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Interest in home food preservation has grown, especially among those who grow their own produce. Extension Master Gardeners (EMGs) are trained to teach consumers how to produce fruits, vegetables, and herbs, but little is known about how often they are asked questions about how to preserve them or their ability to answer such questions. This study used an online survey to ask EMGs across Texas about their food preservation practices and the extent to which they are asked questions about home food preservation. We also assessed their perceived confidence in answering those questions using a 5-point Likert scale (1 = not confident at all; 5 = very confident). Most (91%) of the 1875 EMGs who responded reported preserving food using one or more methods. More than half (n = 1034; 55%) had been asked questions about home food preservation, but their level of confidence in answering those questions ranged from a high of 3.1 ± 1.3 (mean ± SD) for freezing fruits and vegetables to a low of 1.6 ± 1.1 for pressure canning low-acid foods. Interest in learning more about home food preservation was high, especially regarding safe practices and recipes, drying herbs, freezing fruits and vegetables, and canning salsa and tomato products. The results suggest that EMG training programs could benefit from including basic information about home food preservation, especially sources of reliable information and recipes.

Open Access

The consumption of salad mixes has increased because of their convenience and nutritional value, resulting in significant sales increases during the past decade. Conversely, the uses of pest-control chemicals, long-distance transportation of salad mixes, and plastic packaging have raised environmental concerns among “green consumers.” Because proenvironmental products are becoming more widespread, this study delved into market segments of salad mix consumers based on their preferences for proenvironmental labels. Data for this study were collected via a 2020 web-based survey of 2100 salad mix consumers in the United States. We performed a comprehensive two-stage cluster analysis that integrated both hierarchical and partitioning methods. This analysis was based on consumers’ preferences and evaluations of production (low energy use, low fertilizer use, low greenhouse gas emissions, low water use, and pollinator-friendly) and marketing-related (biodegradable packaging, low carbon footprint, and low food miles) proenvironmental labels. Three segments were identified. We used ordered probit regression to assess the impact of consumer demographic characteristics, market preferences, and environmental perceptions on cluster membership. The deep-rooted segment, which represented 36% of the sample, highly valued all proenvironmental labels related to salad mixes and had a particular preference for labels that included low fertilizer use, pollinator-friendly production methods, and low greenhouse gas emissions. The indecisive segment comprised 40% of the sample and moderately valued all proenvironmental labels; this group mainly comprised individuals with lower income levels and those living in rural areas. The skeptic segment represented 23% of the sample and valued environmental labels less than the deep-rooted and indecisive segments did; additionally, they reported the lowest consumption of salad mixes. These findings can help retailers and policymakers communicate information about proenvironmental labels more effectively to each segment of salad mix consumers.

Open Access

Citizen science is a participatory research method that enlists community members as scientists to collect data at a scale that would not be possible for researchers on their own and in research contexts that are difficult for researchers to reach. Although the contribution of citizen science to scientific data collection is well-known, a new area of research investigates the impact that citizen science programs have on the citizen scientists. Gardening can support healthy dietary patterns, food access, and food system resilience in urban communities. Leveraging home gardening can be a good way for cooperative extension and community groups to support the health and wellbeing of their community members. However, to reap the health and community benefits of gardening, individuals need to adopt the behavior of gardening. In this study, researchers from University of Florida conducted a home gardening citizen science program between Mar 2022 and Jul 2022 for the purpose of assessing whether participating in a citizen science home gardening program increases the likelihood of participants’ future home gardening. Researchers used a matched pretest and posttest evaluation design to assess whether participation in this program affected the citizen scientists’ (n = 112) beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions of home gardening. Citizen science program participants improved their attitudes and beliefs about home gardening but had limited improvement in their self-efficacy about home gardening after participation in the program. A 1-year follow-up survey found that program participants had adopted new gardening behaviors and reported benefits of participating in the program beyond gardening. These results highlight the value of citizen science to facilitate intentions to home garden and show the importance of information and program support to ensure the success of program participants.

