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Open access

Runshi Xie, Bin Wu, Mengmeng Gu, Stacey R. Jones, James Robbins, Allen L. Szalanski, and Hongmin Qin

Crapemyrtle bark scale (CMBS; Acanthococcus lagerstroemiae Kuwana) is an invasive insect that was first discovered in the United States in 2004. The polyphagous feeding habit of CMBS has allowed it to infest a wide range of plant species beyond its primary host, Lagerstroemia. Using molecular approaches, we studied the genetic relationships between CMBS specimens and their hosts from different geographic locations. Naturally occurring CMBS infestations were confirmed on American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana L.), a native plant species in the United States, and spirea (Spiraea L.). The new infestation of CMBS found on Spiraea raises the alarm that other economically important crops in the Amygdaloideae subfamily (subfamily under Rosaceae) might be susceptible to CMBS attacks.

Open access

Shivani Kathi, Catherine Simpson, Alinna Umphres, and Greta Schuster

In arid and semi-arid climates, water scarcity and nutrient availability are major constraints for food production. Excess fertilization to make up for the limited nutrient availability in dry soils leads to nitrogen runoff and groundwater contamination. Reducing nitrogen leaching into surface water while providing adequate nutrition remains a major challenge. Superabsorbent polymers (SAPs) can reduce water loss and improve nutrient retention and therefore minimize leaching and increase crop yields. SAPs are made from petroleum or natural products, but plant-based SAPs have been gaining popularity because they have fewer long-term effects on the environment. However, there is little known about how SAPs made from cornstarch effect plant growth and production in tomatoes. So, we evaluated total nitrogen and water retention in SAP-treated soils and evaluated their effects on growth and development of tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum). Soils were amended with different rates of cornstarch-based SAP (i.e., 0 kg SAP, 0 kg SAP+N, 0.5 kg SAP+N, 1 kg SAP+N, 1.5 kg SAP+N, and 2 kg SAP+N). Results indicate that the mean volume of water and nitrates retained in the soils amended with cornstarch-based SAPs increased with increasing rate of SAP. The treatment containing the highest dose (i.e., 2 kg SAP) decreased the amount of leachate and nitrates from soil 79.34% and 93.11% at 3 days after fertilization (DAF) and 78.84% and 81.58% at 9 DAF in comparison with the soil-only and fertilizer-only treatments, respectively. The results also indicate cornstarch-based SAP significantly improved plant growth and yield parameters compared with the treatments without SAP. Furthermore, the greatest number of leaves, flowers, fruits, and dry matter production were found in the 1-kg SAP treatment. Therefore, application of cornstarch-based SAPs can improve tomato production in times of drought stress by retaining more water and nutrients in the active rooting zone and can reduce environmental pollution by reducing nitrogen runoff.

Open access

Marife B. Anunciado, Larry C. Wadsworth, Shuresh Ghimire, Carol Miles, Jenny C. Moore, Annette L. Wszelaki, and Douglas G. Hayes

Plastic mulch films contribute to improved crop yield and quality for vegetable and small fruit cropping systems. Although the single-season agronomic performance of conventional polyethylene mulches and soil-biodegradable mulches (BDMs) are similar, over time BDMs can begin to break down during storage and subsequently not provide season-long soil coverage. In this study, the changes in physicochemical properties of BDMs were investigated over 3 years of indoor storage (2015–18) under ideal environmental conditions in two laboratories. Mulches evaluated were black, 20–40 µm thick, suitable for annual vegetable production, and included three BDMs: two polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT)-enriched mulches that are commercially available in North America, an experimental polylactic acid (PLA) and polyhydroxyalkanote-based film, and a conventional polyethylene mulch as a control. Tensile properties, specifically peak load and elongation at maximum tensile stress, decreased during storage, particularly for the PBAT-based BDMs, indicating a loss of strength. During year 3 of storage, the tensile properties declined extensively, suggesting embrittlement. The average molecular weight of PLA and PBAT slightly increased during year 1, perhaps due to release of monomers or oligomers, and then decreased extensively during years 2 and 3 due to hydrolysis of ester bonds (confirmed by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopic analysis). The structural integrity of BDMs was assessed during years 2 and 3 of the study (2017–18) in field trials at the locations where they were stored, Knoxville, TN, and Mount Vernon, WA, for vegetable production. The degradation of the BDMs during the cropping season was higher in 2018 compared with 2017, suggesting that degradation of mechanical and chemical properties while in storage may have contributed to rapid degradation of mulches in the field. In summary, BDMs undergo degradation even under ideal storage conditions and may perform best if deployed within 2 years of their receipt date. The farmer should verify that proper storage conditions have been used before receipt and that manufacturing date precedes the receipt date by no more than 6 months.

