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Hui Wei, Yan Fu and Rajeev Arora

Intron length polymorphisms were used to investigate relationships among eight Rhododendron L. species (R. catawbiense Michaux., R. minus Michaux., R. ponticum L., R. keiskei Miquel., R. arboreum Sm., R. dichroanthum Diels., ssp. scyphocalyx Cowan., R. maximum L. and R. dauricum L.) and two hybrid cultivars [i.e., R. `PJM' (R. minus var. minus × R. dauricum) and R. `Chionoides' (R. ponticum × unknown)]. A total of 27 of these markers were used to estimate phylogenetic relationships among the species and draw inferences about the parentage of the cultivars, which is partially unknown. In general the expressed sequence tag-polymerase chain reaction (EST-PCR) marker-based phylogenetic map of the eight species is congruent with the currently accepted morphology-based classification of these species at the subgenus as well as the section level. However, the constructed phylogenetic tree revealed that, at the subsection level, two species, R. arboreum (subsection Arborea Sleum.) and R. dichroanthum (subsection Neriiflora Sleum.), are grouped under the same “clade” (80% bootstrap score), suggesting that these species are more closely related than indicated in the current classification system that places them in separate subsections/clades. Moreover, our phylogenetic analysis of the three species belonging to section Ponticum G. Don. demonstrated a closer phylogenetic relationship between R. ponticum and R. maximum (bootstrap score of 74%) than between these species and R. catawbiense; such observation is consistent with a recent phylogenetic analysis of section Ponticum by Milne (2004) using the sequences of a chloroplast gene. Parentage analysis for the two cultivars confirmed the interspecific lineage of R. `PJM' and provided genetic support for the speculated R. ponticum and R. maximum parentage of R. `Chionoides'. Our results indicate that, in addition to their use in mapping studies, intron-flanking EST-based PCR markers are valuable tools for conducting phylogenetic and parentage analyses and/or gene flow studies.

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Yong Zhang, Chunxia Fu, Yujing Yan, Xiaodan Fan, Yan’an Wang and Ming Li

Application of sugar alcohol zinc (SA-Zn) spray to apple trees at certain developmental stages can improve fruit quality. Increasing the Zn concentration of fruit can improve nutritional content and promote human health. We conducted foliar application of SA-Zn to 13-year-old ‘Fuji’ apple trees at different developmental stages. The effects of SA-Zn application on Zn concentration, reducing sugar content, and carbohydrate metabolism-related enzyme activity in fruit were investigated. The foliar treatment increased Zn and reducing sugar concentrations significantly in mature fruit. Sorbitol dehydrogenase activity was higher in the fruit of trees treated before budbreak and 3 weeks after flowering compared with the control at the early fruit stage and was higher during fruit expansion in plants treated after termination of spring shoot growth. Mature fruit of trees treated during the fruit expansion stage showed higher sorbitol dehydrogenase activity than the control. Foliar SA-Zn treatment did not have a significant effect on sorbitol oxidase activity in apple fruit. Treatment before budbreak and at 3 weeks after flowering led to a significant increase in the activity of sucrose synthase and acid invertase at the early fruit stage. Treatment during the fruit expansion stage significantly increased the activity of acid invertase at maturity but had no effect on the activity of neutral invertase. Our results indicate that foliar SA-Zn application resulted in biofortification of Zn in apples, which led to higher activity of carbohydrate metabolism-related enzymes and accumulation of sugars.

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Yong Zhang, Chunxia Fu, Yujing Yan, Yan’an Wang, Ming Li, Meixiang Chen, Jianping Qian, Xinting Yang and Shuhan Cheng

