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Agronomy, Volume 7, Issue 1 (March 2017)

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Editorial

Jump to: Research, Review, Other

Open AccessEditorial Acknowledgement to Reviewers of Agronomy in 2016
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 7; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010007
Received: 11 January 2017 / Revised: 11 January 2017 / Accepted: 11 January 2017 / Published: 11 January 2017
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Research

Jump to: Editorial, Review, Other

Open AccessArticle Improvement of Faba Bean Yield Using Rhizobium/Agrobacterium Inoculant in Low-Fertility Sandy Soil
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 2; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010002
Received: 19 August 2016 / Revised: 23 October 2016 / Accepted: 13 December 2016 / Published: 1 January 2017
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Abstract
Soil fertility is one of the major limiting factors for crop’s productivity in Egypt and the world in general. Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) has a great importance as a non-polluting and a cost-effective way to improve soil fertility through supplying N to different
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Soil fertility is one of the major limiting factors for crop’s productivity in Egypt and the world in general. Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) has a great importance as a non-polluting and a cost-effective way to improve soil fertility through supplying N to different agricultural systems. Faba bean (Vicia faba L.) is one of the most efficient nitrogen-fixing legumes that can meet all of their N needs through BNF. Therefore, understanding the impact of rhizobial inoculation and contrasting soil rhizobia on nodulation and N2 fixation in faba bean is crucial to optimize the crop yield, particularly under low fertility soil conditions. This study investigated the symbiotic effectiveness of 17 Rhizobium/Agrobacterium strains previously isolated from different Egyptian governorates in improving the nodulation and N2 fixation in faba bean cv. Giza 843 under controlled greenhouse conditions. Five strains that had a high nitrogen-fixing capacity under greenhouse conditions were subsequently tested in field trials as faba bean inoculants at Ismaillia Governorate in northeast Egypt in comparison with the chemical N-fertilization treatment (96 kg N·ha−1). A starter N-dose (48 kg N·ha−1) was applied in combination with different Rhizobium inoculants. The field experiments were established at sites without a background of inoculation under low fertility sandy soil conditions over two successive winter growing seasons, 2012/2013 and 2013/2014. Under greenhouse conditions, inoculated plants produced significantly higher nodules dry weight, plant biomass, and shoot N-uptake than non-inoculated ones. In the first season (2012/2013), inoculation of field-grown faba bean showed significant improvements in seed yield (3.73–4.36 ton·ha−1) and seed N-yield (138–153 Kg N·ha−1), which were higher than the uninoculated control (48 kg N·ha−1) that produced 2.97 Kg·ha−1 and 95 kg N·ha−1, respectively. Similarly, in the second season (2013/2014), inoculation significantly improved seed yield (3.16–4.68 ton·ha−1) and seed N-yield (98–155 Kg N·ha−1) relative to the uninoculated control (48 kg N·ha−1), which recorded 2.58 Kg·ha−1 and 80 kg N·ha−1, respectively. Interestingly, faba bean inoculated with strain Rlv NGB-FR 126 showed significant increments in seed yield (35%–48%) and seed N-yield (34%–49%) compared to the inorganic N fertilizers treatment (96 kg N·ha−1) over the two cropping seasons, respectively. These results indicate that inoculation of faba bean with effective rhizobial strains can reduce the need for inorganic N fertilization to achieve higher crop yield under low fertility soil conditions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rhizobium-legume Symbiosis Effects on Plants)
Open AccessArticle Development and Testing of Cool-Season Grass Species, Varieties and Hybrids for Biomass Feedstock Production in Western North America
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 3; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010003
Received: 29 September 2016 / Revised: 10 December 2016 / Accepted: 14 December 2016 / Published: 1 January 2017
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Abstract
Breeding of native cool-season grasses has the potential to improve forage production and expand the range of bioenergy feedstocks throughout western North America. Basin wildrye (Leymus cinereus) and creeping wildrye (Leymus triticoides) rank among the tallest and most rhizomatous
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Breeding of native cool-season grasses has the potential to improve forage production and expand the range of bioenergy feedstocks throughout western North America. Basin wildrye (Leymus cinereus) and creeping wildrye (Leymus triticoides) rank among the tallest and most rhizomatous grasses of this region, respectively. The objectives of this study were to develop interspecific creeping wildrye (CWR) × basin wildrye (BWR) hybrids and evaluate their biomass yield relative to tetraploid ‘Trailhead’, octoploid ‘Magnar’ and interploidy-hybrid ‘Continental’ BWR cultivars in comparison with other perennial grasses across diverse single-harvest dryland range sites and a two-harvest irrigated production system. Two half-sib hybrid populations were produced by harvesting seed from the tetraploid self-incompatible Acc:641.T CWR genet, which was clonally propagated by rhizomes into isolated hybridization blocks with two tetraploid BWR pollen parents: Acc:636 and ‘Trailhead’. Full-sib hybrid seed was also produced from a controlled cross of tetraploid ‘Rio’ CWR and ‘Trailhead’ BWR plants. In space-planted range plots, the ‘Rio’ CWR × ‘Trailhead’ BWR and Acc:641.T CWR × Acc:636 BWR hybrids displayed high-parent heterosis with 75% and 36% yield advantages, respectively, but the Acc:641.T CWR × ‘Trailhead’ BWR hybrid yielded significantly less than its BWR high-parent in this evaluation. Half-sib CWR × BWR hybrids of Acc:636 and ‘Trailhead’ both yielded as good as or better than available BWR cultivars, with yields similar to switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), in the irrigated sward plots. These results elucidate opportunity to harness genetic variation among native grass species for the development of forage and bioenergy feedstocks in western North America. Full article
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Open AccessArticle A Short Non-Saline Sprinkling Increases the Tuber Weights of Saline Sprinkler Irrigated Potatoes
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 4; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010004
Received: 31 August 2016 / Revised: 4 December 2016 / Accepted: 15 December 2016 / Published: 3 January 2017
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Abstract
Previous work has shown that a short non-saline sprinkling, following saline sprinkling, increased crop growth. We incorporated this finding into an investigation of two approaches to the conjunctive use of saline and non-saline water sources for sprinkler irrigation of potatoes viz., (i) mixing
