There are economic and knowledge-based challenges that must be addressed for indoor farms to be viable in the United States despite their potential benefits. A mixed-methods approach was used to identify the needs of specialty crop growers and stakeholders interested in or currently using indoor propagation environments to grow seedlings, cuttings, and tissue-cultured plants. An online survey evaluated specialty crop growers’ current use of indoor plant propagation environments and their needs related to indoor plant propagation. A focus group was then conducted to further understand the needs for indoor plant propagation by stakeholders. Industry participants were largely motivated to adopt indoor propagation environments to reduce crop losses (“shrinkage”), increase productivity per unit of land area, ensure faster germination or rooting, improve plant quality, and profit from anticipated economic benefits. Research and education priority areas identified by stakeholders included economic costs and benefits (including capital investment and energy costs), improved crop quality, production time, uniformity, reduced shrinkage, and strategies to improve light management indoors. Based on the results, research efforts must determine and prioritize the most important economic considerations and production advantages to fill important gaps in knowledge about indoor plant propagation.
Kristin E. Gibson, Alexa J. Lamm, Fallys Masambuka-Kanchewa, Paul R. Fisher and Celina Gómez
Zhixiong Zeng, Jiaming Guo, Xinyu Wei, Enli Lü and Yanhua Liu
Mechanical ventilation systems are applied in greenhouses for temperature adjustment, but they consume a large amount of energy. This research aims to optimize the energy consumption of a variable air volume (VAV) fan-pad evaporative cooling system via experimentation. We discuss the effects of adjusting the VAV fan-pad evaporative cooling system on temperature and humidity, and we provide an estimate of the corresponding energy consumption under different highest stable temperature conditions. The test results demonstrate that a higher fan frequency is typically accompanied by greater ventilation quantity, faster cooling speed, more pronounced effects of the fan-pad evaporative cooling system fan, and more intensive energy consumption during the cooling process compared with a low fan frequency. When the temperature increased for 71 seconds or 60 seconds in a specific temperature zone (34 to 35 °C), the indoor temperature could be reduced to the optimum for crops with a fan frequency of 20 Hz, saving more than 87% of the energy output. When the warm-up time for a specific temperature zone (34 to 35 °C) was 41 seconds, the indoor temperature could be reduced to the optimum temperature for crops only when the fan frequency was 50 Hz. The VAV fan-pad evaporative cooling system increased the relative humidity in the greenhouse to satisfy crop production demands. The temperature of crops shared the same variation trend as temperatures inside the greenhouse. Our research results theoretically benefit cooling control and energy-saving design of greenhouses in the subtropics.
Xiongwen Chen and Hua Chen
Chinese Torreya (Torreya grandis cv. Merrillii) is an important economic tree in China, but there are limited studies on its seed production. We analyzed the patterns of historical seed production at two major sites (Zhaojiazhen and Jidongzhen) for Chinese Torreya from different perspectives. The results indicated that there were no 3-year or multiyear cycles in its seed production. A positive correlation existed between the average seed production and the average annual air temperature in 5 or 10 years at both study sites. There was no trend of the increasing coefficient of variance (cv) in seed production, but the cv generally increased before 1975, and became flat after that time. Frequency power law existed in seed production at both sites, but Taylor’s Law existed only at Zhaojiazhen. The multiscale entropy decreased with time scales, and the patterns were similar at both sites. Our research results provide a new understanding of seed production for Chinese Torreya.
Qinglu Ying, Yun Kong and Youbin Zheng
To facilitate machine harvest for labor savings, the height of microgreens needs to reach ≈5 cm. Recent studies indicate that monochromatic blue light (B) can promote stem elongation similar to far-red light (FR). To examine whether nighttime B treatments can promote plant elongation without compromising yield and quality, mustard (Brassica juncea) and arugula (Eruca sativa) microgreens were grown under different light-emitting diode (LED) lighting regimes in a growth chamber. The 16-hour daytime lighting comprised 20% B and 80% red light (R), and had a total photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) of 300 µmol·m–2·s–1 at canopy level. During the 8-hour nighttime, the plants were exposed to the following treatments: 1) dark (D) as one control; 2) 4 hours of B at 40 µmol·m–2·s–1 followed by 4 hours of darkness (40B-D); 3) 4 hours of darkness followed by 4 hours of B at 40 µmol·m–2·s–1 (D-40B); 4) 8 hours of B at 20 µmol·m–2·s–1 (20B); 5) 8 hours of B + FR, and each of them at 20 µmol·m–2·s–1 (20B20FR); and 6) 8 hours of FR at 20 µmol·m–2·s–1 (20FR) as another control. The plants were harvested after 11 days of treatment. Nighttime B treatments (40B-D, D-40B, and 20B), compared with D, increased plant height by 34% and 18% for mustard and arugula, respectively, with no difference among the three B treatments. The combination of B and FR (20B20FR), compared with B alone, further increased plant height by 6% and 15% for mustard and arugula, respectively, and showed a similar promotion effect as 20FR. Plant height did not meet the machine harvest requirement for both species with the D treatment, but did so for mustard with the nighttime B treatments and for arugula with the 20B20FR treatment. There was no difference in biomass among all treatments except that 20B, compared with D, increased the fresh weight (FW) of arugula by 12%, showing a similar promotion effect as 20FR. Despite a greater promotion effect on elongation than B alone, 20FR reduced the leaf index compared with D. However, B alone or the 20B20FR treatment increased leaf thickness compared with D, and increased chlorophyll content index (CCI), leaf index, dry matter content, and leaf thickness to varying degree with species, compared with 20FR. Overall, nighttime B alone, or its combination with FR, promoted microgreen elongation without compromising yield and quality.
