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Mitchell Eicher-Sodo, Robert Gordon and Youbin Zheng

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is an oxidizing agent used to disinfect recirculated irrigation water during the production of organic crops under controlled environmental systems (e.g., greenhouses). To characterize the phytotoxic effects and define a concentration threshold for H2O2, three microgreen species [arugula (Brassica eruca ssp. sativa), radish (Raphanus sativus), and sunflower (Helianthus annuus ‘Black Oil’)], and three lettuce (Lactuca sativa) cultivars, Othilie, Xandra, and Rouxai, were foliar sprayed once daily with water containing 0, 25, 50, 75, 100, 125, 150, or 200 mg·L−1 of H2O2 from seed to harvest under greenhouse conditions. Leaf damage was assessed at harvest using two distinct methods: 1) the percentage of damaged leaves per tray and 2) a damage index (DI). Applied H2O2 concentrations, starting from 25 mg·L−1, increased the percentage of damaged leaves in every species except ‘Black Oil’ sunflower, which remained unaffected by any applied concentration. Symptoms of leaf damage manifested in similar patterns on the surface of microgreen cotyledons and lettuce leaves, while mean DI values and extent of damage were unique to each crop. Fresh weight, dry weight, and leaf area of all crops were not significantly affected by daily H2O2 spray. Identifying how foliar H2O2 damage manifests throughout the crop, as well at individual cotyledon or leaf surfaces, is necessary to establish an upper concentration threshold for H2O2 use. On the basis of the aforementioned metrics, maximum recommended concentrations were 150 mg·L−1 (radish), 100 mg·L−1 (arugula) for microgreens and 125 mg·L−1 (‘Othilie’), 75 mg·L−1 (‘Rouxai’), and 125 mg·L−1 (‘Xandra’) lettuce.

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Gordon J. Lightbourn, John R. Stommel and Robert J. Griesbach

Anthocyanin pigmentation in leaves, flowers, and fruit imparts violet to black color and enhances both ornamental and culinary appeal. Shades of violet to black pigmentation in Capsicum annuum L. are attributed to anthocyanin accumulation. Anthocyanin production is markedly influenced by numerous environmental factors, including temperature and light stress. The objective of this study was to determine the genetic basis for differences in C. annuum anthocyanin content in response to varying environments. Growth experiments conducted under controlled environment conditions demonstrated that anthocyanin concentration was significantly higher in mature leaves in comparison with immature leaves under high light (435 μmol·s−1·m−2) conditions. High (30 °C day/25 °C night) versus low (20 °C day/15 °C night) temperature had no significant effect on anthocyanin concentration regardless of leaf maturity stage. Foliar anthocyanin concentration in plants grown under short days (10 h) with low light intensity (215 μmol·s−1·m−2) was significantly less than under long days (16 h) with low light. Under high light intensity, daylength had no effect on anthocyanin content. Three structural genes [chalcone synthase (Chs), dihydroflavonol reductase (Dfr), anthocyanin synthase (Ans)] and three regulatory genes (Myc, MybA, Wd40) were selected for comparison under inductive and noninductive environmental conditions for anthocyanin accumulation. Expression of Chs, Dfr, and Ans was significantly higher in mature leaves in comparison with younger leaves. Consistent with anthocyanin concentration, temperature had no effect on structural gene expression, whereas light positively influenced expression. Under low light conditions, temperature had no effect on Myc, MybA, and Wd40 expression; whereas under high light conditions, temperature only had an effect on MybA expression. The study of anthocyanin leaf pigmentation in C. annuum under inductive and noninductive environments provides a new approach for elucidating the molecular genetic basis of epistatic gene interactions and the resulting phenotypic plasticity.

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Eric R. Rozema, Robert J. Gordon and Youbin Zheng