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Previous work has shown that a short non-saline sprinkling, following saline sprinkling, increased crop growth. We incorporated this finding into an investigation of two approaches to the conjunctive use of saline and non-saline water sources for sprinkler irrigation of potatoes viz., (i) mixing waters prior to application, and (ii) keeping waters temporally separate, that is commencing each irrigation with saline water and finishing it with non-saline sprinkling. The latter approach delayed canopy senescence and increased tuber weight by at least 150%. Under both approaches, soil salinities and leaf and tuber concentrations of Na+ and Cl were similar. Thus, the advantages of a non-saline sprinkling cannot be explained in terms of its effect on either soil osmotic potential or bulk tissue concentrations of putatively toxic ions Na+ and Cl. We propose that the positive effect of finishing irrigations with a non-saline sprinkling may be attributed to either dilution, and hence increase in osmotic potential, of the water film that remains on the leaf after each irrigation or its effect on the distribution of the putatively toxic ions Na+ and Cl within tissue. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Crop Salinity Tolerance)
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Open AccessArticle Biochar for Horticultural Rooting Media Improvement: Evaluation of Biochar from Gasification and Slow Pyrolysis
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 6; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010006
Received: 19 October 2016 / Revised: 25 November 2016 / Accepted: 19 December 2016 / Published: 7 January 2017
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Abstract
Peat is used as rooting medium in greenhouse horticulture. Biochar is a sustainable alternative for the use of peat, which will reduce peat derived carbon dioxide emissions. Biochar in potting soil mixtures allegedly increases water storage, nutrient supply, microbial life and disease suppression
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Peat is used as rooting medium in greenhouse horticulture. Biochar is a sustainable alternative for the use of peat, which will reduce peat derived carbon dioxide emissions. Biochar in potting soil mixtures allegedly increases water storage, nutrient supply, microbial life and disease suppression but this depends on feedstock and the production process. The aim of this paper is to find combinations of feedstock and production circumstances which will deliver biochars with value for the horticultural end user. Low-temperature (600 °C–750 °C) gasification was used for combined energy and biochar generation. Biochars produced were screened in laboratory tests and selected biochars were used in plant experiments. Tests included dry bulk density, total pore space, specific surface area, phytotoxicity, pH, EC, moisture characteristics and microbial stability. We conclude that biochars from nutrient-rich feedstocks are too saline and too alkaline to be applied in horticultural rooting media. Biochars from less nutrient-rich feedstocks can be conveniently neutralized by mixing with acid peat. The influence of production parameters on specific surface area, pH, total pore space and toxicity is discussed. Biochar mildly improved the survival of beneficial micro-organisms in a mix with peat. Overall, wood biochar can replace at least 20% v/v of peat in potting soils without affecting plant growth. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Molecular Characterizations of Kenyan Brachiaria Grass Ecotypes with Microsatellite (SSR) Markers
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 8; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010008
Received: 24 October 2016 / Accepted: 18 January 2017 / Published: 9 February 2017
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Abstract
Brachiaria grass is an emerging forage option for livestock production in Kenya. Kenya lies within the center of diversity for Brachiaria species, thus a high genetic variation in natural populations of Brachiaria is expected. Overgrazing and clearing of natural vegetation for crop production
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Brachiaria grass is an emerging forage option for livestock production in Kenya. Kenya lies within the center of diversity for Brachiaria species, thus a high genetic variation in natural populations of Brachiaria is expected. Overgrazing and clearing of natural vegetation for crop production and nonagricultural uses and climate change continue to threaten the natural biodiversity. In this study, we collected 79 Brachiaria ecotypes from different parts of Kenya and examined them for genetic variations and their relatedness with 8 commercial varieties. A total of 120 different alleles were detected by 22 markers in the 79 ecotypes. Markers were highly informative in differentiating ecotypes with average diversity and polymorphic information content of 0.623 and 0.583, respectively. Five subpopulations: International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kitui, Kisii, Alupe, and Kiminini differed in sample size, number of alleles, number of private alleles, diversity index, and percentage polymorphic loci. The contribution of within‐the‐individual difference to total genetic variation of Kenyan ecotype population was 81%, and the fixation index (FST = 0.021) and number of migrant per generation (Nm = 11.58) showed low genetic differentiation among the populations. The genetic distance was highest between Alupe and Kisii populations (0.510) and the lowest between ILRI and Kiminini populations (0.307). The unweighted neighborjoining (NJ) tree showed test ecotypes grouped into three major clusters: ILRI ecotypes were present in all clusters; Kisii and Alupe ecotypes and improved varieties grouped in clusters I and II; and ecotypes from Kitui and Kiminini grouped in cluster I. This study confirms higher genetic diversity in Kenyan ecotypes than eight commercial varieties (Basilisk, Humidicola, Llanero, Marandú, MG4, Mulato II, Piatá and Xaraés) that represent three species and one three‐way cross‐hybrid Mulato II. There is a need for further collection of local ecotypes and their morphological, agronomical, and genetic characterizations to support Brachiaria grass breeding and conservation programs. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Round-Bale Silage Harvesting and Processing Effects on Overwintering Ability, Dry Matter Yield, Fermentation Quality, and Palatability of Dwarf Napiergrass (Pennisetum purpureum Schumach)
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 10; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010010
Received: 25 October 2016 / Revised: 21 January 2017 / Accepted: 24 January 2017 / Published: 6 February 2017
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Abstract
Round-bale silage harvesting and processing methods were assessed to evaluate overwintering ability and dry matter (DM) yield, fermentation quality and palatability of overwintered dwarf Napiergrass (Pennisetum purpureum Schumach) in the two years following establishment in Nagasaki, Japan, in May 2013 using rooted
