the soil in recent years. At the same time, S removal from the soil has increased as a result of increased crop production and higher yields. Sulfur deficiency has been found to reduce yields in several crops. A study was conducted to gain an understanding of the S status of Nova Scotia soils that support carrot production, as well as to examine the effects of rate of S application, method of S application, and type of S fertilizer on carrot uptake, distribution, yield, and recovery. Initial S concentrations in carrot-producing fields ranged from 52–440 kg·ha-1 of S. In general, King's County soils were lower in S than Colchester County soils. In the S trial, banding and broadcasting S on the side of carrot rows improved yield, and recovery compared to placing the S in the seed row. Banding S also significantly increased undersize carrots, leaf fresh weight, leaf dry weight, and root fresh weight. Rate of S application did not affect yield, recovery, or growth of carrots. At this time, S supplies from the atmosphere and soil are sufficient to meet the demands of carrots produced for processing in Nova Scotia. Growers do not need to apply S as fertilizer at this time to improve carrot yields. Monitoring of the S status of soils should be periodically conducted to assess S concentration as SO2 emissions and crop production continue to change.

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Mason T. MacDonald, Rajasekaran R. Lada, Alex I. Martynenko, Martine Dorais, Steeve Pepin and Yves Desjardins

Needle loss after harvest is a major problem for Atlantic Canada's Christmas tree and greenery industry. Ethylene is a signal for abscission in balsam fir, but preliminary studies have suggested that the role of ethylene may be influenced by length of exposure. Short-term and long-term ethylene exposure experiments were conducted. Branches were exposed to ethylene for 24 h (short-term) or continuously (long-term) at concentrations of 0 to 1000 ppm. The response variables measured were needle retention duration (NRD), average water use (AWU), and xylem pressure potential (XPP). Short-term exposure to any concentration of ethylene delayed needle abscission by 30 to 40 days. In contrast, long-term exposure to all concentrations of ethylene accelerated abscission, most evident by a 21-day decrease in NRD at 1000 ppm ethylene. There was a 60% decrease in NRD, 160% decrease (more negative) in XPP, and 80% increase in AWU as a result of long-term exposure to ethylene. Overall, our results demonstrate an opposite effect of short-term and long-term ethylene exposure, which suggests that short-term exposure to ethylene might help to precondition balsam fir and delay needle abscission during postharvest handling.

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Rowan D. Briscoe, Rajasekaran R. Lada, Claude D. Caldwell and Kevin Sibley

Stand establishment is critical for optimizing yield and quality in carrots. Low soil temperatures and moisture conditions often challenge seed germination and emergence. Providing an artificial exosperm with appropriate germination promoters, stress conditioners and growth invigorators to the seed may facilitate uniform germination and emergence. Germination patterns and velocity of germination of `Oranza' carrot was studied. Seeds were mixed in different types of gels at various ratios and incubated at either 5 or 20 °C. Gels used were Laponite RD, Laponite RDS, guar gum, algenic acid, and agar. Data on germination percentage was collected and the velocity of germination was calculated. Germination was delayed at 5 °C. Both at 5 and 20 °C, Laponite RD promoted and enhanced germination and vigor, and resulted in the highest mean germination percentage (90% at 20 °C and 89% at 5 °C). Laponite RD at 2.5% has shown an overall advantage in germination percentage (94% at 20 °C and 87% at 5 °C) over other gel types and concentrations.

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Mason T. MacDonald, Rajasekaran R. Lada, Jeff Hoyle and A. Robin Robinson

Ambiol, a derivative of 5-hydroxybenzimidazole, has been well documented to function as a growth promoter, an antistress compound, and an antioxidant when applied as a seed preconditioning agent. However, evidence suggests that Ambiol decreases transpiration and promotes root growth similar to the phytohormone abscisic acid (ABA), leading to the development of the hypothesis that Ambiol promotes drought resistance through an ABA-dependent pathway. The effect of 0 mg·L−1 and 10 mg·L−1 was tested on wild-type tomato seedlings (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. var. Scotia), ABA-deficient flacca tomato seedlings, and ABA-inhibited (with fluridone) tomato seedlings. In both fluridone-treated and flacca seedlings, Ambiol preconditioning resulted in significant increases in shoot growth, root growth, leaf area, and plant height consistent with gains experienced by wild-type tomatoes. In addition, flacca tomatoes experienced increases in photosynthesis and water use efficiency consistent with wild-type tomatoes. Ambiol was able to confer benefits to drought-stressed tomatoes in ABA-deficient and ABA-inhibited conditions, suggesting that Ambiol functions through an ABA-independent pathway.