Mohammad Akbari, Hossein Hokmabadi, Mohsen Heydari and Ali Ghorbani
Lisa Tang, Sukhdeep Singh and Tripti Vashisth
In the past decade, FL citrus industry has been struck by Huanglongbing (HLB), a disease caused by the phloem-limited bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas). Besides tree decline, HLB causes a sharp increase in mature fruit drop before harvest, leading to a substantial reduction in citrus production. The aim of the study was to provide insights in HLB-associated mature fruit drop. For HLB-affected ‘Valencia’ and ‘Hamlin’ sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), trees exhibiting severe symptoms (“severe trees”) had a significantly higher rate of mature fruit drop compared with mildly symptomatic ones (“mild trees”). Interestingly, dropped fruit were smaller than those still attached to tree branches regardless of the symptom levels of trees; overall, fruit of severe trees were smaller than mild trees. The result suggests a negative effect of HLB on fruit growth that may lead to a high incidence to drop subsequently at maturity. This possibility is further supported by the difference in immature fruit size as early as 2 months after bloom between severe and mild trees. Although HLB-triggered phloem plugging due to callose deposition in citrus leaves, which results in disrupted carbohydrate transport, has been documented in literature, the results of the histological analysis demonstrated no consistent pattern of callose deposition in the mature fruit pedicel in relation to the drop incidence. Additionally, sugar concentration in juice was not significantly different between dropped and attached fruit, providing evidence that carbohydrate shortage is not the case for dropped fruit and thus not the predominant cause of HLB-associated mature fruit drop. Notably, the midday water potential was significantly lower for severe than mild trees during the preharvest period (2 weeks before harvest of the current crop) in late March, which was also the second week after full bloom of return flowering. This suggests that altered tree water status due to HLB might limit fruit growth during the initial stage of fruit development (immediately after flowering) and/or increase the incidence of mature fruit abscission, leading to elevated preharvest fruit drop. Together, the results suggest that in the presence of HLB, strategies to increase fruit size and minimize additional stresses (especially drought) for the trees may improve mature fruit retention.
Haley Rylander, Anusuya Rangarajan, Ryan M. Maher, Mark G. Hutton, Nicholas W. Rowley, Margaret T. McGrath and Zachary F. Sexton
Intensive tillage degrades soil structure, decreases soil organic matter, and can cause soil compaction and erosion over time. Organic vegetable farmers are often dependent on tillage to incorporate crop residue, control weeds, and prepare seedbeds. Black, impermeable, polyethylene tarps applied on the soil surface and removed at planting can help suppress weeds before planting and reduce farmers’ reliance on tillage. However, little is known about how black tarps affect planting conditions and how they can be used to advance reduced tillage production systems. This study investigated the effects of tarp use and tarp duration on the soil environment, surface cover crop residue, and weed suppression to assess the efficacy of using tarps to improve reduced- and no-till practices for organic vegetable production. Experiments were conducted at three sites in the northeastern United States (Freeville, NY; Riverhead, NY; and Monmouth, ME) for 2 years. Following the termination of an oat cover crop, tarps were applied over untilled soils and left in place for four time periods: untarped (control), 3 to 5 weeks (short), 6 to 8 weeks (mid), and 10 or more weeks (long) before two removal dates. Soil moisture and temperature, cover crop residue, soil inorganic nitrogen, weed seed survival, and weed percent cover were measured after tarp removal. Soil moisture and temperature were generally higher under tarps at the time of removal compared with untarped areas at 10% to 55% and 1 to 3 °C, respectively, but the effects were inconsistent. Tarps significantly increased soil nitrate concentrations by 2-times to 21-times with longer tarp durations, resulting in higher concentrations compared with untarped controls. Tarps did not affect the amount of soil covered by cover crop residue and had no consistent effects on weed seed survival of Amaranthus powellii S. Wats. or Chenopodium album L., two common annual weed species in the Northeast. Tarping for at least 3 weeks reduced the weed percent cover by 95% to 100% at the time of removal. Increasing tarp duration beyond 3 weeks did not affect any measures except soil nitrate concentrations. These results indicate that tarps can facilitate the use of reduced-till and no-till practices for organic vegetables by creating a nutrient-rich and moist soil environment free of emerged weeds before planting without soil disturbance.