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Round-bale silage harvesting and processing methods were assessed to evaluate overwintering ability and dry matter (DM) yield, fermentation quality and palatability of overwintered dwarf Napiergrass (Pennisetum purpureum Schumach) in the two years following establishment in Nagasaki, Japan, in May 2013 using rooted tillers with a density of 2 plants/m2. In 2014, harvesting methods under no-wilting treatment were compared for flail-type harvesting with a round-baler (Flail/baler plot) and mower conditioning with a round-baler (Mower/baler plot), which is common for beef-calf–producing farmers in the region. In 2015, the effect of ensilage with wilting was investigated only in the Mower/baler plot. Dwarf Napiergrass was cut twice, in early August (summer) and late November (late autumn), each year. The winter survival rate was greater than 96% in May both years. The DM yield in the Mower/baler plot did not differ significantly for the first summer cutting or the annual total from the Flail/baler plot, but did show inferior yield for the second cutting. The fermentation quality of the second-cut plants, estimated using the V2-score, was higher in the Flail/baler plot than in the Mower/baler plot, possibly because of higher air-tightness, and the second-cut silage tended to have better fermentation quality than the first-cut silage in both harvesting plots. Wilting improved the fermentation quality of dwarf Napiergrass silage in summer, but not in autumn. The palatability of the silage, as estimated by alternative and voluntary intake trials using Japanese Black beef cattle, did not differ significantly between plots. The results suggest that dwarf Napiergrass can be better harvested using a mower conditioner with processing by a round-baler, an approach common to beef-calf–producing farmers, than with the flail/baler system, without reducing the persistence, yield, or palatability of the silage. Moreover, wilting treatment improved the fermentation quality of the dwarf Napiergrass silage when processed in summer. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Towards Zinc Biofortification in Chickpea: Performance of Chickpea Cultivars in Response to Soil Zinc Application
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 11; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010011
Received: 16 November 2016 / Revised: 19 January 2017 / Accepted: 2 February 2017 / Published: 7 February 2017
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Abstract
A field experiment was conducted at three locations in the southern region of Ethiopia during the 2012 and 2013 cropping seasons to evaluate chickpea cultivars for their response to soil zinc application, including agronomic performance, grain yield, grain zinc concentration, zinc and agronomic
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A field experiment was conducted at three locations in the southern region of Ethiopia during the 2012 and 2013 cropping seasons to evaluate chickpea cultivars for their response to soil zinc application, including agronomic performance, grain yield, grain zinc concentration, zinc and agronomic efficiency. Fifteen chickpea cultivars were evaluated in a randomized complete block design with three replications at each location and year. The highest number of pods (237) plant−1 was obtained from Butajira local landrace. The cultivar Naatolii produced the highest grain yield (2895 kg·ha−1), while the breeding line FLIP03-53C had the lowest yield (1700 kg·ha−1). The highest zinc concentrations of 47.5, 47.4, and 46.4 mg·kg−1 grain were obtained from the cultivar Arerti, and the two breeding lines FLIP07-27C and FLIP08-60C, respectively. The highest zinc efficiency (88%) was obtained from the Wolayita local landrace, whereas the highest agronomic efficiency of 68.4 kg yield increase kg−1 zinc application was obtained from the cultivar Naatolii. The current research identified chickpea cultivars with high grain zinc concentration, zinc efficiency, agronomic efficiency, and grain yield. The identification of cultivars with high grain zinc concentration allows the use of chickpea as a potential alternative to help to correct zinc deficiency, which is highly prevalent in the population of the region. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Influence of Irrigation Scheduling Using Thermometry on Peach Tree Water Status and Yield under Different Irrigation Systems
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 12; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010012
Received: 3 December 2016 / Revised: 20 January 2017 / Accepted: 24 January 2017 / Published: 9 February 2017
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Abstract
Remotely-sensed canopy temperature from infrared thermometer (IRT) sensors has long been shown to be effective for detecting plant water stress. A field study was conducted to investigate peach tree responses to deficit irrigation which was controlled using canopy to air temperature difference (ΔT)
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Remotely-sensed canopy temperature from infrared thermometer (IRT) sensors has long been shown to be effective for detecting plant water stress. A field study was conducted to investigate peach tree responses to deficit irrigation which was controlled using canopy to air temperature difference (ΔT) during the postharvest period at the USDA-ARS (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service) San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center in Parlier, California, USA. The experimental site consisted of a 1.6 ha early maturing peach tree orchard. A total of 18 IRT sensors were used to control six irrigation treatments including furrow, micro-spray, and surface drip irrigation systems with and without postharvest deficit irrigation. During the postharvest period in the 2012–2013 and 2013–2014 growing seasons, ΔT threshold values at mid-day was tested to trigger irrigation in three irrigation systems. The results showed that mid-day stem water potentials (ψ) for well irrigated trees were maintained at a range of −0.5 to −1.2 MPa while ψ of deficit irrigated trees dropped to lower values. Soil water content in deficit surface drip irrigation treatment was higher compared to deficit furrow and micro-spray irrigation treatments in 2012. The number of fruits and fruit weight from peach trees under postharvest deficit irrigation treatment were less than those well-watered trees; however, no statistically significant (at the p < 0.05 level) reduction in fruit size or quality was found for trees irrigated by surface drip and micro-spray irrigation systems by deficit irrigation. Beside doubles, we found an increased number of fruits with deep sutures and dimples which may be a long-term (seven-year postharvest regulated deficit irrigation) impact of deficit irrigation on this peach tree variety. Overall, deployment of IRT sensors provided real-time measurement of canopy water status and the information is valuable for making irrigation management decisions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Is There a Positive Synergistic Effect of Biochar and Compost Soil Amendments on Plant Growth and Physiological Performance?
