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Forest trees possess high genetic diversity and high heterozygosity which allow adaptation to changing environmental conditions. There is a tendency to propagate successful and unique genotypes, which are identified at their mature stage in the forests, for future improvement programs and conservation purposes. However, vegetative propagation of mature forest trees is still a challenge in many conifers. In this study, we focused on improving the rooting of cuttings of mature and old Pinus halepensis and its hybrids. We observed that storage of cuttings before rooting at 4°C for 4 weeks and prolong immersion of cuttings in a solution containing 400 mg/l of indole-3-butyric acid, 5 mg/l of the auxin conjugate 2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy)propanoic acid-glycine methyl ester, and 0.01% of Amistar fungicide significantly improved rooting of mature cuttings. The active ingredient in Amistar is azoxystrobin, an uncoupler of respiration, which seems to directly promote rooting. Rooted cuttings of selected clones demonstrated unique and uniform growth performance, most likely delivering the intrinsic growth parameters of the mother trees. It was also observed that trees growing under drought stress possess improved rooting ability. By using rooted cuttings, it will be possible to study the relationship between growth rate and adaptation to semi-arid climate conditions. The ability to clonal propagate mature and old P. halepensis trees not only enables vegetative propagation of elite trees for improvement programs, but also provides an opportunity to preserve unique naturally occurring old P. halepensis genotypes.

In: Israel Journal of Plant Sciences

Drought and flooding are environmental extremes and major threats to crop production. Water uptake is achieved by plant roots which have to explore new soil spaces to alleviate water deficit during drought or to cope with water excess during flooding. Adaptation of the root system architecture helps plants cope with such extreme conditions and is crucial for plant health and survival. While for dicot plants the well studied model plant Arabidopsis thaliana has provided insight into the genetic and molecular regulation of the root system, less information is available for monocot species, which include the agronomically important cereal crops. Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is a semi-aquatic monocot plant that develops strong tolerance to flooding. Flooding tolerance of rice is closely linked to its adaptive root system. The functional root system of rice is mainly composed of crown roots and is shifted to nodal adventitious roots during flooding which allows rice to maintain oxygen supply to the roots and to survive longer periods of partial submergence as compared with other crops. Likewise, a number of drought-tolerance traits of rice are the result of an altered root system architecture. Hence, the structure of the root system adapts to, both, flooding and drought. Understanding the regulatory mechanisms that control root system adaptation to extreme environments is a key task for scientists to accelerate the breeding efforts for stress-tolerant crops. This review summarizes recently identified genes and molecular mechanisms that regulate root system architecture in rice in response to drought and flooding.

In: Israel Journal of Plant Sciences

Summer and autumn in Israel are highly arid with not enough plants in bloom offering nectar and pollen to support the local apiary. This leads to decline in colony health and honey production. To increase food sources for honeybees, we initiated a project to clone elite Eucalyptus trees exhibiting constant and rich blooming from late summer to early winter. We induced adventitious roots from cuttings of two mature Eucalyptus trees of which nectar production and honeybees’ attraction was measured: Eucalyptus brachyphylla and Eucalyptus x trabutii. During the rooting process, a high frequency of cylindrical callus formation instead of roots was obtained. To shed light on the inner anatomy of the callus chunks, we compared their cell organization and cell-wall composition to those of roots. Whereas in the root, cells were organized in circumferential symmetry, no symmetry was found in the callus. Instead, a more chaotic accumulation of meristematic-like cells with sporadic clusters of tracheary elements laid in different directions were observed. The outer cell layer of the callus often included swollen cells with thin cell walls. Most callus cells stained more strongly for cellulose and lignin than cells in the root meristem. In addition, specific antibodies to methylesterified and de-methylesterified pectin showed differential staining of callus vs. root cells indicating cell wall differences. Strikingly, roots were seen to differentiate from the chaotic cell organization of the callus, albeit at low rates. Further investigation of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying callus formation, are required.

In: Israel Journal of Plant Sciences

The Pistacia chinensis Bunge is traditionally dioecious, and the female trees are more required to grow in practice for oil seed production. The discovery of monoecious P. chinensis Bunge in North China provided good raw materials to study the sex differentiation process. The objective of this study was to identify the differently expressed proteins in flower buds in two key sex differentiation phases in monoecious P. chinensis Bunge. Morphological observation and paraffin section were used to determine the key phenophases, and label-free quantitative technique was used for proteomic analysis. The results showed that the proteins related to oxidative stress resistance up-regulated while proteins involved in photosynthesis down-regulated during the female primordium differentiation in bisexual flower buds of the monoecious P. chinensis Bunge in early March, while proteins related to oxidative stress resistance, ribosome activity, and photosynthetic function up-regulated during the male primordium differentiation in bisexual flower buds of the monoecious P. chinensis Bunge in late May. The most up-regulated proteins all involved in the photosynthesis pathway in both kind of flower buds in late May compared to those in early March, and the down-regulated proteins all involved in the ribosome pathway. The identified differentially expressed proteins such as the Cu/Zn superoxide dismutases may be possible molecular markers for sex determination in monoecious P. chinensis Bunge.

In: Israel Journal of Plant Sciences

ABSTRACT

The ecological benefits of polyploidy are intensely debated. Some authors argue that plants with duplicated chromosome sets (polyploids) are more stress-resistant and superior colonizers and may thus outnumber their low ploidy conspecifics in more extreme habitats. Brachypodium distachyon (sensu lato), for example, a common annual grass in Israel and the entire Mediterranean basin, comprises three cytotypes of differing chromosome numbers that were recently proposed as distinct species. It was suggested that increased aridity increases the occurrence of its polyploid cytotype.

Here, we tested at two spatial scales whether polyploid plants of B. distachyon s.l. are more frequently found in drier habitats in Israel. We collected a total of 430 specimens (i) along a large-scale climatic gradient with 15 thoroughly selected sites (spanning 114–954 mm annual rainfall), and (ii) from corresponding Northern (more mesic) and Southern (more arid) hill slopes to assess the micro-climatic difference between contrasting exposures. Cytotypes were then determined via flow cytometry.

Polyploid plants comprised 90% of all specimens and their proportion ranged between 0% and 100% per site. However, this proportion was not correlated with aridity along the large-scale gradient, nor were polyploids more frequently found on Southern exposures.

Our results show for both spatial scales that increasing aridity is not the principal driver for the distribution of polyploids in B. distachyon s.l. in Israel. Notably, though, diploid plants were restricted essentially to four intermediate sites, while polyploids dominated the most arid and the most mesic sites. This, to some degree, clustered pattern suggests that the distribution of cytotypes is not entirely random and calls for future studies to assess further potential drivers.

In: Israel Journal of Plant Sciences