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Lisa Tang, Shweta Chhajed and Tripti Vashisth

For field-grown ‘Valencia’ sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) affected by Huanglongbing [HLB (Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas)], trees that displayed more severe HLB symptoms (severe trees) had 74% fruit drop before harvest; however, the drop rate for less symptomatic trees (mild trees) was 45%. For mature fruit (3 weeks before harvest) still attached to the branches, 60% of them from severe trees were “loose fruit” [fruit detachment force (FT) < 6 kgf]. In contrast, only 13% of the attached fruit from the mild trees were loose. Overall, fresh weight and size of loose fruit were lower than “tight fruit” (FT > 6 kgf). Irrespective of the symptom levels of trees, the concentrations of glucose, fructose, and inositol in juice of loose fruit were the same or larger than those of tight fruit, suggesting that the shortage of carbohydrates is not the dominant cause of HLB-associated preharvest fruit drop. Expression levels of the cell wall modification genes encoding cellulase (endo-1,4-β-glucanase), polygalacturonase, and pectate lyase were greater in the calyx abscission zones of loose fruit compared to tight fruit, indicating that cell separation was occurring in the former at the time of collection. No differences in the expression levels of genes encoding the ethylene biosynthesis enzymes, including 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC) synthase (ACS) and ACC oxidase (ACO), and an ethylene-responsive transcription factor 1 (ERF1) were observed in tissues of loose and tight fruit. Interestingly, ACS, ACO, and EFR1 expressions were lower in calyx abscission zones and in leaves of the severe trees compared with those of mild trees, suggesting an ostensible, HLB-dependent reduction in ethylene biosynthesis and/or signaling close to harvest time. However, the role of ethylene in HLB-associated preharvest fruit drop remains to be determined. The results leave open the possibility of early ethylene production and action before the initiation of fruit abscission.

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Lisa Tang, Shweta Chhajed, Tripti Vashisth, Mercy A. Olmstead, James W. Olmstead and Thomas A. Colquhoun

To determine how the dormancy-breaking agent hydrogen cyanamide (HC) advances budbreak in peach (Prunus persica), this study compared the transcriptome of buds of low-chill ‘TropicBeauty’ peach trees treated with 1% (v/v) HC and that of nontreated trees at 3 and 7 days after treatment (DAT), respectively, using an RNA sequencing analysis. The peak of total budbreak occurred 6 weeks earlier in the HC-treated trees (at 32 DAT) than the nontreated trees (at 74 DAT). There were 1312 and 1095 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) at 3 and 7 DAT, respectively. At 3 DAT, DEGs related to oxidative stress, including the response to hypoxia, lipid oxidation, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) metabolic process, were upregulated in HC-treated buds. Additionally, DEGs encoding enzymes for ROS scavenging and the pentose phosphate pathway were upregulated at 3 DAT but they were not differently expressed at 7 DAT, indicating a temporary demand for defense mechanisms against HC-triggered oxidative stress. Upregulation of DEGs for cell division and development at 7 DAT, which were downregulated at 3 DAT, suggests that cell activity was initially suppressed but was enhanced within 7 DAT. At 7 DAT, DEGs related to cell wall degradation and modification were upregulated, which was possibly responsible for the burst of buds. The results of this study strongly suggest that HC induces transient oxidative stress shortly after application, leading to the release of bud dormancy and, subsequently, causing an increase in cell activity and cell wall loosening, thereby accelerating budbreak in peach.