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Hai-nan Liu, Jian-rong Feng, Xiao-fang Liu, Wen-hui Li, Wen-juan Lv and Ming Luo

Three kinds of expression vectors of a pollen-S determinant were constructed to provide a reference for molecular breeding of self-compatible (SC) Prunus species. An S-haplotype-specific F-box (SFB) protein gene from the ‘Xiaobaixing’ apricot (Prunus armeniaca) was cloned by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and 3′-rapid-amplification of cDNA ends (3′-RACE). A 1136-bp sequence complementary to the 3′-end of the cDNA (GenBank accession number KP938528.2) with a 912-bp complete open reading frame (ORF) was obtained. The deduced amino acid sequence contained an F-box domain, two variable regions, and two hypervariable regions with structural characteristics similar to SFB in other Rosaceae plants. Sense, antisense, and RNA interference (RNAi) vectors for SFB were constructed by enzyme restriction. The target fragment was restricted using the corresponding restriction enzyme and then directionally inserted between the 35S cauliflower mosaic virus promoter and the nopaline synthase terminator (NOS-ter) of the expression vector pCAMBIA-35S-MCS-NOS-NPTII. The intron-containing hairpin RNA (ihpRNA) was obtained by fusion PCR. The constructed vectors were transferred into Agrobacterium tumefaciens strain LBA4404 by freezing/thawing. The RNAi vector of SFB was also transformed in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). The successful construction of these three expression vectors provides a basis for transforming ‘Xiaobaixing’ apricot and the breeding of SC Prunus cultivars.

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Jian-rong Feng, Wan-peng Xi, Wen-hui Li, Hai-nan Liu, Xiao-fang Liu and Xiao-yan Lu

The characterization of aroma of the 14 main apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) cultivars in Xinjiang was evaluated using high-performance solid-phase microextraction (HP-SPME) with gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS). A total of 208 volatiles that include 80 esters, 25 aldehydes, 15 terpenes, 21 ketones, 39 alcohols, 27 olefins, and 1 acid were identified from these cultivars. The compounds propyl acetate, 3-methyl-1-butanol acetate, (Z)-3-hexen-1-ol acetate, d-limonene, β-linalool, hexanal, hexyl acetate, butyl acetate, β-myrcene, ethyl butanoate, and β-cis-ocimene were the major compounds responsible for aroma in these cultivars. GC-MS results showed that Kuchexiaobaixing, Guoxiyuluke, and seven other cultivars were characterized by a high level of esters and were considered to be fruity apricot aroma. ‘Luotuohuang’ and ‘Heiyexing’ accumulate high levels of terpenes and exhibited an outstanding floral aroma. Higher levels of alcohols and aldehydes were observed in ‘Danxing’, ‘Sumaiti’, and ‘Kumaiti’. The latter are considered green aroma cultivars. These three types of cultivars with different aroma characteristics can be significantly differentiated by using the principal component analysis (PCA) method. The contributions of volatiles to the apricot aroma were assessed by using the partial least squares regression (PLSR) model. Esters, terpenes, and C6 components were shown to be responsible for the fruity, floral, and green character of fresh apricots, respectively.

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Ming Liu, Aijun Zhang, Xiaoguang Chen, Rong Jin, Hongmin Li and Zhonghou Tang

Potassium (K+) is an essential nutrient element for the growth and development of sweetpotato [Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.]. To investigate growth and physiological responses to K+ deficiency during early growth stage of sweetpotato, two representative cultivars with different tolerance to K+ deficiency were chosen. The seedlings of ‘Xushu 32’ (tolerance to K+ deficiency) and ‘Ningzishu 1’ (sensitive to K+ deficiency) were cultured in three different K+ concentrations (K0: 0 mmol·L−1 K+; K1: 5 mmol·L−1 K+; and K2: 20 mmol·L−1 K+, the control) of nutrient solution. Results showed that the extreme K+ deficiency (K0) significantly reduced the total dry weight, leaf number, root length, and chlorophyll content (CCI) compared with K2. However, the growth traits of ‘Xushu 32’ were less suppressed than those of ‘Ningzishu 1’. The net photosynthetic rate (P n), stomatal conductance (g S), and transpiration rate (T r) of ‘Ningzishu 1’ were significantly decreased in K0 and K1 (low K+), whereas ‘Xushu 32’ showed no significant change in K1 treatment. Increasing minimal fluorensence (F 0) of ‘Ningzishu 1’ comes with decreased maximum quantum efficiency of photosystem II (PSII) photochemistry (F v/F m) and photochemical quenching (q P) at K0 treatment. However, all the chlorophyll fluorescence parameters in ‘Xushu 32’ were nonsignificantly changed by K+ deficiency (K0 and K1). These results suggest that ‘Xushu 32’ could maintain a better growth state to adapt to K+ deficiency stress, which may be mainly because of a lighter affected photosynthesis and a less damaged PSII reaction center.

