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The production of Beit Alpha cucumber (Cucumis sativus) in hydroponic systems has increased in popularity since the early 2000s, along with the use of high-wire trellising systems. Some farmers claim the high-wire trellising systems, also known as drop-and-lean trellising, result in a more consistent weekly yield than umbrella or modified-umbrella systems. This study compared the high-wire and modified-umbrella trellising systems both using a 7 ft top wire and 4 plants/m2 plant density. The fruit weight and number of fruit per plant were significantly greater using the modified-umbrella trellising system, with the number of fruit being about twice as high as the high-wire trellising system. Consistency of yields was also measured for both systems and found to peak at ∼5 to 7 weeks after the start of harvest using both trellising systems. However, peak yields using the modified-umbrella trellising system followed a quadratic curve, implying that the high-wire trellising system results in more consistent yields. Differences in yield and harvest consistency were likely related to light penetration of the plant canopy. Growers using low-profile greenhouses can expect lower yields and more consistent harvests using the high-wire trellising system. Yields may be improved using a higher plant density. Alternatively, succession planting on a 5- to 7-week interval can improve harvest consistency using a modified-umbrella trellising system.

Open Access

With an increase in social awareness of environmental degradation and the need to conserve resources while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, consumers have become increasingly concerned about the environmental standards of the industries from which they purchase products. This has motivated industries to restructure their business model to one that is more environmentally sustainable. Research of consumers’ floral purchasing habits based on geographic regions found that these habits varied depending on the region where they lived. The main purpose of this study was to investigate US consumers’ perceptions and willingness to pay as they relate to retail floral providers’ environmentally sustainable practices based on the geographical region where the consumer lives within the United States. The results indicated differences in the way respondents answered questions based on the geographical region where they live. However, regardless of the US region where the respondents live, from the list of sustainable attributes covered in this study, respondents indicated the use of locally sourced flowers and composting of floral waste as the two sustainable attributes with the most perceived value to consumers. The findings of this study indicate that floral providers that have incorporated any type of sustainable attribute into their businesses should be promoting this to the public. Floral providers located in the West and Northeast regions of the United States should especially consider emphasizing sustainable attributes within their business because consumers in these regions indicated that they were most willing to pay premiums for sustainable practices. Additionally, floral providers in the West should consider sourcing and promoting the use of fair-trade materials to their customers.

Open Access

Many species of herbaceous perennials now have numerous cultivars, with growth habits and flower colors unique to each cultivar. Vegetative propagation is required so that resulting plants are genetically identical to the parent plant. Although many cultivars are selected for precocious and vigorous flowering, it is often difficult to collect adequate vegetative cuttings from such cultivars for commercial production because juvenile (vegetative) growth is preferred for high-quality cuttings. Cuttings that are reproductive (with flower buds or flowers) can have reduced or delayed rooting and increased occurrences of fungal pathogens (especially Botrytis species), resulting in lack of crop uniformity. We sought to answer the question, can growing stock plants of herbaceous perennials under defined photoperiods extend the length of the vegetative period and enhance the rooting of cuttings harvested from these stock plants? In this study, stock plants of ‘P009S’ twinspur (Diascia integerrima), ‘Furman's Red’ sage (Salvia greggii), and ‘Wild Thing’ sage (Salvia greggii) were grown under ambient, 12-hour light, 10-hour light, and 8-hour light to determine if a particular photoperiod could be used to suppress reproductive growth by promoting vegetative growth, thereby enhancing cutting rooting success. Effects of photoperiod treatments varied among the plant cultivars studied. Plants grown under 8-hour photoperiod had longer duration of vegetative growth, smaller growth rates, and lower dry weights when compared with plants grown under 12-hour or 10-hour photoperiod. Plants grown under 12-hour photoperiod had shorter duration of vegetative growth, larger growth rates, and higher dry weights when compared with plants grown under 10-hour and 8-hour photoperiods. The probability of rooting of cuttings harvested from stock plants of ‘P009S’ twinspur, ‘Furman’s Red’ sage, and ‘Wild Thing’ sage grown under 12-hour and 10-hour photoperiods was greater when compared with cuttings harvested from stock plants grown under 8 h photoperiod.

