Consumption of staminate (male) flowers of squash and pumpkin (Cucurbita sp.) has generally been limited to summer squash (Cucurbita pepo), a species of temperate regions or highland tropical environments. In the lowland tropics of the Caribbean Basin, tropical pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata) is better adapted and more widely grown. We evaluated flower production in Lajas, Puerto Rico, and postharvest attributes (shelf life, chemical and nutritional properties, sensory quality) of flowers of four tropical pumpkin and two summer squash cultivars. Tested cultivars varied slightly among experiments. Passive and active modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) were compared. For passive MAP, packages were sealed without further intervention. Under active MAP, packages were adjusted to 6% to 7% oxygen (O2) and 12% to 13% carbon dioxide (CO2) during sealing. Sensory quality of fresh and canned tropical pumpkin flowers was evaluated by panelists. Production ranged from 1.8 to 4.0 flowers/plant per day. Flower weight and length were up to 50% greater in tropical pumpkin compared with summer squash. Packaged flowers turned more orange but with less color saturation as they aged. In active MAP packages, decreases in O2, and increases in CO2 observed after 5 days were small or not significant compared with initially established atmospheres at day 0. Storage temperature generally had no effect on changes in O2 and CO2. Packaged flowers lost about 27% of their initial weight after 5 days. Type of MAP had no consistent effect on the appearance of packaged flowers. Storing flowers at 5 °C often improved appearance compared with storage at 10 °C. The rate of deterioration was slower in packaged flowers of tropical pumpkin compared with summer squash, but by day 6 the poor appearance of flowers of all cultivars made them unmarketable. Compared with fresh flowers, packaged flowers stored for 5 days exhibited a decrease in soluble solids, total acidity, ascorbic acid, antioxidant capacity, and total phenolics, and generally an increase in pH. Beta-carotene often increased in stored flowers although this varied by cultivar. Storage temperature and type of MAP had inconsistent effects on chemical attributes of stored flowers. Panelists rated fresh flowers as “like moderately” to “like very much” for texture, taste, and overall acceptability, whereas canned flowers were rated as “like moderately” for overall acceptability. Male flowers of tropical pumpkin are suitable for human consumption but deterioration after 5 days of storage limits their market potential unless better packaging methods are developed. Canned tropical pumpkin flowers may be an alternative to packaged flowers.
Kathina Toro-Vélez, Rosa Chávez-Jáuregui, Linda Wessel-Beaver, and Bryan Brunner
Xianping Guo, Yiwei Bian, Qizhen Qiu, Dongsheng Wang, Zhongying Wu, Zhenzhen Lv, Beijing Zhang, Qingnan Wu, and Hezhong Wang
Nanocrystal cellulose possesses a strong capability to chelate Fe due to its adsorptive properties. Iron deficiency chlorosis (IDC) is a mineral disorder that remarkably weakens pear photosynthesis, causing declines in plant yields and quality. Conventional methods for controlling IDC generally lack efficiency and overuse chemicals. Foliar application of nanocellulose (NC)-Fe chelate (NCFe) provides a new approach to remediate IDC in pear (Pyrus betulifolia). In this study, NC was prepared by acidic hydrolysis using 64 wt% H2SO4 at 45 °C for 45 minutes. NCFe was formulated based on the net charge density of NC and ferrous sulfate (FeSO4) solution. The nanoparticle properties were characterized by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), dynamic light scattering, and conductometry. Pyrus betulifolia seedlings were pre-etiolated in an improved Hoagland’s nutrient solution and treated with bicarbonate. Changes in chlorophyll content, active Fe content, and photosynthesis rate in NCFe-treated leaves were determined by SPAD values, spectrophotometry, and photosynthetic apparatus, respectively. Ferritin genes (PbFER) and pectin methylesterase genes (PbPME) were extracted from leaf tissue, and gene expression profiles were analyzed by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). The results showed that NCFe particles maintained a whisker-like morphology; the Z-average hydrodynamic diameter and zeta potential of NCFe measured by dynamic light scattering were 107.4 ± 3.0 nm and −9.7 ± 0.4 mV, respectively. When NCFe was prepared at a mixing ratio of 1:3000, the total chlorophyll content, active Fe content, and net photosynthetic rate of plant leaves were significantly enhanced by 23.8%, 65.9%, and 40.4% after 72 hours of treatment, respectively, compared with FeSO4 spraying. Importantly, NCFe treatment also significantly downregulated the expression of PbPME and upregulated the expression of PbFER, which are key genes regulating the active Fe content.