Open Access

Bermudagrass (Cynodon spp.) is a drought-resistant warm-season turfgrass adapted to the southern and transitional zones in the United States. Multiple hybrid cultivars have been developed and released for use as turfgrass, and others are still undergoing development. Increasing genetic diversity of commercial cultivars is vital to stress tolerance. A DNA profiling study of 21 experimental selections from the Oklahoma State University turfgrass breeding program and 11 cultivars was conducted using 51 simple sequence repeat primer pairs across the bermudagrass genome. A pairwise genetic relationship analysis of the genotypes using 352 polymorphic bands showed genetic similarity coefficients ranging from 0.59 to 0.89. The average pairwise population differentiation values were 0.012 for the 11 cultivars and 0.169 for the 21 selections. A cluster analysis using the unweighted paired group with the arithmetic average method grouped the entries into six clusters. A correlation analysis identified different levels of pairwise genetic relationships among the entries that largely reflected parental relationship. Directional breeding and selection for cold hardiness or drought resistance created progeny that had distinct genetic diversity in the tested bermudagrasses. It is evident that an increase in genetic diversity of the existing cultivar pool with the release of one or more experimental selections for commercial use will strengthen and improve bermudagrass systems.

Open Access

Irrigation decision support systems evolving in the domestic temperate tree fruit production industry incorporate measures of soil moisture status, which diverges from classic physiological indicators of edaphic stress. This study used an autonomous sensor-based irrigation system to impose a water deficit (soil matric potential targets of –25, –40, –60, and –80 kPa) on ‘Autumn Gala’, ‘CrimsonCrisp’, and ‘Golden Delicious’ apple (Malus domestica) cultivars grafted to ‘Budagovsky 9’ rootstock in the greenhouse (n = 60). It was hypothesized that relationships between physiological plant function, assessed via infrared gas exchange and chlorophyll fluorescence, and the soil matric potential may be used to advance emerging irrigation decision support systems. Complications arising from defoliation by day 11 at –60 and –80 kPa indicate the generation of substrate-specific soil–water relationships in research applications of autonomous sensor-based irrigation systems. ‘Autumn Gala’ carbon assimilation rates at –80 kPa declined from day 0 to day 8 (9.93 and 5.86 μmol⋅m–2⋅s–1 carbon dioxide), whereas the transpiration rate was maintained, potentially reducing observed defoliation as other cultivars increased transpiration to maintain carbon assimilation. Correlation matrices revealed Pearson’s r ≤ |0.43| for all physiological metrics considered with soil matric potential. Nevertheless, exploratory regression analysis on predawn leaf water potential, carbon assimilation, transpiration, stomatal conductance, and nonphotochemical quenching exposed speculatively useful data and data shapes that warrant additional study. Nonlinear piecewise regression suggested soil matric potential may useful as a predictor for the rate of change in predawn leaf water potential upon exposure to a water deficit. The critical point bridging the linear spans, –30.6 kPa, could be useful for incorporating in emerging irrigation decision support systems.

Open Access

Black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens; BSFL) composting is biotechnology used for organic waste management and an alternative to traditional composting. We designed a two-phase experiment to evaluate the effect of BSFL composting on the emergence of the following six weed species: barnyardgrass (Echinochloa crus-galli), common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), giant foxtail (Setaria faberi), ivyleaf morningglory (Ipomoea hederacea), redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus), and velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti). The first experiment phase was in the laboratory (laboratory composting phase), which consisted of 100 seeds of each weed species subjected to five composting treatments [two controls (nontreated and standard Gainesville diet alone) and three types of substrates (standard Gainesville diet, vegetable waste, food waste) + BSFL]. Live pupa weighed 179 mg with the standard Gainesville diet + BSFL and 205 mg with the food waste diet + BSFL. Dry pupa weighed 68 mg and 70 mg, respectively. The BSFL in the vegetable waste + BSFL treatment did not pupate. During the second experiment phase, the composting treatments were placed in a greenhouse to evaluate weed emergence. Emergence in the nontreated control was 62% for barnyardgrass, 38% for common ragweed, 26% for giant foxtail, 66% for ivyleaf morningglory, 3% for redroot pigweed, and 69% for velvetleaf. Compared with the nontreated control, all treatments with BSFL reduced the emergence of each weed species to ≤1%, except for velvetleaf. This study suggests that BSFL composting may effectively reduce weed seed emergence of many weed species and could be a safe alternative to conventional composting processes to minimize weed pressure in compost. However, efficacy may vary by weed species and may be dependent on seed characteristics, such as an impermeable seedcoat.

