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Open access

Cecilia Rubert Heller and Gerardo H. Nunez

Coconut coir is widely used as a substrate component for southern highbush blueberry [(SHB) Vaccinium corymbosum L. interspecific hybrids] cultivation in containers. Coconut coir-based substrates can exhibit high potassium (K), sodium (Na), and chlorine (Cl) concentrations. Sodium in the substrate is particularly problematic because it can cause salinity stress and nutritional imbalances in young blueberry plants. Thus, Na removal is important to ensure transplant success. We hypothesized that preplant fertilization with large volumes of nutrient solution can reduce substrate salinity, replace Na with nutritional cations, and enhance blueberry establishment. We tested this hypothesis in a greenhouse experiment with ‘Snowchaser’ SHB grown in rhizoboxes filled with a 7:3 mix of coconut coir and perlite. Four different treatments were delivered every 24 hours starting 72 hours before transplant. Treatments included 1.75 g⋅L–1 calcium nitrate (CN), 2.38 g⋅L–1 monoammonium phosphate (MAP), deionized water, and well water. One rooted cutting was transplanted to each rhizobox. Rhizoboxes were fertigated during the 7-week cultivation period. We found that preplant fertilization increased nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and calcium (Ca) concentrations in the substrate without replacing Na. Thus, preplant fertilization increased substrate salinity. Preplant fertilization also promoted microbial respiration in the substrate at the start of the experiment. Treatments did not affect SHB root architecture, leaf area index, leaf greenness, or biomass accumulation, likely because nutrients delivered by the fertigation solution provided the plants with homogeneous optimal conditions. These findings suggest that preplant fertilization with large volumes of nutrient solution does not enhance blueberry establishment in coconut coir-based substrates.

Open access

Aidan Kendall, Carol A. Miles, Travis R. Alexander, Edward Scheenstra, and Gabriel T. LaHue

Irrigation water productivity is a priority for sustainable orchard management as water resources become more limiting. This study evaluated reduced irrigation (RI) as a management strategy for cider apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) production in 2019 and 2020 in northwestern Washington, which has a Mediterranean climate and averages 14.1 cm of precipitation from June to September. RI was evaluated on three cider apple cultivars, Dabinett, Porter’s Perfection, and Golden Russet, in their third and fourth leaf. Stem water potential (stem ψ) was measured weekly throughout the growing season to monitor water stress and implement the RI treatment: irrigation would be applied when stem ψ values dropped below −1.5 MPa, a threshold indicative of moderate water stress in apples. Soil water potential was monitored throughout the season, vegetative growth was assessed by measuring shoot length and non-destructive imaging of the plant canopy using lateral photography, and yield, fruit quality, and juice quality were measured at harvest. Moderate water stress as indicated by stem ψ did not occur either year, thus irrigation was never applied to the RI treatment plots. There was a negative relationship between average stem ψ and both yield and air temperature (P < 0.0001 for each); as yield increased by 5.9 kg per tree or temperature increased by 3.3 °C, stem ψ decreased by 0.1 MPa. The juice quality attributes of the three cultivars in this study were similar to their historic measures at this site and there were no differences due to irrigation treatment, likely because trees did not reach the threshold to induce physiological stress. Both years, trees in the RI treatment did not differ from the control treatment in vegetative growth, fruit yield, juice yield, or any juice quality attribute, but weight per fruit decreased by 7 g, and fruit firmness (measured only in 2020) increased by 2 N. Results from this study indicate that fruit yield and quality in an establishing orchard can be maintained when irrigation is reduced relative to crop water requirements that are estimated from a calculated water balance or relative to conventional grower practices for this region. This finding highlights the benefits of using plant water status to schedule irrigation.

Open access

Wei Hai Yang, Chao Zhong Lu, Wei Chen, and Huan Yu Xu

Fruit abscission occurring severely in the early fruit development affects macadamia yield. Developing effective methods to improve fruit retention is a priority for macadamia cultivation and production. Girdling is an important horticultural practice that has been widely used to increase fruit yield. Previous studies have shown that girdling fails to increase macadamia yield despite enhancing the early fruit set, but few have examined the effect of girdling on its related physiological mechanism. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of main-branch girdling (MBG) on early fruit retention and also on the levels of carbohydrates and endogenous hormones in the leaves, bearing shoots and fruit of macadamia. Herein, MBG was performed at fruit set using a single-blade knife on 9-year-old macadamia trees (Macadamia integrifolia). Results showed that MBG significantly reduced young fruit drop, concurrent with significant increases in the contents of starch in both the leaves and the bearing shoots and in glucose, fructose, and sucrose levels in the husk and seed. It was suggested that the availability of carbohydrate for fruit retention was improved by MBG. Additionally, MBG increased indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), gibberellin (GA3), and zeatin-riboside (ZR, a type of cytokinin) concentrations and decreased abscisic acid (ABA) contents in the husk and the seed, indicating that MBG reduced the early fruit drop by modifying the balance of endogenous hormones. Therefore, a positive interplay between carbohydrates and endogenous hormones induced by MBG was involved in the reduction of early fruit abscission in macadamia.