Roger Kubalek, David Granatstein, Doug Collins, and Carol Miles
Covering the soil surface with opaque plastic sheets to kill vegetation is referred to as tarping and is used by small-scale and organic growers to control weeds before planting crops. There are few published studies on tarping, and here we present a review of the literature in combination with observations from two on-farm case studies, one carried out in northern California and the other in northwestern Washington. An advantage of tarping is that it enables growers to control weeds without herbicides or tillage equipment, which can be cost-prohibitive for small-scale growers. Tarping is also suitable for no- or reduced-tillage systems, which is a primary goal for many small-scale and organic growers. Silage tarps that are 5 to 6 mils thick and black on one side and white on the other are most commonly used for tarping, are readily available new or used from some local agricultural suppliers or online, and can be reused for six or more seasons. Tarps are placed with the black side up to warm the soil, which encourages weed seed germination. When the soil is tilled and then tarped, a 3-week period with sufficient soil temperature and moisture is sufficient to kill emergent weeds in the top ≈1 inch of soil and provides a 95% to 100% weed-free surface at tarp removal. When a tarp is applied from autumn until spring to a plot that has established weeds, winter annual weeds can be controlled for several weeks after tarp removal, and then soil disturbance results in germination of additional weed seeds. For established perennial weeds, it may be necessary to extend the tarp application time to several months during critical weed growth phases or a full year to break the vegetative life cycle. Tarping does not reduce the weed seed bank, thus minimal soil disturbance after tarp removal is needed to maintain a reduced weed population during the cropping period.
Rui Wang, Masahide Isozaki, Yasunaga Iwasaki, and Yukinari Muramatsu
Root-zone temperature (RZT) is closely related to nutrient transportation and biomass production. However, its influence on biomass production and dry matter distribution remains unknown, especially in year-long production greenhouses. We explore the potential of RZT as an environmental control method to promote spinach field production by quantifying the effects of RZT to increase spinach production. Three RZT treatments using a nutrient film technique (NFT) system quantified and evaluated the effects of spring, summer, and winter spinach cultivation. We investigated the growth characteristics, total aboveground dry matter, and fraction of dry matter distribution to the leaf and root (which corresponded with yield). The RZT effects on total aboveground dry matter varied with the average air temperature inside the greenhouse. The total aboveground dry matter correlated positively with RZT in optimal air temperature conditions (15–20 °C). The dry matter-to-leaves ratio of the spinach did not correlate significantly with RZT in suboptimal (5 °C < air temperature < 15 °C) or supraoptimal (20 °C < air temperature) conditions. Therefore, RZT can promote biomass accumulation. We suggest RZT provides a feasible method for controlling the dry matter distribution fraction. Further research into the functional role of RZT will support hydroponic growers in improving crop yield.
Avery Shikanai and Karla L. Gage
The impacts of weed interference on hemp (Cannabis sativa) yield are largely unstudied despite causing serious economic losses in most cropping systems. For high-cannabidiol (CBD) hemp, understanding the role of weed competition on CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content may help promote profitability and regulatory compliance. Therefore, we tested the effects of varying waterhemp [Amaranthus tuberculatus (zero, one, three, and five waterhemp plants per planting hole)] and hemp (zero or one hemp plants per planting hole) planting densities on total hemp yield, chemical composition, and aboveground waterhemp biomass in plasticulture. There was no significant total biomass or stripped floral biomass yield loss resulting from waterhemp competition, although unexpectedly high variation in hemp phenotypes likely limited the ability to detect subtle differences between treatments. Furthermore, there was no significant effect of competition treatment on total CBD, total THC, or measured terpene composition. However, waterhemp biomass was reduced significantly by competition from hemp in comparison with hemp-free treatments. Suppression of waterhemp by hemp and lack of significant yield loss suggest that hemp can be highly competitive and grown successfully without herbicides in certain circumstances.
