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For many growers, established and newcomers, the determination of the optimal light spectrum for growing crops can be challenging and highly dependent on crop species and variety. With the increased popularity of LED lighting, the capability to fine-tune a light spectrum has never been greater. Here, we break down the fundamental roles of the major spectral regions (ultraviolet, blue, green, red, and far-red) and explain the effect on plant growth, yield, and crop quality (i.e., greenness, coloration, flavor) when applied in isolation or combination. The first part of this review examines plant responses to light stimuli and the potential benefits for growers. We also discuss how LED lighting can be used to manipulate plant growth and development to improve crop productivity and/or value. We suggest some basic LED light “recipes” that could be used by growers to deliver specific growth effects and provide an easy-to-use visual reference guide. The second part of this review explores the impact of light treatments on crop productivity. Increased productivity is weighed against the ongoing costs associated with various light treatments, modeled in the context of UK electricity pricing.
Until recently, most clonal cannabis (Cannabis sativa) has been propagated using fluorescent lights. Transitioning to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) may be a viable alternative to fluorescent lighting, enabling cultivators to provide specific spectrum treatments to enhance rooting while also saving energy. Vegetative stem cuttings of ‘Gelato-27’, ‘Grace’, and ‘Meridian’ were rooted for 15 days under various combinations of blue (B), red (R), ultraviolet-A (UVA) LEDs, phosphor-converted white (W) LEDs, and a fluorescent (F) control treatment, each with a canopy-level photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) of 200 µmol·m−2·s−1 and 16-hour photoperiod. The photon flux ratios of blue (B; 400–500 nm) and red (R; 600–700 nm) narrowband LED treatment combinations were (1) BR, fixed spectrum of B15:R85; (2) B, B75:R25 on day 0–2 followed by B15:R85 on day 2–14; (3) B+UVA, B75:R25 on day 0–2 followed by B15:R85 on day 2–14 plus 15 µmol·m−2·s−1 of UVA on day 7–14; (4) B50, B15:R85 on day 0–7 followed by B50:R50 on day 7–14. The W and F treatments both had static spectra. After the propagation period (i.e., plug stage), a portion of the cuttings under each treatment × cultivar combination were destructively harvested and the remainder were transplanted and grown vegetatively for an additional 21 days (i.e., transplant stage) under a PPFD of ≈275 µmol·m−2·s−1 from ceramic metal halide fixtures and then destructively harvested. Although there were no spectrum treatment effects on the percentage of cuttings that rooted, root index values were higher in cuttings grown under B+UVA vs. F. Further, relative root dry weights of plugs from the B, B+UVA, B50, and F treatments were higher than the W treatment. At the end of the plug stage, there were no spectrum treatment effects on the chlorophyll content index, cuttings grown under the B treatment had thicker stems compared with BR and W treatments, and cuttings grown under the F treatment exhibited the lowest percentage of new aboveground growth. None of the aforementioned spectrum treatment effects from the propagation stage persisted post-transplant. The use of LEDs is a promising, energy-efficient alternative to fluorescent lighting for cannabis propagation and B-enhanced spectrum treatments appear to enhance the rooting performance of clonal cannabis cuttings.
‘Shiranui’ is a mandarin (Citrus reticulata var. austera) that is highly treasured for its unique and delicious flavor, and obtains premium prices in the marketplace. Although flavorful, ‘Shiranui’ tends to develop off-flavor during storage. In this study we examined the use of different storage wax (SW) and pack wax (PW) combinations to determine whether flavor in ‘Shiranui’ can be improved after storage by adjusting wax coating protocols. In the initial test, either SW or no wax was applied after harvest, and each was followed by an application of SW or one of two types of PW after 1 day, 3 weeks, or 7 weeks of storage and then held 1 week at either 7 or 20 °C. Results indicate that the initial wax was not an important factor but the use of SW instead of either type of PW as the final coating led to greater internal oxygen levels in the fruit and less off-flavor formation. The lessening of off-flavor by SW was significant only after 20 °C of storage, when off-flavor was greatest. Greater weight loss accompanied the use of SW as the final coating. In a second test, SW with greater solids concentrations (5%, 10%, and 15%) were evaluated to attempt to reduce weight loss, but this led to greater development of off-flavor and loss in acceptability than observed when using SW with 1% solids in test 1. ‘Shiranui’ is prone to developing off-flavor in storage, but this may be mitigated, at least in part, by using SW as the final wax rather than PW.
Nutrient use on United States golf courses increases management costs and has the potential to influence ecosystems. Therefore, it is critical to assess nutrient use and management practices to develop and teach best management practices. The objectives of this survey were to measure nutrient use and management practices on United States golf courses in 2021, and to determine if changes occurred since 2006. A survey was developed and distributed via e-mail to 14,033 United States golf facilities, with 1444 responding. From 2006 to 2021, the total projected nitrogen (N), available phosphorus (P2O5), and soluble potash (K2O) applied declined by 41%, 59%, and 54%, to 54,376, 13,761, and 41,386 tons, respectively. These reductions were attributed to course closures, reduced fertilized acres, reduced application rates, and nutrient use restrictions. The percentage of facilities that did not apply P2O5 increased to 21%, which is likely a result of P2O5 application restrictions. Soil testing was associated with greater application rates of N, P2O5, and K2O. Returning clippings, using precision fertilizer applications, reducing turfgrass acreage, and considering N release from soil organic matter were associated with reduced application rates of P2O5. Golf course superintendents have contributed to nationwide reductions in N, P2O5, and K2O, as evidenced by the reduction in fertilized acres and the reduction in nutrient use rates from 2006 to 2021.