Open access

Trent J. Davis, Miguel I. Gómez, Scott J. Harper, and Megan Twomey

Hop stunt viroid (HSVd) is one of the most important pathogens impacting hop production worldwide. It reduces yields, stunts growth, and is easily transmissible. HSVd can cause significant yield losses upward of 62% depending on the hop variety. This study uses a net present value (NPV) approach over a 6-year production cycle of one acre of hops to examine the potential economic impact of HSVd on aroma and alpha hop varieties. The estimated economic impact of HSVd ranges from about $432 (for a 1% yield reduction) to $26,795 (for a 62% yield reduction) per acre. Using the NPV approach the study then analyzes potential economic benefits of using certified disease-free planting stock as a strategy to mitigate the risk of HSVd infection. If expected yield losses of aroma and alpha hops exceed 6% and 7%, respectively, then the NPV of investing in certified clean planting stock is greater than that of the infected hops over the 6-year production cycle. Complete removal and replanting of an entire acre of aroma and alpha hops with certified clean planting stock is economically beneficial once expected yield losses exceed 35% and 36%, respectively. These findings are valuable for giving hop producers information to devise profit-maximizing planting strategies and to create incentives for extended usage of certified clean planting materials.

Open access

Tong Zhang, Zheng Zhang, Qi Qiao, Wei Liu, and Xiaogai Hou

Paeonia ostii is recognized as an important oilseed tree peony species with potential as a raw material source for cosmetic and health care products, strong seed setting capacity, high seed oil yield, and abundant omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. P. ostii, commonly called Fengdan, is widely cultivated in China. The cultivation method difference has an important influence on the oil-use feature, which is a key index for evaluating the quality of oilseed crops. This study aimed to select an optimal cultivation method to provide the first reference data for high-yield and high-quality seed oil harvesting and to facilitate the understanding of the quality difference in the formation mechanism of seed oil in cultivated P. ostii. This study selected five representative cultivation methods, open field cultivation, sunny slope cultivation, shady slope cultivation, understory intercropping cultivation, and high-altitude cultivation, and investigated the influence of cultivation method differences on the oil-use feature based on the three aspects of seed yield traits, oil yield, and fatty acid compositions. Six seed yield traits (fruit pod length, fruit pod width, fruit pod thickness, number of fruit pods per plant, 1000-grain weight, and seed yield per plant) and oil yield reached the maximum values of 7.75 cm, 6.99 cm, 1.57 cm, 11.33, 290.45 g, 85.8 g, and 30.41%, respectively, using the understory intercropping cultivation method. Fatty acid compositions were mainly identified as α-linolenic acid, linoleic acid, oleic acid, stearic acid, and palmitic acid, with significant content differences among different cultivation methods (P < 0.05). Functional component α-linolenic acid and total amounts of unsaturated fatty acids reached the maximum values of 46.85% and 65.23%, respectively, with high-altitude cultivation and understory intercropping cultivation. The seed yield traits, oil yield, and total amounts of unsaturated fatty acids were optimal with the understory intercropping cultivation method, whereas high-altitude cultivation was conducive to the accumulation of α-linolenic acid. Understory intercropping cultivation with appropriate altitude increases is recommended as a preponderant cultivation method for high-yield and high-quality seed oil harvesting for this crop.