Open Access

This study investigated the activity of upper- and lower-extremity muscles for 15 agricultural tasks of agro-healing. For the development of an agro-healing program using farm resource types, 15 selected agro-healing activities (namely, digging, raking, fertilizing, planting transplants, tying plants to stakes, watering, harvesting, washing, cutting, cooking, collecting natural objects, decorating natural objects, interacting with dogs, walking dogs, and feeding fish) were extracted and performed in a total of 21 adults (average age: 42.29 ± 14.76 years) at D Care Farm in Cheongju, Korea, from June to July 2022. Before these activities, informed consent was obtained from participants and muscle activity of the upper and lower extremities was measured. Muscle activation during activity performance was measured using electromyography (EMG), and the rating of perceived exertion for each activity was investigated. Bipolar surface EMG electrodes were attached at 16 locations on the left and right upper-extremity muscles (anterior deltoid, biceps brachialis, brachioradialis, and flexor carpi ulnaris) and lower-extremity muscles (vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, biceps femoris, and gastrocnemius). The results indicated that the activity of the lower-extremity muscles was higher than that of the upper-extremity muscles during 15 agricultural activities. During plant-mediated activity and animal-assisted activities, the rate of right muscle use was higher than that of left muscle use among the upper-extremity muscles, whereas the rate of right and left muscle use showed a similar tendency among the lower-extremity muscles. During plant-mediated activities, agricultural activities involving the use of heavy tools highly activated the right forearm muscle (flexor carpi ulnaris), whereas holding and interacting with animals highly activated the left forearm muscles (biceps brachialis, brachioradialis, and flexor carpi ulnaris). It is expected that the EMG data obtained in this study can be used as basic biomechanical data when designing an agro-healing program to improve physical function.

Open Access

Bacterial wilt of cucurbits, caused by Erwinia tracheiphila, is spread by spotted (Diabrotica undeimpunctata howardi) and striped (Acalymma vittatum) cucumber beetles and results in major losses for US cucurbit (Cucurbitaceae spp.) growers. Organic growers of muskmelon (Cucumis melo) lack reliable control measures against bacterial wilt. During previous field trials in Iowa, USA, a system called mesotunnels, which are 3.5-ft-tall barriers covered with a nylon mesh insect netting, resulted in a higher marketable yield of organic ‘Athena’ muskmelon than low tunnels or noncovered plots. However, satisfactory pollination and weed control are challenging in mesotunnels because the netting covers the crop for most or all of the growing season, and economic feasibility of these systems has not been determined. Consequently, two field trials conducted in Iowa from 2020 to 2022 evaluated strategies to ensure pollination under mesotunnels in commercial-scale plots, assess effectiveness of teff (Eragrostis tef) as a living mulch for weed control in mesotunnel systems, and compare the profitability of the treatment options for organic ‘Athena’ muskmelon. The treatments used during the pollination trial were as follows: full season, in which mesotunnels remained sealed all season and bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) were added at the start of bloom for pollination; open ends, wherein both ends of the tunnels were opened at the start of bloom then reclosed 2 weeks later; and on-off-on, in which nets were removed at the start of bloom and then reinstalled 2 weeks later. The full-season treatment had significantly higher marketable yield than the other treatments in two of three trial years. Plants with the full season and open ends treatments had a bacterial wilt incidence <2.5% across all three years and similar numbers of cucumber beetles, whereas plants with the on-off-on treatment had an average bacterial wilt incidence of 11.0% and significantly more cucumber beetles. The open ends treatment had fewer bee visits to ‘Athena’ muskmelon flowers than the other treatments. In the 2-year (2021–22) weed management trial, treatments applied to the furrow between plastic-mulched rows were as follows: landscape fabric; teff seeded at 4 lb/acre and mowed 3 weeks after seeding; teff seeded at 4 lb/acre and not mowed; a control with bare ground where weeds were mowed 3 weeks after transplanting; and a bare ground control with no mowing. The landscape fabric and mowed teff treatments had statistically similar marketable yield, and mowing appeared to minimize yield losses compared with nonmowed treatments. The landscape fabric had no weeds, followed by mowed teff, mowed bare ground, and nonmowed teff. Nonmowed bare ground had the highest weed biomass. The partial budget and cost-efficiency ratio analysis indicated that the full-season treatment was the most cost-efficient pollination option for mesotunnel systems. An economic analysis of the weed management strategies showed that using teff as a living mulch in the furrows between organic ‘Athena’ muskmelon rows, coupled with timely mowing to suppress its growth, can generate revenue comparable to that of landscape fabric. Our findings suggest that organic ‘Athena’ muskmelon growers in Iowa may gain the greatest yield and soil quality benefits when mesotunnels are kept closed for the entire season, bumble bees are used for pollination, and teff (mowed 3 weeks after seeding) is used to control weeds in the furrows. Further trials integrating these pollination and weed management strategies would help validate a comprehensive approach to organic ‘Athena’ muskmelon production under mesotunnels.