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 13; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010013
Received: 31 December 2016 / Revised: 25 January 2017 / Accepted: 7 February 2017 / Published: 11 February 2017
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Abstract
The combination of biochar (BC) with compost has been suggested to be a promising strategy to promote plant growth and performance, but although “synergistic” effects have been stated to occur, full-factorial experiments are few, and explicit tests for synergism are lacking. We tested
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The combination of biochar (BC) with compost has been suggested to be a promising strategy to promote plant growth and performance, but although “synergistic” effects have been stated to occur, full-factorial experiments are few, and explicit tests for synergism are lacking. We tested the hypothesis that a combination of BC and spent mushroom substrate (SMS) has a positive synergistic effect on plant growth and physiological performance in a nutrient-limited growing media. A greenhouse experiment with a full factorial design was conducted using mixed-wood BC (3.0 kg·m−2) and SMS (1.5 kg·m−2) (the combination was not co-composted) as organic soil amendments for the annual Abutilon theophrasti and the perennial Salix purpurea. Several measurements related to plant growth and physiological performance were taken throughout the experiment. Contrary to the hypothesis, we found that the combination of BC + SMS had neutral or antagonistic interactive effects on many plant growth traits. Antagonistic effects were found on maximum leaf area, above- and belowground biomass, reproductive allocation, maximum plant height, chlorophyll fluorescence, and stomatal conductance of A. theophrasti. The effect on S. purpurea was mostly neutral. We conclude that the generalization that BC and compost have synergistic effects on plant performance is not supported. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Generation and Characterisation of a Reference Transcriptome for Phalaris (Phalaris aquatica L.)
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 14; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010014
Received: 24 October 2016 / Revised: 8 December 2016 / Accepted: 25 January 2017 / Published: 15 February 2017
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Abstract
Phalaris aquatica is a cool-season perennial grass species that is extensively cultivated in Australia, with additional usage in other areas of the world. Phalaris displays a number of desirable agronomic characteristics, although unfavourable traits include excessive seed shattering, sensitivity to aluminium toxicity, and
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Phalaris aquatica is a cool-season perennial grass species that is extensively cultivated in Australia, with additional usage in other areas of the world. Phalaris displays a number of desirable agronomic characteristics, although unfavourable traits include excessive seed shattering, sensitivity to aluminium toxicity, and several toxicosis syndromes. Varietal development has to date been based on traditional selection methods, but would benefit from the application of genomics-based approaches, which require the development of large-scale sequence resources. Due to a large nuclear DNA content, methods that target the expressed component of the genome and reduce the complexity of analysis are most amenable to current sequencing technologies. A reference unigene set has been developed by transcriptome sequencing of multiple tissues from a single plant belonging to the variety Landmaster. Comparisons have been made to gene complements from related species, as well as reference protein databases, and patterns of gene expression in different tissues have been evaluated. A number of candidate genes relevant to removal of undesirable attributes have been identified. The reference unigene set will provide the basis for detailed studies of differential gene expression and identification of candidate genes for potential transgenic deployment, as well as a critical resource for genotypic analysis to support future genomics-assisted breeding activities for phalaris improvement. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Sequencing Technologies to Crop Breeding)
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Open AccessArticle Metabolite Profiling for Leaf Senescence in Barley Reveals Decreases in Amino Acids and Glycolysis Intermediates
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 15; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010015
Received: 10 January 2017 / Revised: 26 January 2017 / Accepted: 6 February 2017 / Published: 17 February 2017
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Abstract
Leaf senescence is a long developmental phase important for plant performance and nutrient management. Cell constituents are recycled in old leaves to provide nutrients that are redistributed to the sink organs. Up to now, metabolomic changes during leaf senescence have been mainly studied
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Leaf senescence is a long developmental phase important for plant performance and nutrient management. Cell constituents are recycled in old leaves to provide nutrients that are redistributed to the sink organs. Up to now, metabolomic changes during leaf senescence have been mainly studied in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana L.). The metabolite profiling conducted in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) during primary leaf senescence under two nitrate regimes and in flag leaf shows that amino acids, hexose, sucrose and glycolysis intermediates decrease during senescence, while minor carbohydrates accumulate. Tricarboxylic acid (TCA) compounds changed with senescence only in primary leaves. The senescence-related metabolite changes in the flag leaf were globally similar to those observed in primary leaves. The effect of senescence on the metabolite changes of barley leaves was similar to that previously described in Arabidopsis except for sugars and glycolysis compounds. This suggests a different role of sugars in the control of leaf senescence in Arabidopsis and in barley. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Senescence of Crop Plants)