Open access

Sofia Flores, Marlon Retana-Cordero, Paul R. Fisher, Rosanna Freyre, and Celina Gómez

The objectives were to 1) compare growth and yield of different ginger (Zingiber officinale) and turmeric (Curcuma longa) propagules grown under two photoperiods (Expt. 1); and 2) evaluate whether their growing season could be extended with night interruption lighting (NI) during the winter (Expt. 2). In Expt. 1, propagules included 1) micropropagated tissue culture (TC) transplants, 2) second-generation rhizomes harvested from TC transplants (2GR), and 3) seed rhizomes (R). Plants received natural short days (SDs) or NI providing a total photon flux density (TPFD) of 1.3 µmol·m−2·s−1. Providing NI increased number of new tillers or leaves per plant, rhizome yield (i.e., rhizome fresh weight), and dry mass partitioning to rhizomes in both species. There was no clear trend on SPAD index in response to photoperiod or propagative material. Although TC-derived plants produced more tillers or leaves per plant, 2GR ginger and R turmeric produced a higher rhizome yield. In Expt. 2, seed rhizomes of ginger and turmeric were grown under five treatments with different photoperiods and/or production periods: 1) 20 weeks with NI (20NI), 2) 24 weeks with NI (24NI), 3) 28 weeks with NI (28NI), 4) 14 weeks with NI + 10 weeks under natural SDs (24NISD), and 5) 14 weeks with NI + 14 weeks under natural SDs (28NISD). NI provided a TPFD of 4.5 µmol·m−2·s−1. Lengthening the production period and providing NI increased rhizome yield and crude fiber content in both species. SPAD index decreased when plants were exposed to natural SDs at the end of the production period (NISD treatments). Results demonstrate the potential to overcome winter dormancy of ginger and turmeric plants with NI, enabling higher rhizome yield under natural SDs.

Open access

Stephen B. Prentice and Tina M. Waliczek

The attention restoration theory suggests that directed attention is subject to fatigue, and the presence of nature and natural environments allows recovery from that fatigue, consequently improving cognitive function. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the mental processes of memory and reasoning were enhanced when exercised concurrently in a natural environment outdoors vs. an artificial environment such as an indoor classroom or lecture hall. Three hundred and eighty degree-seeking students at Texas State University were tested using modified forms of the Sentence Repetition Test and the California Verbal Learning Test to test verbal memory and a modified form of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-IV Matrix Reasoning Test to evaluate nonverbal reasoning/fluid intelligence. Half of the subjects (190) were tested in their classroom at the regularly scheduled class time or one located in the same building at a predetermined date and time. Half of the subjects (190) were tested in an outdoor garden classroom at a predetermined date and time. No significant difference was found to exist between in either the memory or reasoning scores of the two groups. However, comparisons of subjects in the same demographic categories produced one significant difference. Students classified as seniors (P = 0.035) who were tested in the natural environment performed significantly better on the Sentence Repetition Test compared with those tested in the artificial environment. Research generally supports the premise that exposure to nature or natural environments can have beneficial effects on physical and mental health and also improve cognitive function. Further studies should possibly include more than one meeting time and additional testing time for participants to sit and observe in the natural vs. artificial environment before testing.

Open access

Lisa Tang, Garima Singh, Megan Dewdney, and Tripti Vashisth

Under Florida conditions, sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) affected by Huanglongbing {HLB [Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas)]} frequently exhibits irregular flowering patterns, including off-season flowering and prolonged bloom period. Such patterns can increase the opportunity for temporal and spatial proliferation of pathogens that infect flower petals, including the fungal causal agent for postbloom fruit drop (PFD) Colletotrichum acutatum J.H. Simmonds. For the development of strategies to manipulate flowering, the effects of floral inhibitor gibberellic acid (GA3) sprayed monthly at full- and half-strength rates (49 and 25 g·ha−1, or 33 and 17 mg·L−1, respectively) with different regimens, starting from September and ending in November, December, or January, on the pattern of spring bloom were evaluated in field-grown HLB-affected ‘Valencia’ sweet orange at two locations in subsequent February through April for two separate years in this study. To further examine whether GA3 effects on flowering patterns vary in different cultivars, early-maturing ‘Navel’ sweet orange trees receiving no GA3 or full-strength GA3 monthly in September through January were included. Overall, for ‘Valencia’ sweet orange, monthly applications of GA3 at 49 g·ha−1 from September to December not only minimized the incidence of scattered emergence of flower buds and open flowers before the major bloom but also shortened the duration of flowering, compared with the untreated control trees. In addition, exogenous GA3 led to decreased leaf flowering locus t (FT) expression starting in December, as well as reduced expression of its downstream flower genes in buds during later months. When applied monthly from September through January at 49 g·ha−1, similar influences of exogenous GA3 on repressing flower bud formation and compressing bloom period were observed in ‘Navel’ sweet orange. These results suggest that by effectively manipulating flowering in HLB-affected sweet orange trees under the Florida climate conditions, exogenous GA3 may be used to reduce early sporadic flowering and thereby shorten the window of C. acutatum infection that causes loss in fruit production.