Open Access

Traditional olive (Olea europaea) orchards have been grown for thousands of years and still occupy most of the world’s cultivated olive areas. To compete with olive oil produced in the higher-yielding intensive orchards, the oil from traditional orchards must be of high quality. We evaluated oil quality—potential and actual (under commercial conditions)—and tested the stages in the production chain that are likely to reduce oil quality in the traditional sector in the Middle East region. Our findings show a clear negative impact of growers’ traditional practices on both the chemical and sensory characteristics of olive oil. The oil originating from the commercial process had higher free fatty acid and lower polyphenol and carotenoid contents, lower stability, lower pungency, lower fruitiness, lower bitterness, and a higher prevalence of organoleptic defects than oil that originated from fruit picked from the same trees during the experimental procedure. The current common harvesting technique of pole beating significantly increased fruit injury and fruit with mold, leading to a reduction in oil polyphenols and an increase in free fatty acid levels compared with those resulting from manual picking. In addition, after harvest, storing the fruit for more than 48 hours in plastic bags dramatically reduced the oil quality. The traditional olive orchard could be a source of high-quality extra virgin olive oil. However, fruit handling—from the trees until the end of the oil extraction process—is performed incorrectly, thus adversely affecting the oil quality.

Open Access

Previous studies have demonstrated the beneficial impact of plants on the overall well-being of elderly individuals. However, there remains a gap in our understanding which specific plant species have a notable influence on the physical and mental health of the elderly population. Among the various woody ornamental plants used worldwide, crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) holds a growing significance in the natural environment. This study aimed to investigate the physiological parameters (such as blood pressure, heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, and fingertip pulse) as well as psychological aspects (measured using positive and negative affect schedule scores and smile face scale) associated with crape myrtle observation activities. The finding revealed the following key points: 1) engaging in crape myrtle observation activities significantly enhanced the physical and mental well-being of elderly participants; 2) the impact of observing crape myrtle flowers differed notably from that of observing its leaves, with flower observation having a more positive effect on the physical and mental health of elderly individuals; and 3) the natural environment was found to exert an influence on the physical and mental health of elderly individuals through visual stimulation. Following the observation of crape myrtle, there was a significant decrease in the physiological indices of elderly individuals. Our findings offer valuable insights into the therapeutic benefits of crape myrtle observation activities and contributing evidence-based recommendations for future landscape design aimed at enhancing well-being.

Open Access

Vegetable grafting can mitigate the negative effects of drought on crop production. Dry farming, which is the production of crops without irrigation during a dry growing season, can result in lower yields, smaller fruit, and a higher incidence of blossom-end rot (BER), which is a physiological disorder associated with drought stress. To determine the effects of grafting on yield and fruit quality of dry-farmed tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), three years of trials were conducted using different scion–rootstock combinations and ungrafted controls. In 2020, grafting onto rootstocks ‘DRO141TX’ and ‘Fortamino’ resulted in greater total yield and average fruit weight and a lower BER incidence for dry-farmed tomato than grafting onto the rootstock ‘Shincheonggang’ or using ungrafted plants. In 2021, grafting onto the rootstock ‘DRO141TX’ again increased yields and average fruit weight and decreased BER incidence when compared with ungrafted plants (‘Fortamino’ was not tested). Interactions were detected between different scion–rootstock combinations in terms of the degree of reduction of necrotic BER (BER resulting in a large, sunken, grey or black spot, making the fruit unmarketable) when grafted onto ‘DRO141TX’, with the scion ‘Azoychka’ having a 69% reduction in necrotic BER and the scion ‘Astrakhanskie’ having a 93% reduction in necrotic BER. In 2022, an interaction was detected between the rootstocks and scions in terms of their effect on large fruit (>0.33 lb) yield, with ‘BHN 871’ grafted onto ‘Fortamino’ producing the highest yields of large fruit and ‘Big Beef’ grafted onto ‘Fortamino’ producing the lowest yields. Overall, grafting onto the rootstocks ‘DRO141TX’ or ‘Fortamino’ improved diverse dry-farmed tomato outcomes in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, USA.

Open Access

In several regions of the United States, waste and “tag” wool are readily available, inexpensive, and considered low-quality because of weed seed contamination and stains from defecation. Because of an overabundance of waste and tag wool, some are landfilled. Previous research has indicated that wool or hair incorporated in potted plants can improve the water-holding capacity of the soil and act as a slow-release fertilizer. Furthermore, compost trials have demonstrated that wool produces a high-quality compost product. This study aimed to evaluate the market potential of wool-based compost to determine its commercial viability. To address this, we conducted in-depth interviews with lead user gardeners (n = 10) who used 1 yard of wool-based compost in their gardens over the course of 10 weeks and distributed a quantitative survey instrument to both lead users and general gardeners recruited from garden centers, nurseries, and horticulture classes (n = 256). Lead users responded positively to the wool-based compost and reported they would be willing to pay $6 to $7 per ft3. General gardeners who were less familiar with the product reported they were willing to pay at least a similar amount as that for typical market composts, but they suggested that they would pay more if characteristics such as “increases drought tolerance” were used in advertising. Our analysis indicated that the target audience for the wool-based compost is male gardeners older than 25 years who are concerned about the environment.

Open Access