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Open AccessArticle Using FACE Systems to Screen Wheat Cultivars for Yield Increases at Elevated CO2
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 20; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010020
Received: 21 November 2016 / Revised: 27 January 2017 / Accepted: 20 February 2017 / Published: 24 February 2017
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Abstract
Because of continuing increases in atmospheric CO2, identifying cultivars of crops with larger yield increases at elevated CO2 may provide an avenue to increase crop yield potential in future climates. Free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) systems have most often been
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Because of continuing increases in atmospheric CO2, identifying cultivars of crops with larger yield increases at elevated CO2 may provide an avenue to increase crop yield potential in future climates. Free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) systems have most often been used with multiple replications of each CO2 treatment in order to increase confidence in the effect of elevated CO2. For screening of cultivars for yield increases at elevated CO2, less precision about the CO2 effect, but more precision about cultivar ranking within CO2 treatments is appropriate. As a small-scale test of this approach, three plots, each of four cultivars of wheat, were grown in single FACE and control plots over two years, and the cultivar rankings of yield at elevated and ambient CO2 were compared. Each replicate plot was the size used in traditional cultivar comparisons. An additional test using four smaller replicate plots per cultivar within one FACE and one ambient plot was used to compare nine cultivars in another year. In all cases, elevated CO2 altered the ranking of cultivars for yield. This approach may provide a more efficient way to utilize FACE systems for the screening of CO2 responsiveness. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of CO2 Concentration and Enrichment on Crops)
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Open AccessArticle Effect of Sowing Method and N Application on Seed Yield and N Use Efficiency of Winter Oilseed Rape
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 21; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010021
Received: 2 November 2016 / Revised: 15 February 2017 / Accepted: 22 February 2017 / Published: 28 February 2017
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Abstract
In northern Europe, replacing winter barley with winter wheat as the preceding crop for winter oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.; WOSR) often results in a delayed WOSR sowing and poor autumn growth. Based on data from a field experiment running in 2009/2010,
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In northern Europe, replacing winter barley with winter wheat as the preceding crop for winter oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.; WOSR) often results in a delayed WOSR sowing and poor autumn growth. Based on data from a field experiment running in 2009/2010, 2010/2011, and 2012/2013, this study aims (i) to investigate how a delayed sowing method affects seed yield, N offtake with the seeds, and apparent N use efficiency (NUE) of WOSR; (ii) to test the ability of autumn and spring N fertilization to compensate for the negative effects of a delayed sowing method; and (iii) to estimate the minimum autumnal growth for optimal seed yield. In order to create sufficiently differentiated canopies, a combination of four sowing methods (first week of August until the third week of September) and four autumn N treatments (0, 30, 60, and 90 kg·N·ha−1) was established. Each of these 16 different canopies was fertilized with 5 N amounts (0/0, 40/40, 80/80, 120/120, 140/140 kg·N·ha−1) in spring in order to estimate separate N response curves. Above-ground N accumulation in autumn and seed yield and N offtake by the seeds were determined. Plant establishment after mid-September significantly decreased seed yield. Autumn N fertilization of at least 30 kg·N·ha−1 increased seed yield and N offtake by the seeds without any significant interaction with sowing method and spring N supply. However, the pathway(s) remain(s) unclear. Spring N fertilization up to 130 kg·N·ha−1 (estimated by a Linear-Plateau N response curve) increased seed yield. NUE decreased with increasing N supply, where WOSR used autumn N to a lesser extent than spring N. An above-ground N uptake of at least 10–15 kg·N·ha−1 at the end of autumn growth was required to achieve high seed yields. From an environmental point of view, optimal autumn growth should be attained by choosing an adequate sowing method, not by applying additional N in autumn. Full article
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Open AccessArticle A Survey: Potential Impact of Genetically Modified Maize Tolerant to Drought or Resistant to Stem Borers in Uganda
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 24; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010024
Received: 10 November 2016 / Revised: 27 February 2017 / Accepted: 14 March 2017 / Published: 17 March 2017
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Abstract
Maize production in Uganda is constrained by various factors, but especially drought and stem borers contribute to significant yield losses. Genetically modified (GM) maize with increased drought tolerance and/or Bt insect resistance (producing the Bacillus thuringiensis Cry protein) is considered as an option.
[...] Read more.