Open Access

New Mexico green pod-type chile (Capsicum annuum) has significant importance as a vegetable crop. The cultivation and trade of New Mexico pod-type green chile are culturally significant within New Mexico (USA) and contribute to the state’s economy by providing income and employment to farmers and through supporting industries. However, because of the high cost and limited availability of labor, New Mexico pod-type green chile acreage has declined. Traditionally, New Mexico pod-type green chile is hand-harvested when the fruit are full-size but physiologically immature. To preserve and expand the production of New Mexico pod-type green chile, the adoption of mechanical harvest technologies is essential. In 2015 and 2016, experiments were conducted at New Mexico State University’s Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center (Los Lunas, NM, USA) to examine the effects of increased planting density on New Mexico pod-type green chile fruit size, plant architecture, and mechanical harvest efficiency. Two commercial New Mexico pod-type green chile cultivars, NuMex Joe E. Parker and AZ-1904, were direct-seeded on 17 Apr 2015 and 14 Apr 2016. On 11 Jun 2015 and 14 Jun 2016, three plant density treatments were implemented at 39,000 (high), 23,000 (medium), and 15,000 (standard) plants/acre. Before harvest, plant measurements, including height, width, height to first bifurcation, stem diameter, and number of lateral basal branches, were obtained. Plots were mechanically harvested using an inclined double helix harvester, and harvested material was sorted into marketable green fruit, machine-broken fruit, and nonpod plant material. Fruit measurements, including fruit weight, width, length, pericarp thickness, and number of locules, were obtained. Both cultivars exhibited a 9% increase in height to bifurcation accompanied by fewer basal branches grown at high density. Plant density did not significantly affect the fruit length, width, number of locules, and pericarp thickness. Plants grown at high density had an increased percentage of marketable fruit, with ‘NuMex Joe E. Parker’ having a higher percentage of marketable green fruit compared to ‘AZ-1904’. The results demonstrated that an increase in planting density in production fields to 39,000 plants/acre coupled with cultivar selection enhanced efficiency in a mechanical harvest system.

Open Access

With the climate continuing to change, specialty crop growers are particularly at risk for economic loss caused by erratic weather conditions, excess heat and rain, and frost damage. Although tolerant to cold, lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a major horticultural crop at risk for exposure to freezing temperatures in late fall or early spring in the Midwest. Exogenous applications of salicylic acid, ascorbic acid, and calcium chloride have been shown to improve abiotic stress in plants, particularly with freezing tolerance. This research investigated the effects of the exogenous application of salicylic acid, ascorbic acid, and calcium chloride, in varying concentrations, on field-grown lettuce. The study was conducted at the Iowa State University Horticulture Research Station, Ames, IA, USA. Weekly applications of salicylic acid (0.5 and 1.0 mM), ascorbic acid (0.5 and 1.0 mM), and calcium chloride (10 and 20 mM) were applied until plants were a marketable size. A control treatment (no spray) was also included. Data regarding plant size, yield, leaf area, leaf number, plant dry weight, plant nutrient analysis, and freeze tolerance were collected. Freeze tolerance assessments were conducted through laboratory-simulated freeze events and the evaluation of natural in-field freeze events. Freeze injury was quantified through the electrolyte leakage method. Marketable weights in 2020 and 2021 were statistically similar, except for 1.0 mM salicylic acid in 2020, which showed a significantly lower marketable weight and head diameter. Trends during both years showed that stress protectant applications had the most effective freeze protection at −12 °C in laboratory-simulated freeze events. Calcium chloride at 20 mM had the highest protection at −12 °C, with 13.3% and 24.0% less injury compared with the control in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Salicylic acid 1.0 mM at −12 °C had 4.7% and 23.7% less injury compared with control during these two years, respectively. Ascorbic acid 1.0 mM at −12 °C also showed 6.8% and 9.5% less injury than the control in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Similar trends were observed after in-field freezing events, with 20 mM calcium chloride providing the highest protection against frost in 2020 and 2021. These findings advance the understanding of the capabilities of stress protectants on lettuce as chemical primers after freezing events. This research highlights the benefits of ascorbic acid, salicylic acid, and calcium chloride as stress protectants and encourages future research and further exploration of concentrations, methods of application, and timing of application of products.

Open Access