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Ethylene triggers needle abscission in root-detached balsam fir

Abstract

Post-harvest needle abscission is a major challenge for Christmas tree and greenery industries. It was hypothesized that ethylene triggers abscission in balsam fir. Three experiments were conducted to test this hypothesis. In experiment 1, 70 balsam fir branches were collected, placed in water, and ethylene evolution was observed over time. In experiment 2, a 2 × 5 factorial experiment was designed to determine the effect of exogenous ethylene and an ethylene receptor blocker, 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP), on needle abscission. In experiment 3, a 2 × 6 factorial experiment was designed to determine the effect of exogenous ethylene and an ethylene inhibitor, aminoethoxyvinylglycine (AVG), on needle abscission. It was found that ethylene evolution was the highest 1–2 days prior to needle abscission, which was consistent in untreated branches and branches exposed to exogenous ethylene. Exposure to exogenous ethylene significantly decreased needle retention by 63%. When ethylene receptors were blocked by 1-MCP, needle retention increased by 147% despite the presence of ethylene and increased by 73% in the absence of ethylene when compared to the respective controls. When endogenous ethylene synthesis was inhibited by AVG, there was no improvement in needle retention in the presence of ethylene, but there was a 113% increase in needle retention in the absence of exogenous ethylene. Ethylene is strongly implicated as the signal triggering abscission in root-detached balsam fir.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources for allowing us the use of their Tree Breeding Center in Debert and the generous provision of their genotype identification key. We thank the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council for PGS-D fellowship to Mason MacDonald and NSERC–CRD Grant (CRDPJ 364061-07) to Dr. Lada. We also thank the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia for additional research funding.

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Correspondence to Rajasekaran R. Lada.

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Communicated by R. Guy.

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MacDonald, M.T., Lada, R.R., Martynenko, A.I. et al. Ethylene triggers needle abscission in root-detached balsam fir. Trees 24, 879–886 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00468-010-0457-2

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Keywords

  • 1-MCP
  • 1-Methylcyclopropene
  • Abies balsamea
  • Aminoethoxyvinylglycine
  • AVG
  • Needle retention
  • Senescence
  • Water use