Haley Rylander, Anusuya Rangarajan, Ryan M. Maher, Mark G. Hutton, Nicholas W. Rowley, Margaret T. McGrath and Zachary F. Sexton
Organic vegetable farmers rely on intensive tillage to control weeds, incorporate amendments and residues, and prepare seedbeds. Intensive tillage, however, can lead to a decrease in long-term soil health. Placing opaque plastic tarps on the soil surface weeks or months before planting can reduce weed pressure and may facilitate organic reduced tillage strategies, but few studies have documented tarp effects on crop productivity. The effect of tarp duration and tillage intensity on weeds and beet crop yields (cultivar Boro) was evaluated at three locations (Freeville, NY; Riverhead, NY; and Monmouth, ME), for two planting dates and over 2 years (2017 and 2018), resulting in a total of 10 experiments. Tarps were applied for three durations before projected planting dates: 1) 10+ weeks (long), 2) 6 to 8 weeks (mid), and 3) 3 to 5 weeks (short), then compared with an untarped control (none). Three levels of tillage intensity were applied after tarp removal: 1) 10 to 20 cm (conventional till), 2) 3 to 8 cm (reduced till), and 3) left undisturbed (no till), to understand interactions between tillage intensity and tarping. Tarp use of three or more weeks lowered weed biomass for several weeks after beet planting and at-harvest across most locations and years, but tarp duration beyond 3 weeks did not result in further reductions. Tarp use lowered at-harvest weed biomass and increased crop yield for reduced- and no-till systems with results similar to conventional-till. Tarping for 3 weeks could improve the viability of reduced- and no-till approaches for organic vegetable production.
Ariana Torres, Petrus Langenhoven and Bridget K. Behe
The domestic market for melons, Cucumis melo L., has not been well characterized. The 2011 cantaloupe-related foodborne illness outbreak reduced melon production by 32%, and per capita consumption of cantaloupe and honeydew melons has not recovered. Our objective was to profile and characterize consumer segments of individuals who purchased melons in the 3 months before the survey. Responses from 1718 participants were analyzed by consumption volume and subjected to cluster analysis based on importance of melon attributes. Heavy and moderate consumers preferred local melons over imported. The top four melon attributes were flavor, freshness, ripeness, and sweetness. As consumption increased, consumers placed more importance for their diets. The heaviest consumption group accounted for 22% of the market, and consumed nearly three times the melon servings per month compared with the moderate consumer, and nearly 10 times the servings of the light consumption group. Cluster analysis produced three distinct clusters. Cluster 1 was the most promelon in attitudes and consumption, as well as general health interest, craving sweet food, food pleasure, and variety seeking in foods. The largest segment was cluster 3 and was the ideal group for future targeting of marketing and advertising campaigns for increasing the melon market share with their intermediate consumption and promelon attitudes. Last, members of cluster 2 consumed the lowest amount of melons, spent the least on melons, and traveled the fewest number of miles to purchase them, relative to the other two segments.
Rebecca Grube Sideman
High tunnels can facilitate production of ripe colored bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) in locations with short growing seasons by extending the length of the growing season and protecting fruit from biotic and abiotic stressors. We grew 10 cultivars of bell pepper over 3 years in a high tunnel in Durham, NH. Yields of marketable colored fruit ranged from 1576 to 2285 g/plant in 2015, from 1194 to 1839 g/plant in 2016, and 1471 to 2358 g/plant in 2017. Significant differences in marketable yield among cultivars existed only in 2015 and 2017. Of the 10 cultivars evaluated, those developed for controlled environments produced greater marketable yields than those developed for production in the field or unheated tunnels (P < 0.0001). The seasonal production patterns were similar among cultivars in all 3 years: a single peak in production occurred between 159 and 175 days after seeding, followed by much lower but steady production until frost ended each growing season. Our results demonstrate that reasonable yields of colored bell peppers can be produced in high tunnels in locations with short growing seasons. We suggest that further work may be needed to identify optimal pruning and canopy management strategies to maximize yields and fruit quality.