Open access

Gunbharpur Singh Gill and Juang Horng Chong

Management of sweetpotato whitefly (Bemisia tabaci), one of the most economically important pests of poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), relies heavily on neonicotinoid insecticides. Growers are seeking insecticide alternatives to neonicotinoids due to market demands. Although several systemic and translaminar insecticides have been suggested as alternatives to neonicotinoids, no published study has simultaneously compared their efficacies against sweetpotato whiteflies. This study compared the efficacies of 10 systemic and translaminar alternative insecticides with those of two systemic neonicotinoids, when all products were applied as foliar spray (twice at 14 d) or substrate drench (once) against sweetpotato whiteflies on poinsettia plants. Sweetpotato whitefly nymph and adult densities were examined 2 weeks before the first application (pretreatment), and weekly after the application for 8 weeks. Results showed that insecticides varied greatly in their efficacy, particularly against adults, and that spray application provided more effective suppression of nymphs than drench application. Spray and drench applications of imidacloprid and dinotefuran were consistently the most effective against sweetpotato whitefly nymphs and adults. Among the neonicotinoid alternatives, cyantraniliprole was the most effective insecticide in reducing sweetpotato whitefly nymph densities by both spray and drench application methods, with efficacy comparable to those of imidacloprid and dinotefuran. Although less effective than cyantraniliprole, foliar sprays of afidopyropen, chloratraniliprole, cyclaniliprole, flonicamid, flupyradifurone, pyrifluquinazon, spirotetramat, and sulfoxaflor + spinetoram were also effective against nymphs and could serve as partners in an insecticide rotation program.

Open access

Amit Bhasin, Joan Davenport, Scott Lukas, Qianwen Lu, Gwen Hoheisel, and Lisa W. DeVetter

Bloom to fruit maturity is a period of rapid growth and nitrogen (N) uptake in northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.). Sufficient plant-available N is critical during this time, and growers often accomplish this through fertilizer applications from bloom through fruit development. For organic production in northern climates like Washington State, postharvest applications of N fertilizer are not recommended for northern highbush blueberry because they may stimulate excessive vegetative growth, reduce floral bud set, and increase the risk of winter injury through delayed acclimation. However, early fruiting cultivars with the potential for an extended growing season after harvest may benefit from postharvest N applications because the additional N may promote shoot and root growth that could support fruit production in future years while still allowing plants to form floral buds and acclimate to winter temperatures. The objective of this study was to evaluate the potential impacts of postharvest organic N fertilizer applications on ‘Duke’, an early fruiting northern highbush blueberry cultivar. Specific objectives were to determine the effects of postharvest organic N fertilizer application on plant growth, yield, floral bud set, fruit quality, cold hardiness, tissue macronutrient concentrations, and select soil properties. Four treatments varying in the timing of N application were evaluated in a commercial ‘Duke’ field in eastern Washington using a single fertilizer rate of 130 kg⋅ha−1 N from 2018 to 2020. The organic fertilizer N source was a liquid fertilizer derived from digested plant materials. The experimental design was a randomized complete block design with four replications and treatments included the following: control (100% of N applied preharvest); 80/20 (80% preharvest, 20% postharvest); 70/30 (70% preharvest, 30% postharvest); and 60/40 (60% preharvest, 40% postharvest). Although the year influenced measured variables, including yield, floral bud set, fruit quality, tissue nutrients, and soil properties, few treatment effects were observed across the 3-year study. Cold hardiness was only impacted once (8 Feb. 2020), and floral buds were overall hardy to extreme minimum winter temperatures for the region. This project showed that applying postharvest organic N as a liquid fertilizer had no negative consequences on productivity metrics for an early fruiting blueberry cultivar grown in a region with an extended growing season, thus providing growers with more flexibility when timing their fertilizer applications. Results may differ for other fertilizer sources, and further monitoring of soil NO3-N accumulation should be conducted to gain a better understanding of its dynamics and the potential for risks.