Maize production in Uganda is constrained by various factors, but especially drought and stem borers contribute to significant yield losses. Genetically modified (GM) maize with increased drought tolerance and/or Bt insect resistance (producing the Bacillus thuringiensis Cry protein) is considered as an option. For an ex ante impact analysis of these technologies, a farmer survey was carried out in nine districts of Uganda, representing the major farming systems. The results showed that farmers did rate stem borer and drought as the main constraints for maize farming. Most farmers indicated a positive attitude towards GM maize, and 86% of all farmers said they would grow GM maize. Farmer estimated yield losses to drought and stem borer damage were on average 54.7% and 23.5%, respectively, if stress occurred. Taking the stress frequency into consideration (67% for both), estimated yield losses were 36.5% and 15.6% for drought and stem borer, respectively. According to the ex-ante partial budget analysis, Bt hybrid maize could be profitable, with an average value/cost ratio of 2.1. Drought tolerant hybrid maize had lower returns and a value/cost ratio of 1.5. Negative returns occurred mainly for farmers with non-stressed grain yields below 2 t·ha−1. The regulatory framework in Uganda needs to be finalized with consideration of strengthening key institutions in the maize sector for sustainable introduction of GM maize. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview The Current Status, Problems, and Prospects of Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) Breeding in China
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 1; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010001
Received: 23 September 2016 / Revised: 3 November 2016 / Accepted: 3 November 2016 / Published: 1 January 2017
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Abstract
This paper reviews the current status, methodology, achievements, and prospects of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) breeding in China. There are 77 cultivars that have been registered in the country, these include 36 cultivars bred through breeding programs, 17 introduced from overseas, 5
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This paper reviews the current status, methodology, achievements, and prospects of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) breeding in China. There are 77 cultivars that have been registered in the country, these include 36 cultivars bred through breeding programs, 17 introduced from overseas, 5 domesticated from wild ecotypes, and 19 through regional collection/breeding programs. Cultivars have been selected for cold resistance, disease resistance, salt tolerance, grazing tolerance, high yield, and early maturity. Most of these cultivars have been developed through conventional breeding techniques, such as selective and cross breeding, and some are now being evaluated that have been developed through the application of transgenic technology. The major problems for alfalfa breeding in China include low success rate, slow progress to breed resistant varieties, lack of breeding materials and their systematic collection, storage and evaluation, lack of advanced breeding techniques, and low adoption rate of new cultivars. There are gaps in alfalfa breeding between China and the developed world. Improvement of alfalfa breeding techniques, development of cultivars with adaptations to different regions within China, and the protection and utilization of alfalfa germplasm resources have been identified as major strategies to improve the efficiency of alfalfa breeding in China. Full article
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Open AccessReview QTL Analysis for Drought Tolerance in Wheat: Present Status and Future Possibilities
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 5; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010005
Received: 8 October 2016 / Revised: 4 December 2016 / Accepted: 26 December 2016 / Published: 4 January 2017
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (786 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
In recent years, with climate change, drought stress has been witnessed in many parts of the world. In many irrigated regions also, shortage of water supply allows only limited irrigation. These conditions have an adverse effect on the productivity of many crops including
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In recent years, with climate change, drought stress has been witnessed in many parts of the world. In many irrigated regions also, shortage of water supply allows only limited irrigation. These conditions have an adverse effect on the productivity of many crops including cereals such as wheat. Therefore, genetics of drought/water stress tolerance in different crops has become a priority area of research. This research mainly involves use of quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis (involving both interval mapping and association mapping) for traits that are related to water-use efficiency. In this article, we briefly review the available literature on QTL analyses in wheat for traits, which respond to drought/water stress. The outlook for future research in this area and the possible approaches for utilizing the available information on genetics of drought tolerance for wheat breeding are also discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue QTL Mapping of Drought Tolerance)
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Open AccessReview Diurnal Leaf Starch Content: An Orphan Trait in Forage Legumes
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 16; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010016
Received: 30 November 2016 / Revised: 2 February 2017 / Accepted: 6 February 2017 / Published: 20 February 2017
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Abstract
Forage legumes have a relatively high biomass yield and crude protein content, but their grazed and harvested biomass lacks the high-energy carbohydrates required to meet the productivity potential of modern livestock breeds. Because of their low carbohydrate content, forage legume diets are typically
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Forage legumes have a relatively high biomass yield and crude protein content, but their grazed and harvested biomass lacks the high-energy carbohydrates required to meet the productivity potential of modern livestock breeds. Because of their low carbohydrate content, forage legume diets are typically supplemented with starch rich cereal grains or maize (Zea mays), leading to the disruption of local nutrient cycles. Although plant leaves were first reported to accumulate starch in a diurnal pattern over a century ago, leaf starch content has yet to be exploited as an agronomic trait in forage crops. Forage legumes such as red clover (Trifolium pratense) have the genetic potential to accumulate up to one third of their leaf dry mass as starch, but this starch is typically degraded at night to support nighttime growth and respiration. Even when diurnal accumulation is considered with regard to the time the crop is harvested, only limited gains are realized due to environmental effects and post-harvest losses from respiration. Here we present original data for starch metabolism in red clover and place it in the broader context of other forage legumes such as, white clover (T. repens), and alfalfa (Medicago sativa). We review the application of recent advances in molecular breeding, plant biology, and crop phenotyping, to forage legumes to improve and exploit a potentially valuable trait for sustainable ruminant livestock production. Full article
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Open AccessReview Molecular Regulation of Flowering Time in Grasses