Certain ions such as Na+ and Cl can accumulate in recirculating greenhouse nutrient solutions and can reach levels that are damaging to crops. An option for the treatment of this problem is phytodesalinization with Na+ and Cl hyperaccumulating plants that could be added to existing water treatment technologies such as constructed wetlands (CWs). Two microcosm experiments were conducted to evaluate eight plant species including Atriplex prostrata L. (triangle orache), Distichlis spicata (L.) Greene (salt grass), Juncus torreyi Coville. (Torrey’s rush), Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud. (common reed), Spartina alterniflora Loisel. (smooth cordgrass), Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani (C.C. Gmel.) Palla (softstem bulrush), Typha angustifolia L. (narrow leaf cattail), and Typha latifolia L. (broad leaf cattail) for their Na+ and Cl accumulation potential. An initial (indoor) experiment determined that J. torreyi, S. tabernaemontani, T. angustifolia, and T. latifolia were the best candidates for phytodesalinization because they had the highest Na+ and Cl tissue contents after exposure to Na+ and Cl-rich nutrient solutions. A second (outdoor) experiment quantified the Na+ and Cl ion uptake (grams of each ion accumulated per m2 of microcosm). J. torreyi, S. tabernaemontani, T. angustifolia, and T. latifolia accumulated 5.8, 3.9, 8.3, and 9.2 g·m−2 of Na+ and 25.7, 18.2, 31.6, and 27.2 g·m−2 of Cl, respectively. Of the eight species, T. latifolia and S. tabernaemontani showed the greatest potential to accumulate Na+ and Cl in a CW environment, whereas S. alterniflora, D. spicata, and P. australis showed the least potential.

Free access

Gordon J. Lightbourn, Robert J. Griesbach and John R. Stommel

Color observed in plants is due to several pigments, in particular chlorophylls, carotenoids, flavonoids, and betalains. The many hues can be attributed to a number of biochemical factors, inclusive of pigment concentration, pigment combinations and their ratios, and vacuolar pH. Shades of violet to black pigmentation in pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) are attributed to anthocyanin accumulation. The color of unripe pepper fruit varies from green and yellow to ivory, through varying shades of violet and purple to nearly black. Whereas pepper fruit color is important for culinary product quality, foliar pigmentation is also an important aspect of ornamental variety appeal. Foliage and stem color may vary from green to varying shades of green/purple to nearly black. HPLC analysis of violet and black pepper fruit revealed a single anthocyanidin that was identified as delphinidin. Black fruit contained five-fold higher chlorophyll concentrations in comparison to violet fruit, which contained relatively little chlorophyll. Differences in fruit pH were not statistically significant. Similar to fruit, black pepper leaf tissue contained delphinidin as the predominant anthocyanidin, but in higher concentration relative to that found in fruit. The results demonstrate that high concentrations of delphinidin in combination with chlorophyll account for black pigmentation. Real-time PCR analysis of tissues that varied in pigmentation intensity due to varying anthocyanin concentration revealed functional, but differentially expressed, structural genes in the anthocyanin biosynthetic pathway. Analysis of regulatory gene expression identified a MYB transcription factor that was differentially expressed in response to varying anthocyanin concentration.

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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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John R. Stommel, Gordon J. Lightbourn, Brenda S. Winkel and Robert J. Griesbach

Anthocyanin structural gene transcription requires the expression of at least one member of each of three transcription factor families: MYC, MYB, and WD40. These transcription factors form a complex that binds to structural gene promoters, thereby modulating gene expression. Capsicum annuum L. (pepper) displays a wide spectrum of tissue-specific anthocyanin pigmentation, making it a useful model for the study of anthocyanin accumulation. To determine the genetic basis for tissue-specific pigmentation, we used real-time polymerase chain reaction to evaluate the expression of anthocyanin biosynthetic (Chs, Dfr, and Ans) and regulatory (Myc, MybA, and Wd) genes in flower, fruit, and foliar tissue from pigmented and nonpigmented C. annuum genotypes. No differences were observed in expression of the Wd gene among these tissues. However, in all cases, biosynthetic gene transcript levels were significantly higher in anthocyanin-pigmented tissue than in nonpigmented tissues. MybA and Myc transcript levels were also substantially higher in anthocyanin-pigmented floral and fruit tissues. Our results demonstrate that differential expression of C. annuum MybA as well as Myc occurs coincident with anthocyanin accumulation in C. annuum flower and fruit tissues. In contrast to the situation in flowers and fruit, differential expression of MybA and Myc was not observed in foliar tissue, suggesting that different mechanisms contribute to the regulation of anthocyanin biosynthesis in different parts of the C. annuum plant. Cloning and sequencing of MybA genomic and cDNA clones revealed two introns of 249 and 441 bp between the R2R3 domains. Whereas the Myb R2R3 domains were conserved between C. annuum and Petunia ×hybrida Vilm., the sequence of the non-R2R3 domains was not conserved, with very little homology in these related Solanaceous species.

