Journal of Experimental Botany 49:101-106. 1998.

High temperature arrest of inflorescence development in broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica L.)

Thomas Björkman and Karen J. Pearson

Department of Horticultural Sciences, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Cornell University, Geneva, NY 14456

ABSTRACT High temperature causes unevenly-sized flower buds on broccoli inflorescences. This deformity limits production of broccoli to areas where summer temperatures rarely exceed 30°C. The stage of development sensitive to heat was determined by exposing plants of 'Galaxy' broccoli at varying developmental stages to 35 °C day temperature for 1 week, and subsequently analyzing the head structure. During the high temperature exposure, the development of certain flower buds was arrested. There was no corresponding cessation of bud initiation at the apex. No injury resulted if heat was applied before the reproductive induction, nor was there injury to differentiated flower buds. Meristems were affected only if heat was applied during inflorescence production or the floral initiation process. Shorter heat exposures produced little injury, and longer exposures were lethal. The plant's development at this sensitive period still appeared vegetative externally, but the youngest leaves had just begun to reorientate as a consequence of the reduced stem elongation rate. The meristem was less than 1 mm wide, and floral primordia were just forming, still subtended by leaf primordia. The injury was fully expressed by the time the head was first exposed (approx. 5 to 10 mm wide), though it became more apparent as the head matured. The buds that were delayed in development by the high temperature developed into normal flowers.

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