This research was initiated to determine the response of apple (Malus ×domestica) fruit quality to sprays of zinc sulfate (ZnSO4) and sugar alcohol zinc. Two apple cultivars Fuji and Gala were evaluated, the leaf zinc (Zn) concentration of which were about 14.3 mg·kg−1 dry weight without Zn deficiency symptoms. The trees were sprayed with ZnSO4 and sugar alcohol zinc separately during four different developmental stages: 2 weeks before budbreak (P1), 3 weeks after bloom (P2), the termination of spring shoot growth (P3), and 4 weeks before harvest (P4). The fruit was harvested at maturity and analyzed for fruit quality and fruit Zn concentration. Zinc sprays during the four different developmental stages increased Zn concentration of peeled and washed fruit at harvest, without phytotoxicity. The treatments at stages P2 and P4 increased average fruit weight of ‘Gala’ and ‘Fuji’, respectively. The treatments at stages P1 and P4 increased the fruit firmness of ‘Gala’, while the treatments at stages P1 and P2 increased the fruit firmness of ‘Fuji’. The treatments at stages P1, P2, and P4 increased the soluble sugar and vitamin C of ‘Gala’ fruit, while the treatments at all the stages increased the soluble sugar and vitamin C of ‘Fuji’. And the effects of sugar alcohol zinc were equal and more pronounced than those of ZnSO4. Thus, Zn sprays at critical periods can improve fruit quality of apple trees, which show no Zn deficiency symptoms with leaf Zn concentration less than 15 mg·kg−1 dry weight.

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Jiefang Wu, Danwen Fu, Jiezhen Chen, Changhe Cai, Qian Yan and Liangxi Ou

The characteristics of litchi pollen have drawn increasing attention in recent years. Previous studies indicated that there are significant differences in the quantity and viability of litchi pollen grains among different varieties and flowering stages. Moreover, the same variety may show a different quantity of pollen grains and viability in different years. There is still a lack of systematic studies on the change of pollen germination rate and pollen amount in different varieties and at different flowering stages. In this study, the changes in the germination rate of pollen at different development stages were studied. It was primarily revealed that the pollen germination rate already approached its peak upon the filament extends fully, but the anther does not dehisce the developmental stage. In 2009 and 2010, the viability and number of pollen grains per anther were investigated in 65 litchi cultivars, and a difference was observed among cultivars. The pollen germination rate ranged between 20.14% (‘Wuchali’) and 54.69% (‘Donlongmili’). The number of pollen grains per anther ranged between 1555 (‘Zhongshanzhuangyuanhong’) and 7455 (‘Houye’). Sixty-five litchi cultivars were classified into six clusters based on the pollen quantity and germination rate. Most litchi cultivars can produce large amounts of viable and compatible pollen grains during the flowering period. Thus, our results indicate that the pollen amount and germination rate might not be the only factors restricting the successful pollination of litchi.

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Zhuangjun Zhao, Margaret Mukami Gitau, Tao Hu, Yan Xie, Longxing Hu and Jinmin Fu

Plants growing in salt-affected soils may have retarded growth and inhibited or altered metabolic processes. This study aims at investigating the impact of subsurface soil salinity on root growth and metabolic processes in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne). The seeds of perennial ryegrass (cv. Quick Start II) were planted in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tubes (10 cm diameter × 42 cm long) for 2 months. The experiment consisted of three treatments: 1) control, 40 cm filled with sand–peat mixture (7 sand : 3 peat wt/wt); 2) T20, a 20-cm-deep layer of saline soil covered with a 20-cm-deep layer of sand–peat mixture; and 3) T30, a 30-cm-deep layer of saline soil covered with a 10-cm-deep layer of sand–peat mixture. Our study showed that soil salinity at the subsurface inhibited the growth of perennial ryegrass roots. Compared with the control, the root activity in saline soil layer decreased, whereas it remained high in the mixture-soil zone. The content of amino acids in the roots obtained from the surface soil (0–10 cm) in T30 was greater than that in both the T20 and the control regimes. The content of soluble sugars in the roots went up with the decrease of the depth of sand–peat mixture. The increased root activity and free amino acids content in the roots sampled from the upper soil layers coupled with the increased soluble sugars in the roots subjected to soil salinity stress in the bottom soil layer represents some adaptive responses and regulative mechanisms in perennial ryegrass.

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Qin Yang, Er Liu, Yan Fu, Fuqiang Yuan, Tingting Zhang and Shu Peng

