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Meiling Zhang, Ming Chen, Zhen Wang, Ting Wu, Yi Wang, Xinzhong Zhang and Zhenhai Han

Grafting has been widely used in orchard management because the rootstock can make the tree more tolerant to environmental stresses. Iron deficiency is one of the major limiting environmental factor in apple production worldwide. Systematic research has been made about iron-deficiency adaptive responses in the level of organs, cells, and subcells, whereas the interactions between Fe and other divalent cations in tissue level are little known. Synchrotron radiation X-ray fluorescence (SR-μXRF) was used to map the location of selected elements Fe, Zn, Mn, Ni, and Co in the longitudinal and latitudinal root samples of Malus xiaojinensis. Iron deficiency induced a significant increase in the relative contents of five micronutrients in epidermis and cortex. The ratio of element contents of roots under Fe-deficient condition and Fe-sufficient condition at same position increased obviously in the section of 1000- to 2000-μm distance from the root tip in xylem. Expression analysis of iron absorption- and transport-related genes in roots showed that MdNramp3 and MxCS1 increased significantly. These results indicated that iron deficiency promoted the long-distance transport of micronutrients in xylem, and MdNramp3 and MxCS1 might play an important role in this process. Importantly, this study directly provides visual divalent metals distribution in tissue level for an improved understanding of metal absorption process in apple rootstock.

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Yi Tan, Baisha Li, Yi Wang, Ting Wu, Zhenhai Han and Xinzhong Zhang

Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation is commonly used in dicotyledon plants such as apples. The regeneration ability of the recipient is an important factor in transformation efficiency. Here, the variations in bud regeneration rate (BRR) and the number of adventitious buds (NAB) formed per explant in Malus germplasm accessions with phenological stage were estimated. Both BRR and NAB of explants at the dormancy broken and spring sprouting stages were significantly higher than those at the autumn sprouting stage. The genetic diversity and inheritance of BRR and NAB were evaluated using 153 Malus germplasm accessions and 78 hybrid trees of Jonathan × Golden Delicious. Malus sieversii 31, Liberty, and Smoothee exhibited significantly high BRR (98.33%, 98.33%, and 93.33%, respectively) and a large NAB without vitrification. BRR and NAB linearly correlated with each other but not with callus formation rate. The broad sense heritability of the regeneration rate was 92.16%. The three Malus accessions that had high regeneration ability, and some of their sexual descendants, might be outstanding genetic resources for future genetic transformation.

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Haishan An, Feixiong Luo, Ting Wu, Yi Wang, Xuefeng Xu, Xinzhong Zhang and Zhenhai Han

Fine root (≤2 mm in diameter) systems play a pivotal role in water and mineral uptake in higher plants. However, the impact of fine root architecture on tree growth and development is not fully understood, especially in apple trees. Here, we summarize a 6-year-trial study using minirhizotrons to investigate the relationships between fine root production, mortality, and longevity in ‘Red Fuji’ trees grafted on five different rootstocks/interstems. Based on root length density (RLD), fine root production and mortality were markedly lower in ‘Red Fuji’ trees growing on dwarfing M.9 (M.9) and Shao series no. 40 (SH.40) rootstocks than in trees on standard Malus robusta ‘Baleng Crab’ (BC) rootstock. The use of M.9 and SH.40 as interstems led to an extensive reduction in fine root production and mortality in comparison with BC rootstock. Root number density (RND), but not average root length (ARL), showed similar patterns to RLD. About one-half of fine roots in ‘Red Fuji’ tree growing on M.9 were scattered within the top 0–20 cm of topsoil, indicating shallow root system in M.9, whereas in trees on BC, 55.15% of fine roots were distributed between 100- and 150-cm soil depth, indicating a deep root architecture. The addition of interstems did not alter fine root soil-depth distribution. For all rootstocks/interstems, fine roots with a life span of less than 80 days were generated in spring and summer, but fine roots which lived for more than 81 days were produced almost all the year round. In conclusion, lower fine root numbers were associated with the dwarfing effect in dwarfing rootstocks/interstems, but ARL and shallower rooting were not.

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Rui Sun, Hui Li, Qiong Zhang, Dongmei Chen, Fengqiu Yang, Yongbo Zhao, Yi Wang, Yuepeng Han, Xinzhong Zhang and Zhenhai Han

Flesh browning is an important negative trait for quality preservation of fresh-cut fruits. To obtain a better understanding of the inheritance and genetic control of flesh browning in apple, the phenotype of a hybrid population derived from ‘Jonathan’ × ‘Golden Delicious’ was studied for 2 successive years. The inheritance of the flesh browning trait was analyzed by the frequency distribution of the phenotypes. Flesh browning-associated major genes were then mapped by screening genome-wide simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers. Flesh browning is inherited quantitatively and showed a clear bimodal frequency distribution, indicating that the segregation of major genes is involved in the variation. The segregation ratio of light and heavy browning was 7:1 in 2010, 2011, and 2010 + 2011, suggesting that the inheritance of the trait in apple involves three segregated loci of major genes. The heritability of the major gene effect was 72.14% and 72.76% in 2010 and 2011, respectively. SSR markers were screened from 600 pairs of SSR primers located on 17 apple linkage groups (LGs). The three major genes were mapped on LG10, 15, and 17 on the apple genome, respectively, by linkage analysis of flesh browning phenotypes and the genotypes of SSR markers. Two quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for flesh browning were mapped on LG15 of ‘Jonathan’ and LG17 of ‘Golden Delicious’, respectively, which are the same linkage groups that two major genes mapped on.

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Chenping Zhou, Ruiting Chen, Yaqiang Sun, He Wang, Yi Wang, Ting Wu, Xinzhong Zhang, Xuefeng Xu and Zhenhai Han

Bridge grafting is widely applied in trunk-wounded apple trees. In this study, we carried out semigirdling and ring girdling on the trunk of ‘Nagafu 2’/Malus baccata (L.) Borkh apple trees to simulate trunk injury. We then bridge grafted a M9 self-rooted rootstock on the injured trunks to study the effects of bridge grafting on flowering, fruit-set, tree vigor, and fruit characteristics in ‘Nagafu 2’ apple. The results showed that both semigirdling and ring girdling due to the large wounded area caused significant decrease in flowering, fruit-set, and tree vigor (estimated by measuring leaf area, leaf gas exchange, tree height, and shoot growth); in addition, ring girdling increased flesh and peel firmness. However, bridge grafting of M9 self-rooted rootstock on semigirdling and girdling apple trees resulted in partial recovery of tree vigor (leaf area and photosynthesis) and maintaining the reduction of vegetative growth, thereby increasing flowering, fruit-set, yield, fruit weight, and peel firmness.