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 17; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010017
Received: 29 November 2016 / Revised: 11 February 2017 / Accepted: 13 February 2017 / Published: 20 February 2017
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (555 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Flowering time is a key target trait for extending the vegetative phase to increase biomass in bioenergy crops such as perennial C4 grasses. Molecular genetic studies allow the identification of genes involved in the control of flowering in different species. Some regulatory
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Flowering time is a key target trait for extending the vegetative phase to increase biomass in bioenergy crops such as perennial C4 grasses. Molecular genetic studies allow the identification of genes involved in the control of flowering in different species. Some regulatory factors of the Arabidopsis pathway are conserved in other plant species such as grasses. However, differences in the function of particular genes confer specific responses to flowering. One of the major pathways is photoperiod regulation, based on the interaction of the circadian clock and environmental light signals. Depending on their requirements for day-length plants can be classified as long-day (LD), short-day (SD), and day-neutral. The CONSTANS (CO) and Heading Date 1 (Hd1), orthologos genes, are central regulators in the flowering of Arabidopsis and rice, LD and SD plants, respectively. Additionally, Early heading date 1 (Ehd1) induces the expression of Heading date 3a (Hd3a), conferring SD promotion and controls Rice Flowering Locus T 1 (RFT1) in LD conditions, independently of Hd1. Nevertheless, the mechanisms promoting flowering in perennial bioenergy crops are poorly understood. Recent progress on the regulatory network of important gramineous crops and components involved in flowering control will be discussed. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperReview Plant Responses to Salt Stress: Adaptive Mechanisms
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 18; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010018
Received: 22 December 2016 / Revised: 17 February 2017 / Accepted: 20 February 2017 / Published: 23 February 2017
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Abstract
This review deals with the adaptive mechanisms that plants can implement to cope with the challenge of salt stress. Plants tolerant to NaCl implement a series of adaptations to acclimate to salinity, including morphological, physiological and biochemical changes. These changes include increases in
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This review deals with the adaptive mechanisms that plants can implement to cope with the challenge of salt stress. Plants tolerant to NaCl implement a series of adaptations to acclimate to salinity, including morphological, physiological and biochemical changes. These changes include increases in the root/canopy ratio and in the chlorophyll content in addition to changes in the leaf anatomy that ultimately lead to preventing leaf ion toxicity, thus maintaining the water status in order to limit water loss and protect the photosynthesis process. Furthermore, we deal with the effect of salt stress on photosynthesis and chlorophyll fluorescence and some of the mechanisms thought to protect the photosynthetic machinery, including the xanthophyll cycle, photorespiration pathway, and water-water cycle. Finally, we also provide an updated discussion on salt-induced oxidative stress at the subcellular level and its effect on the antioxidant machinery in both salt-tolerant and salt-sensitive plants. The aim is to extend our understanding of how salinity may affect the physiological characteristics of plants. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Further Metabolism in Plant System)
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Open AccessReview Optimal Regulation of the Balance between Productivity and Overwintering of Perennial Grasses in a Warmer Climate
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 19; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010019
Received: 2 January 2017 / Revised: 17 February 2017 / Accepted: 21 February 2017 / Published: 23 February 2017
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Abstract
Seasonal growth patterns of perennial plants are linked to patterns of acclimation and de-acclimation to seasonal stresses. The timing of cold acclimation (development of freezing resistance) and leaf growth cessation in autumn, and the timing of de-acclimation and leaf regrowth in spring, is
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Seasonal growth patterns of perennial plants are linked to patterns of acclimation and de-acclimation to seasonal stresses. The timing of cold acclimation (development of freezing resistance) and leaf growth cessation in autumn, and the timing of de-acclimation and leaf regrowth in spring, is regulated by seasonal cues in the environment, mainly temperature and light factors. Warming will lead to new combinations of these cues in autumn and spring. Extended thermal growing seasons offer a possibility for obtaining increased yields of perennial grasses at high latitudes. Increased productivity in the autumn may not be possible in all high latitude regions due to the need for light during cold acclimation and the need for accumulating a carbohydrate storage prior to winter. There is more potential for increased yields in spring due to the availability of light, but higher probability of freezing events in earlier springs would necessitate a delay of de-acclimation, or an ability to rapidly re-acclimate. In order to optimize the balance between productivity and overwintering in the future, the regulation of growth and acclimation processes may have to be modified. Here, the current knowledge on the coordinated regulation of growth and freezing resistance in perennial grasses is reviewed. Full article
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Open AccessReview Raising Crop Productivity in Africa through Intensification
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 22; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010022
Received: 11 September 2016 / Revised: 2 March 2017 / Accepted: 3 March 2017 / Published: 8 March 2017
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Abstract
The population of Africa will double in the next 33 years to reach 2.5 billion by 2050. Although roughly 60% of the continent’s population is engaged in agriculture, the produce from this sector cannot feed its citizens. Hence, in 2013 alone, Africa imported