Mohammed Elsayed El-Mahrouk, Mossad Khairy Maamoun, Yaser Hassan Dewir, Antar Nasr El-Banna, Hail Z. Rihan, Ahmed Salamh, Ahmed A. Al-Aizari, and Michael P. Fuller
Black cumin (Nigella sativa) is an important medicinal plant in the pharmacological industry. It is cultivated on a commercial scale, but its seeds have a slow, unsynchronized germination rate. Enhancing seed germination is crucial for improving the production of black cumin. The influence of presowing treatments [gibberellic acid (GA3), potassium nitrate, salicylic acid, and stratification at 4 °C] on seed germination was assessed. Seed germination was determined daily for 30 days, and germination parameters, including final germination percentage (FGP), corrected germination rate, number of days to reach 50% of FGP, and seedling length vigor index, were evaluated. Endogenous contents of GA3 and abscisic acid (ABA) in nonstratified and stratified seeds were estimated using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and seedling growth was determined in 45-day-old seedlings. All presowing treatments tended to boost early germination for the first 10 days compared with the control. Low concentrations of GA3 at 0.25 g·L−1 also increased FGP (80%) compared with the control group (65.55%). Stratification for 4 weeks provided the greatest FGP value at 95.56%, and stratification for 3 weeks proved to be the most effective treatment for optimal seedling growth. Sodium dodecyl sulphate–polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis patterns of stratified seeds revealed the alteration in intensities of 13 bands and the appearance of a new band (180 kDa) indicating a change in the synthesis of proteins during stratification. Moreover, stratification modulated the endogenous GA3 and ABA contents of black cumin seeds, which alleviated the physiological dormancy and resulted in high and synchronized seed germination.
Natalie P. Lounsbury, Bonnie B. Lounsbury, Nicholas D. Warren, and Richard G. Smith
Small-scale vegetable farmers are interested in cover crops and reduced tillage, but scale-appropriate technology and equipment are necessary to expand these practices to the growing segment of small farms. We sought to determine the efficacy of tarps, an increasingly popular tool on small farms, to end overwintering cover crops and provide weed suppression for subsequent no-till cabbage production. In three fields over two seasons in Maine, we grew a winter rye (Secale cereale L.) and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa L.) cover crop, which we managed by a factorial combination of tillage (no-till, till) and tarping (tarp, no-tarp) in June, followed by a transplanted cabbage crop (Brassica oleracea L. var. Capitata) in July. Within each treatment, subplots were either weeded by hand or left unweeded. Cover crop biomass ranged from 2.8 to 4.5 Mg⋅ha−1. Mean cabbage weights in the novel no-till system (no-till/tarp) were greater than (year 1) or equal to (year 2) those in tillage-based systems (till/no-tarp and till/tarp). In year 1, the mean cabbage weight in weeded subplots was 48% greater in no-till/tarp than in till/no-tarp systems. In unweeded subplots, this difference was 270%, highlighting the efficacy of the no-till/tarp system to reduce the impact of weeds. In year 2, weed biomass was higher with all treatments than it was in year 1, and unweeded subplots failed to produce marketable heads (i.e., >300 g). The mean cabbage weight in weeded subplots was equal among no-till/tarp, till/tarp, and till/no-tarp systems. Tarping had a strong effect on weed biomass and weed community composition measured at the time of cabbage harvest in unweeded subplots. In year 1, weed biomass at the time of cabbage harvest with tarp treatments was less than half that with no-tarp treatments. Tarps effectively facilitated the cover crop mulch-based no-till system. We propose that this system is an adaptive strategy for farmers affected by climate change. However, both cover crop production and tarping shorten the growing season. We discuss tradeoffs and opportunity costs using the metric of growing degree days.
Sanalkumar Krishnan and Emily Merewitz
Creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) is a desirable turfgrass putting green species that is susceptible to drought stress. Planting drought-resistant creeping bentgrass will enhance the resilience of golf turf surfaces, lower required resource inputs, and reduce the environmental impact of golf courses. Creeping bentgrass cultivar performance data during drought stress are needed for informed selection of appropriate cultivars. We evaluated the drought performance of 19 cultivars of creeping bentgrass and found that newer creeping bentgrass cultivars such as Pure Distinction and others exhibited superior drought performance compared with older cultivars such as Penncross and L93 based on turf quality, photochemical yield, and leaf relative water content. The results of this work should be used to aid in the selection of drought-resistant creeping bentgrass cultivars for turfgrass practitioners.
Géza Bujdosó, Sezai Ercisli, Alina Ratiu, and Klara Cseke
Walnut ‘Esterhazy kesei’ has a late bloom as well as a pollen shedding period, enabling it to be grown successfully at more locations. As a result of some superior characteristics, such as late budbreak time, large nut size, excellent kernel characteristics, attractive appearance, and low yield, this variety can be planted in hobby gardens and landscapes.
The Carpathian Basin, where Hungary is located, is rich in Persian walnut (