To improve plant quality and fertilizing efficiency, we conducted a study to elucidate the effects of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) fertilizers on the growth, nutrient accumulation, and quality of Lagerstroemia indica plants grown in containers and determine the optimal fertilization levels. Both single-factor and multifactor experiments involving N, P, K fertilizers were designed. Integrated with the plant growth, physiological traits, nutrient levels, and other indices, we used a membership function analysis to comprehensively evaluate plant quality. During the single-factor experiments, the best levels of the single fertilizers applied were 8 g/plant N, 2 g/plant P, and 4 g/plant K. We also found that, within a certain range, N, P, and K fertilizers promoted vegetative growth, increased the chlorophyll, soluble sugar, and soluble protein concentrations, and enhanced nutrient accumulation of L. indica. To avoid the wasting of fertilizers and promote plant quality, the optimal application levels were calculated using a regression analysis. The suggested N, P, and K applications were 6.89 g/plant, 1.97 g/plant, and 3.33 g/plant, respectively. Our results revealed that N, P, and K effect the performance of L. indica container plants, which paves the way for developing reliable and precise fertilizing techniques for growing L. indica.
Long-term cryopreservation of germplasm is of great importance to maintaining genetic resources. A cryopreservation technology system has not yet been established for Eriobotrya, an important fruit tree in the Rosaceae. In this study, Eriobotrya plants were used as test materials for the following purposes: to study different types of vitrification solution, compare different methods involving programmed cooling vitrification and rapid freezing vitrification; and evaluate the effects of vitrification solution loading time, low-temperature acclimation culture, dark culture, and cryoprotectant use in preculture medium for ultra-low-temperature preservation of Eriobotrya germplasm resources. Plant vitrification solution 1 had the best comprehensive effect on different vitrification solution tests. The programmed cooling and vitrification method yielded a certain survival rate with different vitrification solutions and materials, but the survival rate under the rapid freezing method was 0%. The longer the vitrification solution was loaded, the higher the survival rate. The most suitable time for dark culture of Eriobotrya plants after cryopreservation was 20 days. The preculture medium supplemented with 5% dimethyl sulfoxide resulted in significantly higher preservation than the control medium, and the optimal sucrose concentration was 0.3 mol⋅L−1. A stable, high-survival, and novel cryopreservation procedure for loquat plants was established. The operating procedures are described in a procedural and standardized manner. These findings provide a theoretical basis for research of the cryopreservation of germplasm resources of Eriobotrya plants.
Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) cultivars used for flower, fiber, or seed production are usually considered short-day plants and flower in response to photoperiod. However, some cultivars of hemp are day-neutral, where flower induction may be independent of daylength. Day-neutral cultivars of hemp were planted before recommended dates and studied in field experiments conducted in Watkinsville, GA, in Spring 2020 and 2021. Day-neutral cultivars (Pipeline and Maverick) and photoperiod-sensitive cultivars (Von and Whitehouse Cherry) were planted on 9 and 25 Apr and 11 and 28 May to determine the impact of planting date on hemp flower yield and quality. Planting date did not impact yield of the photoperiod-sensitive cultivars, but yields of day-neutral cultivars decreased as planting date progressed. Average yields of photoperiod-sensitive plants were greater than the day-neutral cultivars in both study years. Cannabinoid concentrations in flowers were affected by cultivar and study year but were not impacted by planting date. Cannabidiol was the most prevalent cannabinoid in flower tissue with concentrations ranging from 6.5% to 10.5%. Flower biomass yields suggest that the spring hemp planting season may be extended using day-neutral cultivars in the southeastern United States.
Zonal management of cereal–legume cover crop mixtures may help address weed and nitrogen management challenges common in organic reduced tillage systems. During a field study conducted over 3 years in Michigan, we evaluated the effects of cover crop management, tillage, and supplemental mulch on organically produced acorn squash (Cucurbita pepo). During the fall season before squash production, rye (Secale cereale L.) and vetch (Vicia villosa Roth) cover crop mixtures were sown in two distinct spatial arrangements: a “mixed planting,” in which seeds were sown in the same rows, and a “zonal planting,” in which vetch was planted only in the in-row zone and rye was planted only in the between-row zone of the subsequent squash crop. During the following spring season, cover crops were mowed, and four tillage and cover crop management combinations were established: full-width tillage with the mixed planting of rye–vetch (full-till mixed); strip-till with the same mixed planting (strip-till mixed); strip-till with the rye–vetch zonal planting (strip-till zonal); and strip-till with the zonal planting and additional rye mulch added between crop rows immediately after crop establishment (strip-till zonal plus rye). The strip-till mixed treatment resulted in yields equivalent to those of the full-till mixed treatment despite lower available nitrogen and greater early weed competition in some cases. Within strip-till treatments, zonal planting of rye–vetch provided no benefits relative to full-width planting (treatment 2 vs 3) and resulted in lower total cover crop biomass, a higher density of escaped weeds, and lower squash yields during 1 of 3 years. Supplemental rye mulch improved weed suppression and yields in strip-till zonal treatments and resulted in yields equivalent to those of the full-till mixed treatment in all years, but it provided no benefits relative to strip-till mixed. Our results demonstrate that strip-till organic squash production can produce yields equivalent to full-till production in Northern climates, but that zonal planting and supplemental mulch have limited benefits for addressing ongoing weed and nitrogen management challenges. Growers must weigh costs associated with these challenges against potential benefits for soil and pest regulating ecosystem services before adopting these agricultural conservation practices.