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We grew eight cultivars of eggplant (Solanum melongena) over 2 years in four experiments conducted in high tunnels located in Durham, NH; North Haverhill, NH; and Ossipee, NH, USA. The marketable yields of eggplant harvested over 14 to 15 weeks ranged from 925 to 3269 g per plant (2.5–8.8 kg⋅m–2), depending on year and cultivar. Significant differences in marketable yield among cultivars were observed in three of the four experiments, but trends were not consistent. Parthenocarpic cultivars developed for greenhouse production, including Angela, Annina, Aretussa, Jaylo, and Michal, did not produce significantly greater yields than the cultivars developed for field production (Nadia, Traviata, and White Star). In two experiments, using a subset of cultivars, we explored the effects of training plants to four leaders compared with the standard practice of no pruning. Pruning treatment did not impact significantly the number or weight of marketable fruit, or the percentage of cull fruit, and there was no cultivar-by-pruning treatment interaction. In three separate experiments in Durham NH, USA, weight loss, browning, and softness were evaluated after 2 weeks of storage in one of three conditions: within the ideal range of temperatures (average of 50–64 °F), too warm (63–73 °F), and too cool (38–49 °F). Overall, responses to conditions that were warmer or cooler than ideal were as predicted, and weight loss, softness, and browning were all minimized when fruit were stored at 50 or 60 °F. We did, however, see some differences among cultivars in susceptibility to common postharvest storage problems. In conclusion, we found that cultivar choice can be important for high-tunnel eggplant producers, especially if postharvest storage conditions are not ideal. We also found that pruning and parthenocarpy did not enhance marketable yields, allowing growers to reduce labor and seed costs without impacting yield or fruit quality negatively.

Open Access
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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

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

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

Hand weeding is a common but expensive weed management practice in organic carrot (Daucus carota) production. To improve weed suppression and reduce hand weeding in these systems, we developed and tested different biobased polylactic acid (PLA) mulch and compost combinations for carrot production. Carrot was direct-seeded onto PLA mulches and top-dressed with a layer of compost to facilitate carrot germination and rooting through the semipermeable mulch surface. This PLA mulch reduced total weed emergence by 90% relative to bare soil. Yields were not significantly different among mulch types and bare soil controls, partly because weeds were removed weekly after counting. The PLA mulch reduced plant available soil nitrate by 47% relative to bare soil controls. The results suggest that PLA mulch paired with compost is an effective alternative to hand weeding in carrot production. Future research should seek to address the observed nitrogen immobilization.

Open Access

Outbreaks of bitter rot disease occurred in Illinois apple (Malus ×domestica) orchards during 2010–20. This study was conducted to assess the incidence of bitter rot in commercial apple orchards in Illinois, identify pathogen species that cause bitter rot, and evaluate the efficacy of fungicides for managing the disease. Orchard surveys conducted during 2019–21 showed that fruits with bitter rot were present in most of the orchards in southern and central Illinois, whereas only a few orchards in the northern part of the state had symptomatic fruits. A total of 270 isolates of the pathogens were collected from symptomatic fruits of 14 cultivars, and pathogen species were identified based on the morphological and molecular characteristics of the isolates. GAPDH gene sequence analyses identified species of the pathogens as Colletotrichum fioriniae, C. siamense, and C. chrysophilum. Laboratory and orchards studies were conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of fungicides for managing bitter rot disease. Laboratory studies showed averages of 10.3, 9.6, and 0.24 mg⋅L−1 for the 50% effective concentrations (EC50) of benzovindiflupyr, captan, and fluxapyroxad + pyraclostrobin fungicides, respectively. Orchard experiments involving ‘Honeycrisp apples’ were conducted in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Benzovindiflupyr, captan, and fluxapyroxad + pyraclostrobin prevented bitter rot development in the treated plots.

Open Access

Bottlebrush (Callistemon vinimalis) is a widely propagated and cultivated ornamental large shrub with large red bottlebrush-like flowers. Traditional clonal propagation using stem cuttings may be replaced with tissue cultured liners. In this study, we established a container-grown field experiment of bottlebrush ‘Little John’ using liners propagated from both rooted stem cuttings and tissue culture. Growth index was recorded by propagation method periodically through the 34-week period, and both fresh and dry weights of roots and shoots recorded at experiment’s end. Final growth index of plants grown from tissue cultured liners were significantly greater than growth index of plants started from rooted stem cuttings. Both fresh and dry root weight means were significantly greater in plants propagated by tissue culture. Further testing of containerized bottlebrush production, through the flowering stage, will better determine whether tissue-cultured liners accelerate production time vs. liners from stem cuttings.

Open Access

Reusing irrigation water has technical, environmental, and financial benefits. However, risks are also associated with the accumulation of agrochemicals, in addition to ions, plant and food safety pathogens, and biofilm organisms. In this project, we measured the concentration of paclobutrazol (a persistent and widely used plant growth regulator) in recirculated water in greenhouses producing ornamental plants in containers. Solutions were collected from catchment tanks at nine commercial greenhouses across seven states in the United States in Spring and Fall 2014. Paclobutrazol was detected in all samples, with differences observed by season, greenhouse operation, paclobutrazol application method, and irrigation method. Across operations, the residual concentration of paclobutrazol was higher in spring for most greenhouses (ranging from 0 to 1100 µg·L−1) compared with the fall (ranging from 0 to 8 µg·L−1). The spray-drench application method resulted in the highest residual concentrations (up to 35 µg·L−1), followed by substrate drench (up to 26 µg·L−1) and foliage spray (concentrations under 3 µg·L−1). Residual concentrations were higher with overhead irrigation (up to 35 µg·L−1) compared with subirrigation systems (up to 15 µg·L−1). Our results indicate that paclobutrazol is likely to be a growth retardant risk in greenhouse operations recirculating water. A clear understanding of the risks associated with recirculated water intends to support the development and implementation of risk management strategies to ensure and promote safe use of recirculated water in greenhouses. Overall, the most effective preventative strategy is to ensure the use of the minimum amount of the a.i. necessary per unit of space and time.

Open Access