After nearly a decade of development, the scale of blueberry (Vaccinium sp.) cultivation has increased, particularly in south China; however, this region is becoming increasingly challenged by temperature changes during the flowering phenophase. Understanding the effects of temperature on pollen germination and pollen tube growth in blueberry is thus important. Using the rabbiteye blueberry (V. ashei) ‘Brightwell’, different temperature treatments were carried out during open pollination and cross-pollination with the pollen from rabbiteye blueberry ‘Gardenblue’ in field, greenhouse, and controlled temperature experiments over two consecutive years. The differences in pollen germination, pollen tube dynamics, and ovule viability following different treatments were analyzed, and the critical temperatures were calculated using quadratic and modified bilinear equations to quantify the developmental responses to temperature. The results showed that the fruit set of the artificially pollinated plants inside the greenhouse was significantly higher than that outside the greenhouse. Furthermore, pollen germination and pollen tube growth gradually accelerated under the appropriate high-temperature range, resulting in reduced pollen tube travel time to the ovule. However, the percentage of the style traversed by the pollen tube did not increase at temperatures greater than 30 °C, and a high-temperature range could accelerate ovule degeneration. Therefore, impairment of pollen tube growth in the upper half of the style following pollen germination and ovule degeneration constituted important factors leading to reduced fruit setting under short periods of high temperature during the flowering phenophase in rabbiteye blueberry. This work advances our understanding of the effect of temperature on pollen germination, pollen tube growth, ovule longevity, and fruit setting in rabbiteye blueberry, and provides a foundation for continued cultivation and breeding enhancement. The findings propose that the tolerance of rabbiteye blueberry to a certain high-temperature range in the flowering phenophase should inform breeding strategies for temperature resistance and that temperature range is also an important indicator of suitable environments for cultivation to mitigate potential temperature stress.

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Chun-Yan Han, Gui-Fen Luo, Li Ji, Wei-Bang Sun, Xu-Yang Fu and Cong-Ren Li

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Xiaoning Li, Xiaoyan Sun, Guangyang Wang, Erick Amombo, Xiuwen Zhou, Zhaohong Du, Yinkun Zhang, Yan Xie and Jinmin Fu

Phosphorus (P) is an essential nutrient element that is necessary for plant growth and development. However, most of the P exists in insoluble form. Aspergillus aculeatus has been reported to be able to solubilize insoluble forms of P. Here, to investigate the P-solubilizing effect of A. aculeatus on the performance of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) under P-deficiency stress, we created four treatment groups: control [i.e., no Ca3(PO4)2 or A. aculeatus], A. aculeatus only (F), Ca3(PO4)2 and Ca3(PO4)2 + A. aculeatus [Ca3(PO4)2 + F] treatment, and Ca3(PO4)2 at concentrations of 0 and 3 g per pot (0.5 kg substrate per pot). In our results, the liquid medium inoculated with A. aculeatus exhibited enhanced soluble P and organic acid content (tartaric acid, citric acid, and aminoacetic acid) accompanied with lower pH, compared with the noninoculated regimen. Furthermore, A. aculeatus also played a primary role in increasing the soluble P content of substrate (1 sawdust: 3 sand), the growth rate, turf quality, and photosynthetic capacity of the plant exposed to Ca3(PO4)2 + F treatment, compared with other groups. Finally, in perennial ryegrass leaves, there was a dramatic increase in the valine, serine, tyrosine, and proline contents, and a remarkable decline in the glutamic acid, succinic acid, citric acid, and fumaric acid contents in the Ca3(PO4)2 + F regimen, compared with other groups. Overall, our results suggested that A. aculeatus may play a crucial role in the process of solubilizing Ca3(PO4)2 and modulating perennial ryegrass growth under P-deficiency stress.

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Sandy Lin, Hsiao-Ching Lee, Wen-Huei Chen, Chi-Chang Chen, Yen-Yu Kao, Yan-Ming Fu, Yao-Huang Chen and Tsai-Yun Lin

Nuclear DNA contents were estimated by flow cytometry in 18 Phalaenopsis Blume species and Doritis pulcherrima Lindl. DNA amounts differed 6.07-fold, from 2.74 pg/diploid nuclear DNA content (2C) in P. sanderiana Rchb.f. to 16.61 pg/2C in P. parishii Rchb.f. Nuclear DNA contents of P. aphrodite Rchb.f. clones, W01-38 (2n = 2x = 38), W01-41 (2n = 3x = 57), and W01-22 (2n = 4x = 76), displayed a linear relationship with their chromosome numbers, indicating the accuracy of flow cytometry. Our results also suggest that the 2C-values of the Phalaenopsis sp. correlate with their chromosome sizes. The comparative analyses of DNA contents may provide information to molecular geneticists and systematists for genome analysis in Phalaenopsis. Endoreduplication was found in various tissues of P. equestris at different levels. The highest degree of endoreduplication in P. equestris was detected in leaves.