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Yung-Liang Peng, Fang-Yin Liu, Rong-Show Shen and Yu-Sen Chang

Nitrogen (N) is a major element required for crop cultivation and an important factor affecting plant growth and development. Malabar chestnut (Pachira macrocarpa) is an important ornamental potted plant crop whose N requirement has been studied, and a rapid monitoring method to manage N fertilization during its commercial production is yet to be established. Malabar chestnut seedlings were fertilized weekly with 0, 4, 8, 16, or 24 mm N. After 12 weeks, 16 mm N was found to yield the greatest plant growth such as plant height, number of nodes, and total leaf area. Measurements of chlorophyll meter readings, leaf chlorophyll concentration, leaf N concentration, and leaf dry weight all indicated that the optimal level of N fertilization was 16 mm N. A chlorophyll meter can be used to monitor nondestructively whether sufficient N has been supplied to support optimal plant growth. In this study, a chlorophyll meter reading of 46.1 corresponded with a critical leaf N concentration of 2.65%, defined as the leaf N concentration when the leaf dry weight was at 90% of saturation point. Additional N supplied beyond this critical level increased foliar chlorophyll content and improved the rate of net photosynthesis. Therefore, chlorophyll meter readings, which are convenient and nondestructive can serve as a reliable reference for commercial production in monitoring N requirement for optimum growth of malabar chestnut. Weekly fertilization of malabar chestnut with 16 mm N and maintaining leaf chlorophyll meter readings between 46.1 and 58.4 are recommended.

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Zhuping Fan, Yike Gao, Ling Guo, Ying Cao, Rong Liu and Qixiang Zhang

Bearded iris (Iris ×hybrida Hort.) is a large horticultural hybrid complex in the Iris genus, and the lack of understanding about its inheritance laws has seriously hindered the breeding process. From parental bearded iris ‘Indian Chief’ and ‘Sugar Blues’, four hybrid populations—including F1, F2, BC1P1, and BC1P2—were generated through hybridization. Fifteen key phenotypic traits, including plant height (PH), scape height (SH), length of fall (LF), width of fall (WF), length of standard (LS), width of standard (WS), and so on, were measured, and several genetic parameters (e.g., trait variation, heritability, trait correlation, distribution of flower color) were analyzed. The variation of phenotypic traits indicated that the F1 generation could produce larger flowers and a greater number of blooming stems than other generations, whereas backcrossing was beneficial at producing more flowers on one scape in the offspring of ‘Indian Chief’ and ‘Sugar Blues’. WF had the greatest broad-sense heritability (73.91%) among the 15 phenotypic traits, whereas the broad-sense heritability of SH was the lowest (2.06%). The correlation between a vegetative trait (PH) and a reproductive trait (WS) provided a path to early selection of germplasm. Furthermore, four important floral traits (LF, WF, LS, and WS) also correlated significantly to each other, thus simplifying the selection of larger flowers. Genes regulating fuchsia flower color were dominant over those for bluish purple flowers. Genetic effects of flower color in recurrent parents could be reinforced by backcrossing, thereby providing a potential way to modify flower color through hybridization.

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Rui Zhang, Fang-Ren Peng, Dong-Liang Le, Zhuang-Zhuang Liu, Hai-Yang He, You-Wang Liang, Peng-Peng Tan, Ming-Zhuo Hao and Yong-Rong Li

Scion wood of ‘Caddo’ and ‘Desirable’ pecan (Carya illinoinensis) was grafted onto the epicotyl of 1-month-old, open-pollinated ‘Shaoxing’ pecan seedlings for evaluation as a grafting technique to reduce the time to produce grafted trees. The results showed that seedlings grafted with “base scions” had higher survival than those grafted with “terminal scions” for both ‘Caddo’ and ‘Desirable’. Also, grafting with paraffinic tape could achieve greater success rate than that with medical tape. The most ideal time to perform this grafting was late April in Nanjing, China, when pecan seedlings were about 35 days old. This study demonstrated that the technique yielded successful epicotyl grafting of >70%, and it could thus be applied in practice.

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Zhuang-Zhuang Liu, Tao Chen, Fang-Ren Peng, You-Wang Liang, Peng-Peng Tan, Zheng-Hai Mo, Fan Cao, Yang-Juan Shang, Rui Zhang and Yong-Rong Li

Cytosine methylation plays important roles in regulating gene expression and modulating agronomic traits. In this study, the fluorescence-labeled methylation-sensitive amplified polymorphism (F-MSAP) technique was used to study variation in cytosine methylation among seven pecan (Carya illinoinensis) cultivars at four developmental stages. In addition, phenotypic variations in the leaves of these seven cultivars were investigated. Using eight primer sets, 22,796 bands and 950 sites were detected in the pecan cultivars at four stages. Variation in cytosine methylation was observed among the pecan cultivars, with total methylation levels ranging from 51.18% to 56.58% and polymorphism rates of 82.29%, 81.73%, 78.64%, and 79.09% being recorded at the four stages. Sufficiently accompanying the polymorphism data, significant differences in phenotypic traits were also observed among the pecan cultivars, suggesting that cytosine methylation may be an important factor underlying phenotypic variation. Hypermethylation was the dominant type of methylation among the four types observed, and full methylation occurred at higher levels than did hemimethylation in the pecan genomes. Cluster analysis and principal coordinate analysis (PCoA) identified Dice coefficients ranging from 0.698 to 0.778, with an average coefficient of 0.735, and the variance contribution rates of the previous three principal coordinates were 19.6%, 19.0%, and 18.2%, respectively. Among the seven pecan cultivars, four groups were clearly classified based on a Dice coefficient of 0.75 and the previous three principal coordinates. Tracing dynamic changes in methylation status across stages revealed that methylation patterns changed at a larger proportion of CCGG sites from the 30% of final fruit-size (30%-FFS) stage to the 70%-FFS stage, with general decreases in the total methylation level, the rate of polymorphism, and specific sites being observed in each cultivar. These results demonstrated that the F-MSAP technique is a powerful tool for quantitatively detecting cytosine methylation in pecan genomes and provide a new perspective for studying many important life processes in pecan.