Open access

Maanea L. Ramphinwa, Godwin R.A. Mchau, Ntakadzeni E. Madala, Ndamulelo Nengovhela, John B.O. Ogola, and Fhatuwani N. Mudau

Horticultural practices and quality of bush tea (Athrixia phylicoides DC.) are critical for herbal tea industrialization. The objective of the current study was to determine the effect of selected shade nets and seasonal variation on plant growth and development, and hydroxycinnamic acid content of field-grown bush tea. The trial was laid out in a randomized complete block design consisting of three shade nets (black, green, and white) and control or full sunlight with three different light intensities (40%, 50%, and 80%) replicated three times. Proportion of intercepted radiation by the canopy, chlorophyll content, plant height, and fresh and dry mass were measured, and hydroxycinnamic acid accumulation was determined. In addition, hydroxycinnamic acid composition was determined using liquid chromatography linked to mass spectrometry (LC-MS). The application of shade nets resulted in plant growth and yield reduction as compared with the plants exposed to full sunlight during summer followed by white shade net. The accumulation of hydroxycinnamic acid was higher in 80% white shade net plots compared with unshaded plants (control) and the other shade nets. Therefore, lack of shading provides a conducive environment to enhance plant growth and development of bush tea. The white shade net (80%) was an effective microclimate tool to enhance accumulation of caffeoylquinic acid (m/z 353), p-coumaric acids (m/z 337), dicaffeoylquinic acid (m/z 515), and tricaffeoylquinic acids of bush tea. This study is the first to demonstrate light as a determining factor for production of chlorogenates in bush tea plants. Future studies will be conducted to determine the effect of light on extracts of the bush tea using different solvents.

Open access

Manman Wang, Youliang Ye, Xv Chu, Yanan Zhao, Shuhong Zhang, Hui Chen, Wei Qin, and Yang Wang

Potassium (K) is a critical plant nutrient that determines quality in a myriad of crops and increases production yields. However, excessive application of various types of K fertilizers can decrease both the food quality and yields, which translates as economic losses and food safety issues. The objectives of this study were to 1) elucidate the impacts of different application rates of various K fertilizers on garlic, with the aim to identify the optimal and most economical K fertilizer dosage and 2) compare the effects of applying two common K fertilizers (KCl and K2SO4) on garlic, to determine the optimal combination. From 2018 to 2020, we utilized two distinct K-fertilized fields to conduct our experiments. The results revealed optimal KCl fertilization increased the biomass and vegetation index in garlic, and promoted the transfer of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium nutrients from the stem and leaf to bulb, thereby increasing bulb production. The application of KCl fertilizer increased the number of cloves, the diameters of the cloves and bulbs, and reduced variations in bulb size. In addition, the application of KCl fertilizer improved the nutritional quality (Vitamin C, soluble sugar, soluble protein, and allicin) of the garlic and reduced the accumulation of nitrate. However, excessive KCl fertilizer cause decreased yields, appearance traits, and nutritional quality. Applying the same rate of K fertilizer in the form of K2SO4 in isolation increased the garlic yield by only 0.1% to 22.5% when compared with KCl fertilizer. However, the results were not always significant. In this study, the highest yields, appearance traits, and nutritional quality were achieved with the ratio of K2SO4: KCl = 3:1. Consequently, to ensure the highest economic value (considering the market prices of K fertilizer, garlic sprouts, and bulbs), the authors recommend a K fertilizer rate of 252.5 kg·ha−1 K2O, with K2SO4 accounting for 61.6% for garlic production in field.

