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Rebecca L. Darnell

Containerized `Climax' and `Beckyblue' rabbiteye blueberry plants (Vaccinium ashei Reade) were exposed to 5 weeks of natural daylengths or shortened daylengths starting 30 Sept. `Beckyblue' plants exposed to short daylengths in the fall initiated more flower buds and had a shorter, more concentrated bloom period than did plants exposed to natural fall daylengths. Reproductive development of `Climax' was not influenced by photoperiod treatments. Leaf carbon assimilation of both cultivars increased under short days. Partitioning of translocated 14C-labeled assimilates to stem tissue increased under short photoperiods for `Beckyblue'; however, partitioning patterns in `Climax' were not affected. Increased carbon fixation and increased partitioning of carbon to stem tissue under short days may contribute to the observed effect of short days on enhancing reproductive development in `Beckyblue'.

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Rebecca L. Darnell

Containerized `Climax' and `Beckyblue' rabbiteye blueberry plants (Vaccinium ashei Reade) were exposed to 5 weeks of natural daylengths (i.e. gradually decreasing daylengths from 12 to 11 hr) or shortened daylengths (i.e. gradually decreasing daylengths from 10 to 8 hr) starting October 1. `Beckyblue' initiated twice as many flower buds under short days compared to longer days. The following spring, `Beckyblue' plants exposed to shortened photoperiods the previous fall had a greater percentage of floral budbreak (based on the number of flower buds formed within each treatment) and a shorter, more concentrated bloom period than did plants exposed to longer photoperiods the previous fall. Fresh weight per berry increased following the short fall photoperiod treatment, despite the fact that fruit number was higher. `Climax' did not respond to the photoperiod treatments in any way. Leaf carbon assimilation rates of both cultivars increased under short days, but there was no detectable effect of photoperiod on current carbon partitioning in either cultivar, suggesting that flower bud initiation is not limited by current source leaf assimilate supply under these conditions.

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Umpika Poonnachit and Rebecca L. Darnell

Vaccinium corymbosum, one of the cultivated blueberry species, is not well-adapted to mineral soils, which are generally marked by high pH, the predominance of NO3-N over NH4-N, and limited iron availability. A wild species, V. arboreum, grows naturally on mineral soils, and thus may be better adapted than V. corymbosum. This adaptation may be related to the ability of V. arboreum to assimilate NO3 and/or iron more efficiently than V. corymbosum. Both species were grown in a hydroponic solution containing 5.0 mM N as (NH4)2SO4 or NaNO3, and buffered to pH 5.5. Nitrate reductase (NR) and iron reductase (FeR) activities were measured. NR activity was higher in V. arboreum compared with V. corymbosum when grown with N03-N, while no difference between species was observed when grown under NH4-N. Activity of FeR was higher in V. arboreum compared with V. corymbosum, and higher under NO3-N compared with NH4-N. After 5 months in hydroponics, Fe was removed from one-half of the solutions. The activity of NRA in both species was higher under Fe-sufficient compared with Fe-limited conditions, but in both cases, activity was higher in V. arboreum compared with V. corymbosum. FeR activity continued to be higher in V. arboreum compared with V. corymbosum, and under NO3 compared with NH4-N. Activity decreased in both species under limited Fe conditions, and there were no interactions between species and Fe. These data indicate that V. arboreum possesses higher NR and FeR activities than V. corymbosum, under both Fe-sufficient and Fe-limited conditions. This may play a role in the better adaptability of V arboreum to mineral soil conditions.

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Raguel Cano—M and Rebecca L. Darnell

The effects of different GA3 concentrations and application times on fruit set, fruit development period, and fruit quality in rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei Reade) were studied. Flower clusters were sprayed with 100 or 250 ppm GA3 at 90% full bloom and again 7 days later, or with 125 ppm GA3 at 90% full bloom and again 7, 21, and 42 days later, under greenhouse conditions. Fruit set was monitored every 10 days and fruit weight, fruit development period, soluble solids, and titratable acidity were measured at harvest.

Fruit set in GA3 treatments averaged 69 to 76% compared to an average of 43% for the pollinated control. Weight of GA3 treated berries averaged 1.2, g while that of pollinated berries averaged 2.0 g. However, calculated total yield was greater for the GA3 treatments compared to the pollinated control, averaging 244 and 206 g/treatment, respectively. GA3 increased the fruit development period by 2 to 11 days, depending on the treatment. Soluble solids and titratable acidity were not affected by any treatment.

