Students in plant science courses have difficulty thoroughly understanding the effect of water stress on net photosynthesis and its consequences—reduced plant growth, productivity, quality, and profit. A laboratory demonstration utilizing a controlled water table irrigation system (CWT) provides a nearly constant plant water potential. Pots are placed on a capillary mat with one end suspended in a trough with nutrient solution. The vertical distance from the solution surface to the pot bottom determines the water potential; the water potential is 0 when the pot bottom is at the same level as the nutrient solution. The greater the vertical distance from solution to the pot bottom, the lower the water potential. For this demonstration, the bench was sloped from 0 to 10 cm above the solution over a distance of 90 cm. Corn, squash, soybean, fescue, and marigold seed were directly sown to either 9- or 15-cm pots and then placed on the CWT sloped bench at five vertical distances above the solution. Weekly, students observed plant growth and at the end of 8 weeks evaluated root and shoot growth. For all species, plant growth was indirectly related to the distance above the nutrient solution. Plants at near 0 water potential were much larger than those grown 8 to 10 cm above the solution.
The genus Chionanthus, known as fringetrees, is a member of the olive family (Oleaceae). Chionanthus virginicus is an understory tree or shrub with a wide range in forests of the eastern United States and is used as an ornamental tree that is known to be free of insects and disease in the wild. The species is tolerant of a wide range of environmental conditions, and there is interest in developing new cultivars with improved horticultural traits, such as tree form or upright growth habit and superior flowering display that are widely adapted. To identify genepools in the native range of C. virginicus for use in breeding programs, the genetic diversity and population structure were assessed for 274 individuals from 12 locations in four states (Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, and Texas) using 26 simple sequence repeats (SSRs). An average of 12.54 alleles/locus were detected, allelic richness averaged 2.80. Genetic differentiation was 0.11, indicating moderate differentiation among subpopulations. Despite the high genetic diversity and low population differentiation, Bayesian clustering analysis identified six genetic groups that match the geographic distribution of collection sites. Analysis of molecular variance indicated that most (82%) of the variation is explained within individuals, and 11% and 7% of the variation is due to differences among individuals within populations and among populations. Analysis of isolation by distance across all samples showed a weak positive relationship between geographic distance and genetic distance. The C. virginicus samples analyzed in this study indicate there is sufficient diversity for germplasm collection for use in breeding programs. Given the relatively moderate genetic differentiation, there are not likely to be unique islands of genetic diversity that may be missed when gathering parental materials for a breeding program