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The population of Africa will double in the next 33 years to reach 2.5 billion by 2050. Although roughly 60% of the continent’s population is engaged in agriculture, the produce from this sector cannot feed its citizens. Hence, in 2013 alone, Africa imported 56.5 million tons of wheat, maize, and soybean at the cost of 18.8 billion USD. Although crops cultivated in Africa play a vital role in their contribution to Food Security, they produce inferior yields compared to those in other parts of the world. For instance, the average cereal yield in Africa is only 1.6 t·ha−1 compared to the global 3.9 t·ha−1. Low productivity in Africa is also related to poor soil fertility and scarce moisture, as well as a variety of insect pests, diseases, and weeds. While moisture scarcity is responsible for up to 60% of yield losses in some African staple cereals, insect pests inflict annually substantial crop losses. In order to devise a strategy towards boosting crop productivity on the continent where food insecurity is most prevalent, these production constraints should be investigated and properly addressed. This review focuses on conventional (also known as genetic) intensification in which crop productivity is raised through breeding for cultivars with high yield-potential and those that thrive well under diverse and extreme environmental conditions. Improved crop varieties alone do not boost crop productivity unless supplemented with optimum soil, water, and plant management practices as well as the promotion of policies pertaining to inputs, credit, extension, and marketing. Studies in Kenya and Uganda have shown that the yield of cassava can be increased by 140% in farmers’ fields using improved varieties and management practices. In addition to traditional organic and inorganic fertilizers, biochar and African Dark Earths have been found to improve soil properties and to enhance productivity, although their availability and affordability to African farmers remains to be explored. The concept of Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) has been successfully implemented in some African countries in the Great Lake Region. Other innovative technologies favorably accepted by farmers are the “Push-pull System” (an elegant method of controlling a devastating insect pest and a parasitic weed) and NERICA (New Rice for Africa, in which rice varieties with desirable nutritional and agronomic properties were developed by crossing Asian and African rice). This review calls for African governments and institutions not only to provide conducive environments but also to abide by the Maputo 2003 Declaration where they agreed to invest 10% of their national budget to agricultural research and development as the outcome has a positive impact on productivity and ultimately improves the livelihood of farmers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Agronomy with Impact for Food Security)
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Open AccessReview The Role of Specialized Photoreceptors in the  Protection of Energy‐Rich Tissues
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 23; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010023
Received: 30 January 2017 / Accepted: 5 March 2017 / Published: 8 March 2017
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Abstract
The perception and absorption of light by plants is a driving force in plant evolutionary history, as plants have evolved multiple photoreceptors to perceive different light attributes including duration, intensity, direction and quality. Plant photoreceptors interpret these signals from the light environment and
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The perception and absorption of light by plants is a driving force in plant evolutionary history, as plants have evolved multiple photoreceptors to perceive different light attributes including duration, intensity, direction and quality. Plant photoreceptors interpret these signals from the light environment and mold plant architecture to maximize foliar light capture. As active sites of the production and accumulation of energy‐rich products, leaves are targets of pests and pathogens, which have driven the selection of physiological processes to protect these energy‐rich tissues. In the last ten years, several research groups have accumulated evidence showing that plant photoreceptors control specific molecular programs that define plant growth and immune processes. Here, we discuss recent knowledge addressing these roles in Arabidopsis and show that (1) plant immune responses affect energy acquisition and partitioning; (2) plant photoreceptors interpret the light environment and control growth and immune processes; and finally; (3) defense and light signaling pathways can be genetically manipulated to obtain plants able to grow and defend at the same time. This basic knowledge from Arabidopsis plants should lead new lines of applied research in crops. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impacts of Photoreceptors on Plant Growth and Development)
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Open AccessReview Coordination of Cryptochrome and Phytochrome Signals in the Regulation of Plant Light Responses
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 25; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010025
Received: 30 January 2017 / Revised: 13 March 2017 / Accepted: 13 March 2017 / Published: 21 March 2017
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Abstract
In nature, plants integrate a wide range of light signals from solar radiation to adapt to the surrounding light environment, and these light signals also regulate a variety of important agronomic traits. Blue light-sensing cryptochrome (cry) and red/far-red light-sensing phytochrome (phy) play critical
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In nature, plants integrate a wide range of light signals from solar radiation to adapt to the surrounding light environment, and these light signals also regulate a variety of important agronomic traits. Blue light-sensing cryptochrome (cry) and red/far-red light-sensing phytochrome (phy) play critical roles in regulating light-mediated physiological responses via the regulated transcriptional network. Accumulating evidence in the model plant Arabidopsis has revealed that crys and phys share two mechanistically distinct pathways to coordinately regulate transcriptional changes in response to light. First, crys and phys promote the accumulation of transcription factors that regulate photomorphogenesis, such as HY5 and HFR1, via the inactivation of the CONSTITUTIVE PHOTOMORPHOGENIC1/SUPPRESSOR OF PHYA-105 E3 ligase complex by light-dependent binding. Second, photoactive crys and phys directly interact with PHYTOCHROME INTERACTING FACTOR transcription factor family proteins to regulate transcriptional activity. The coordinated regulation of these two pathways (and others) by crys and phys allow plants to respond with plasticity to fluctuating light environments in nature. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impacts of Photoreceptors on Plant Growth and Development)
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Open AccessTechnical Note Chemical-Free Cotton Defoliation by; Mechanical, Flame and Laser Girdling
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 9; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010009
Received: 6 September 2016 / Revised: 13 December 2016 / Accepted: 19 January 2017 / Published: 25 January 2017
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Abstract
A novel new way to achieve chemical-free defoliation of cotton is discussed. The research found that by severing the phloem tissue on the main stalk, via a girdling operation, the operation stimulated the cotton plant to alter its growth into an early senescence
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A novel new way to achieve chemical-free defoliation of cotton is discussed. The research found that by severing the phloem tissue on the main stalk, via a girdling operation, the operation stimulated the cotton plant to alter its growth into an early senescence pathway that resulted in the plant shedding its leaves and opening up all its bolls, leaving the plant in the perfect state for machine harvesting. Even with follow-up rains, zero regrowth occurred in the treated plants, unlike the untreated control plots where significant regrowth did occur. This report compares the results of greenhouse and field trials where the girdling operation was performed by hand, flame, mechanical and via a CO2 laser to achieve phloem tissue severance. Design parameters for a prototype laser girdling system are also provided. Results suggest that for deficit irrigated cotton, girdling can provide an alternative means to defoliate cotton. Full article
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