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Donald J. Merhaut and Rebecca L. Darnell

Nitrogen uptake and N and C partitioning were evaluated in `Sharpblue' southern highbush blueberries fertilized with different N forms. Plants were grown in acid-washed silica sand and fertilized with a modified Hoagland's solution supplemented with 5.0 mm N as NH4 + or NO3 -. Nutrient solution pH was adjusted to 3.0 and 6.5 for the NO3 - and NH4 +-treated plants, respectively. After 12 months of growth, plants were dual labeled with 14CO2 and 10% enriched 15N-N as either NaNO3 or (NH4)2SO4 and harvested 12 hours after labeling. Fertilization with NO3 --N increased leaf, stem, and root dry weights compared to NH4 + fertilization. Total 15N uptake did not differ between N fertilization treatments, thus whole plant and root 15N concentrations were greater in NH4 +-fertilized vs. NO3 --fertilized plants. Fertilization with NO3 --N increased C partitioning to new shoots compared to NH4 +-fertilized plants. However, C partitioning to other plant parts was not affected by N form. Although NO3 - uptake in blueberry appears to be restricted relative to NH4 + uptake, this limitation does not inhibit vegetative growth. Additionally, there appears to be adequate available carbohydrate to support concurrent vegetative growth and N assimilation, regardless of N form.

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Rebecca L. Darnell and Keith B. Birkhold

Rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei Reade) cultivars differ in timing of floral and vegetative budbreak and in final fruit size. For example, `Bonita' exhibits concomitant floral and vegetative budbreak and has relatively large fruit size, while floral budbreak precedes vegetative budbreak in `Climax' and fruit size is smaller. Mobilization of carbohydrate before and during fruit development in `Bonita' and `Climax' rabbiteye blueberries was examined to determine if differences in carbohydrate availability between these two cultivars were correlated with differences in fruit size. Root dry mass (DM) of both cultivars decreased from dormancy (31 days before anthesis) through fruit development. Sugar concentrations in roots and stems of both cultivars decreased significantly between dormancy and anthesis, then remained relatively steady throughout fruit development. Starch concentrations in roots and stems of `Bonita' decreased significantly between dormancy and anthesis. The extent of total starch depletion in `Climax' was similar; however, the decrease was more gradual, extending from dormancy to 28 days after anthesis (DAA); at which time, vegetative budbreak in `Climax' occurred. Thus, although total reserve carbohydrate pool sizes were similar between the two cultivars, remobilization patterns were different, resulting in increased starch mobilization in `Bonita' compared to `Climax' in the period leading up to anthesis. Concentration of 14C from reserve carbon sources was similar in flowers of both cultivars at anthesis. These values declined throughout fruit development as a result of dilution of the labeled carbon by unlabeled carbon from current photosynthesis. There was a sharper decline in 14C concentration of `Bonita' fruit compared to `Climax' fruit between anthesis and 51 DAA. This, coupled with differences in timing of vegetative budbreak between the two cultivars, suggests that `Bonita' fruit were accessing current (unlabeled) assimilate earlier (i.e., before 51 DAA) than `Climax' fruit. Smaller fruit size in `Climax' compared to `Bonita' may be a consequence of a decrease in reserve carbohydrate mobilization to `Climax' flower buds before anthesis relative to `Bonita', as well as a delay or reduction in the availability of current carbohydrates to developing `Climax' fruit between anthesis and 51 DAA.

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Raquel Cano-Medrano and Rebecca L. Darnell

To determine if multiple applications of GA3 would increase size of parthenocarpic fruit, and to assess the interaction between GA3 applications and pollination, `Beckyblue' rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei Reade) flowers were treated with single or multiple applications of GA3 alone or in combination with full or partial pollination. Single or multiple applications of GA3 resulted in similar or increased fruit set compared with pollination, and increased fruit set compared with no pollination. GA3 applications decreased fruit mass and increased the fruit development period in comparison with pollination alone. Multiple, late applications of GA3 were ineffective in overcoming these effects. Partial (nonsaturating) pollination resulted in an average fruit set of 60%, while set following GA3 treatment in combination with full or partial pollination averaged 85%. Fruit mass was greater in the full pollination ±GA3 treatments than in all other treatments. The number of large seeds and seed mass per fruit were greatest in the full pollination treatment, and were significantly decreased by all treatments in which GA3 and/or partial pollination were used; however, there were no concomitant effects of GA3 in delaying the fruit development period. Our results indicate that under optimal pollination conditions, no detrimental effects of GA3 applications on fruit set, fruit size, or fruit development period in blueberry are to be expected, even though GA3 reduces seed number and seed mass. Furthermore, GA3 applications appear to be beneficial in increasing fruit set under suboptimal pollination conditions, although smaller fruit are to be expected under such conditions. Chemical name used: gibberellic acid (GA3).