Open access

Stephanie Rossi and Bingru Huang

Heat stress symptoms in cool-season plants are characterized by loss of chlorophyll (Chl) and membrane stability, as well as oxidative damage. The objectives of this study were to determine whether foliar application of β-sitosterol, a naturally occurring plant metabolite, may promote heat tolerance by suppressing heat-induced leaf senescence as indicated by the maintenance of healthy turf quality (TQ), and Chl and membrane stability; and to determine its roles in regulating antioxidant metabolism in creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera). ‘Penncross’ plants were exposed to heat stress (35/30 °C day/night) optimal temperature conditions (nonstressed control, 22/17 °C day/night) for a duration of 28 days in environment-controlled growth chambers. Plants were foliar-treated with β-sitosterol (400 µM) or water only (untreated control) before heat stress, and at 7-day intervals through 28 days of heat stress. Plants treated with β-sitosterol had significantly greater TQ and Chl content, and significantly less electrolyte leakage (EL) than untreated controls at 21 and 28 days of heat stress. Application of β-sitosterol reduced malondialdehyde (MDA) content significantly at 21 and 28 days of heat stress, and promoted the activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), peroxidase (POD), catalase (CAT), and ascorbate peroxidase (APX) from 14 through 28 days of heat stress. β-Sitosterol effectively improved heat tolerance through suppression of leaf senescence in creeping bentgrass exposed to heat stress in association with the alleviation of membrane lipid peroxidation and activation of the enzymatic antioxidant system.

Open access

Abbey C. Noah, Helen T. Kraus, and Paige L. Herring

Composted swine (Sus domesticus) lagoon solids may provide a nutrient rich alternative to peatmoss (Sphagnum sp.) in a transplant substrate while dispersing the concentrated nutrients of this waste product in a cost effective, environmentally conscientious manner. The objective of this study was to evaluate the physical and chemical characteristics of swine lagoon solids composted with peanut (Arachis hypogaea) hulls and evaluate the utility of this substrate to support growth of vegetable transplants. Swine lagoon solids were composted in an in-vessel compost reactor with peanut hulls 15:85 v/v producing a transplant substrate, swine lagoon compost (SLC). A greenhouse study was conducted with three vegetable species: ‘Moneymaker’ tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), ‘Traviata’ eggplant (Solanum melongena), and ‘Clemson Spineless’ okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) grown in SLC, an organic potting mix (OM), and a peatmoss-based substrate (PEAT). ‘Traviata’ eggplant, ‘Clemson Spineless’ okra, and ‘Moneymaker’ tomato transplants produced in SLC substrate were significantly greater in height and dry weight than those produced in either the OM or PEAT. Based on these findings SLC can provide both the physical and chemical requirements needed for vegetable transplant production without additional amendments or fertilizers.

Open access

Dharti Thakulla, Bruce L. Dunn, Carla Goad, and Bizhen Hu

Algae is not desirable in hydroponics and creates problems such as reduced yield and decreased dissolved oxygen, and affects the physiology of plants and, thus, needs to be controlled. An experiment was conducted in Ebb and Flow hydroponic systems to investigate the application timing and rates of two hydrogen peroxide products (Zerotol and PERpose Plus). Treatments included 35 mL weekly, 35 mL biweekly, 70 mL weekly, 70 mL biweekly, and a control with no application of hydrogen peroxide using a 40-gallon reservoir of water. Pepper ‘Early Jalapeno’ and ‘Lunchbox Red’ and tomato ‘Geronimo’ and ‘Little Sicily’ were used. The study was conducted in a split-plot design with two replications over time. Plant growth parameters, including plant height, flower number, net CO2 assimilation, fresh weight, and dry weight were recorded. Algae data, including dry weight, algae cell counts, and chl a were also measured. Results indicated that with increasing rate and timing of either product decreased algae counts, dry weight, and chl a values. However, weekly and biweekly application of 70 mL of both products were not different for algae quantification. In pepper, plant height, shoot fresh and dry weight, and root fresh and dry weight were found to be significantly greater with Zerotol 35 mL biweekly, Zerotol 70 mL weekly, PERpose Plus 35 mL biweekly, and PERpose Plus 70 mL weekly compared with the control. ‘Lunchbox Red’ was significantly greater than ‘Early Jalapeno’ in all growth parameters, except soil plant analysis development (SPAD). ‘Lunchbox Red’ had the greatest flower number, with weekly application of 70 mL PERpose Plus. In tomato, greatest flower number and SPAD were observed in ‘Geronimo’ with a weekly application of 70 mL PERpose Plus and 70 mL Zerotol, respectively. Greater shoot and root fresh and dry weight for both tomato cultivars were recorded with 35 mL biweekly or 70 mL weekly application with either product. The results from both plants as well as algae analysis suggest that weekly application of 70 mL of either Zerotol or PERpose Plus produced the best results in terms of controlling algae and improving the growth of pepper and tomato plants.