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Peter R. Hicklenton, Julia Y. Reekie, Robert J. Gordon and David C. Percival

Seasonal patterns of CO2 assimilation (ACO2), leaf water potential (ψ1) and stomatal conductance (g1) were studied in three clones (`Augusta', `Brunswick', and `Chignecto') of lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium Ait.) over two growing seasons. Plants were managed in a 2-year cycle of fruiting (year 1) and burn-prune (year 2). In the fruiting year, ACO2 was lowest in mid-June and early September. Rates peaked between 10 and 31 July and declined after fruit removal in late August. Compared with the fruiting year, ACO2 in the prune year was between 50% and 130% higher in the early season, and between 80% and 300% higher in mid-September. In both years, however, mid-season maximum ACO2 for each clone was between 9 and 10 μmol·m–2·s–1CO2. Assimilation of CO2 increased with increasing photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) to between 500 and 600 μmol·s–1·m–2 in `Augusta' and `Brunswick', and to between 700 and 800 μmol·s–1·m–2 in `Chignecto'. Midday ψ1 was generally lower in the prune year than in the fruiting year, reflecting year-to-year differences in soil water content. Stomatal conductance (g1), however, was generally higher in the prune year than in the fruiting year over similar vapor pressure deficit (VPD) ranges, especially in June and September when prune year g1 was often twice that observed in the fruiting year. In the fruiting year, g1 declined through the day in response to increasing VPD in June, but was quite constant in mid-season. It tended to be higher in `Augusta' than in the other two clones. Stomatal closure imposes limitations on ACO2 in lowbush blueberries, but not all seasonal change in C-assimilative capacity can be explained by changes in g1.

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Ali A. Ramin, P. Gordon Braun, Robert K. Prange and John M. DeLong

Biofumigation by volatiles of Muscodor albus Worapong, Strobel & W.M. Hess, an endophytic fungus, was investigated for the biological control of three postharvest fungi, Botrytis cinerea Pers., Penicillium expansum Link, and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (Lib) de Bary, and three bacteria, Erwinia carotovora pv. carotovora (Jones) Bergey et al., Pseudomonas fluorescens Migula (isolate A7B), and Escherichia coli (strain K12). Bacteria and fungi on artificial media in petri dishes were exposed to volatiles produced by M. albus mycelium growing on rye seeds in sealed glass 4-L jars with or without air circulation for up to 48 hours. The amount of dry M. albus–rye seed culture varied from 0.25 to 1.25 g·L–1 of jar volume. Fan circulation of volatiles in jars increased efficacy and 0.25 g·L–1 with fan circulation was sufficient to kill or suppress all fungi and bacteria after 24 and 48 hours, respectively. Two major volatiles of M. albus, isobutyric acid (IBA) and 2-methyl-1-butanol (MB), and one minor one, ethyl butyrate (EB), varied in their control of the same postharvest fungi and bacteria. Among the three fungi, IBA killed or suppressed S. sclerotiorum, B. cinerea, and P. expansum at 40, 25, and 45 μL·L –1, respectively. MB killed or suppressed S. sclerotiorum, B. cinerea, and P. expansum at 75, 100, and 100 μL·L –1, respectively. EB was only able to kill S. sclerotiorum at 100 μL·L –1. Among the three bacteria, IBA killed or suppressed E. coli (K12), E. carotovora pv. carotovora, and P. fluorescens at 5, 12.5, and 12.5 μL·L–1, respectively. MB killed or suppressed E. coli (K12), E. carotovora pv. carotovora, and P. fluorescens at 100, 75, and 100 μL·L–1, respectively. EB did not control growth of the three bacteria. This study demonstrates the need for air circulation in M. albus, MB, and IBA treatments to optimize the efficacy of these potential postharvest agents of disease control.

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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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Robert L. Long, Kerry B. Walsh, David J. Midmore and Gordon Rogers

A common practice for the irrigation management of muskmelon (Cucumis melo L. reticulatus group) is to restrict water supply to the plants from late fruit development and through the harvest period. However, this late fruit development period is critical for sugar accumulation and water stress at this stage is likely to limit the final fruit soluble solids concentration (SSC). Two field irrigation experiments were conducted to test the idea that maintaining muskmelon plants free of water stress through to the end of harvest will maximise sugar accumulation in the fruit. In both trials, water stress before or during harvest detrimentally affected fruit SSC and fresh weight (e.g., no stress fruit 11.2% SSC, weight 1180 g; stress fruit 8.8% SSC, weight 990 g). Maintaining plants free of water stress from flowering through to the end of harvest is recommended to maximise yield and fruit quality.