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Donald J. Merhaut and Rebecca L. Darnell

Commercial blueberry production is limited primarily to soils where ammonium, rather than nitrate, is the predominant N form. However, Vaccinium arboreum, a species native to northern Florida, often is found growing in soils where nitrate is the major N form. This species may serve as a breeding source or rootstock for commercial blueberries, expanding the potential soil types that may be used for blueberry cultivation. In our study, in vivo nitrate reductase activity (NRA) was measured in roots and leaves of 2-year-old seedlings of V. arboreum and a commercial cultivar, V. corymbosum `Sharpblue'. Plants were grown hydroponically in sand culture and fertilized with a modified Hoagland's solution containing N as either ammonium, ammonium nitrate, or nitrate. Vaccinium arboreum averaged nitrite at 200, 60, and 20 nmol/g fresh weight per h for nitrate, ammonium nitrate, and ammonium fertilized plants, respectively. `Sharpblue' root NRA was significantly lower, averaging nitrite 50, 38, and 8 nmol/g fresh weight per h for nitrate, ammonium nitrate, and ammonium fertilized plants, respectively. NRA was much lower in leaves than roots of V. arboreum, averaging nitrite at ≈15 nmol nmol/g fresh weight per h across N treatments. No NRA was detected in the leaves of `Sharpblue', regardless of N treatment. These data suggest that V. arboreum may be used as a rootstock or breeding source to expand blueberry production into soil types that are higher in nitrate than the soils typically used for blueberry production.

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Rebecca L. Darnell and Steven A. Hiss

Most Vaccinium species have narrow soil adaptation and are limited to soils that have low pH, high available iron (Fe), and nitrogen (N) primarily in the ammonium (NH4+) form. Vaccinium arboreum Marsh. is a wild species that can tolerate a wider range of soil conditions, including higher pH and nitrate (NO3-) as the predominant N form. This wider soil adaptation may be related to the ability of V. arboreum to acquire Fe and NO3- more efficiently than cultivated Vaccinium species, such as V. corymbosum L. interspecific hybrid (southern highbush). Nitrate and Fe uptake, and nitrate reductase (NR) and ferric chelate reductase (FCR) activities were compared in these two species grown hydroponically in either 1.0 or 5.0 mm NO3-. Nitrate uptake rate (on a whole-plant and FW basis) and root NR activity were significantly greater in V. arboreum compared with V. corymbosum. Iron uptake on a FW basis was also greater in V. arboreum, and was correlated with higher root FCR activity than was found in V. corymbosum. Increased Fe and NO3- uptake/assimilation in V. arboreum were reflected in increased organ and whole-plant dry weights compared with V. corymbosum. Vaccinium arboreum appears to be more efficient in acquiring and assimilating NO3- and Fe than is the cultivated species, V. corymbosum. This may partially explain the wider soil adaptation of V. arboreum.

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Kevin R. Kosola* and Rebecca L. Darnell

Cultivated Vaccinium species (e.g. highbush blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum, or cranberry, V. macrocarpon) commonly require acidic soil (pH 4.5 to 5.5) for optimum growth. Under these conditions, ammonium (NH4 +) is the dominant form of inorganic N. In contrast, V. arboreum, the sparkleberry can tolerate higher-pH mineral soils, where nitrate (NO3 -) is typically the predominant inorganic N form. This tolerance may be related to increased ability to acquire and utilize NO3—N. Measurements of 15NO3 - and 15NH4 + influx kinetics in excised roots of V. arboreum, V. corymbosum, and V. macrocarpon did not support this hypothesis. NO3 - influx kinetics measured from 10 micromolar to 200 micromolar NO3 - were similar among all three species. NO3 - influx was consistently lower than NH4 + influx at all concentrations for all three species.