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Stemphylium leaf spot, caused by Stemphylium vesicarium, and white rust, caused by Albugo occidentalis, can cause significant losses in spinach production. Management of these foliar diseases of spinach has become increasingly challenging with the development of fungicide resistance in some pathogen populations, high planting density and overhead irrigation used for baby leaf spinach production, and the fact that >60% of fresh market spinach production in the United States is certified organic. To identify spinach cultivars with resistance to Stemphylium leaf spot and white rust, a field trial was performed near Crystal City, TX, USA, in 2021 (79 cultivars), 2022 (87 cultivars), and 2023 (63 cultivars). Each year, the plants were inoculated with S. vesicarium and rated for disease severity. Plants were also rated for white rust severity that resulted from natural infection during the 2021 and the 2022 trials. During each trial, 11% to 27% of the cultivars were identified as resistant to Stemphylium leaf spot, and another 29% to 48% had moderately resistant reactions. In contrast, only 5 of 79 cultivars (6%) in the 2021 trial did not develop symptoms of white rust, and all 87 cultivars evaluated in the 2022 trial had symptoms of white rust. Although there was no significant correlation between mean Stemphylium leaf spot ratings and mean white rust ratings during these trials, the cultivars Colusa, Kodiak, PV-1569, and PV-1664 displayed resistant or moderately resistant responses to both diseases in at least two trials. Therefore, processing and fresh market spinach growers have resistant cultivars from which to select to reduce the economic impacts of Stemphylium leaf spot and white rust.

Open Access

Pepper (Capsicum spp.) is an important solanaceous cash crop in Benin; however, productivity is limited due to several key constraints, especially diseases caused by viruses. We sought to understand farmers’ perceptions of viral diseases, management strategies deployed, and to identify the virus population affecting pepper production in Benin. To assess farmers’ perceptions and management of viral diseases, a survey was carried out in four agroecological zones of Benin. A total of 144 pepper farmers were interviewed using the snowball method. A total of 52 pepper leaf samples with virus-like symptoms were collected and diagnosed by reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or PCR. Pepper production systems varied across agroecological zones (P ≤ 0.001) with a predominance of farms practicing monoculture (82%). The majority of farmers (89%) indicated that pests and diseases were the main constraints to increased production. Cucumber mosaic virus (92% of the total samples), Pepper vein yellow virus (52%), and Pepper veinal mottle virus (50%) were the major viruses detected in pepper fields in Benin. There were both single (29%) and mixed (71%) infections of the viruses, suggesting that mixed infections are common for pepper in Benin, confounding efforts to reduce virus infections. Nearly 100% of the farmers surveyed were not aware of these viral diseases. They also could not directly relate symptoms of virus infection to the presence of aphids, whiteflies, or thrips. Farmers relied primarily on synthetic insecticides (93%) to control virus vectors. Interestingly, some farmers applied commercial (12%) and homemade (17%) biopesticides, with neem-based preparations being the most widely used. A total of 15% of farmers used companion cropping with maize, mint or basil and 43% of farmers used crop rotation as a cultural management practice to control viral disease and vector pressure in pepper fields. The implications of this work include the importance of training farmers and extension agents on diagnosis of viruses and their vectors causing viral diseases. This study provides baseline information for the development of host-resistant cultivars and deployment of integrated pest management strategies for pepper in Benin to reduce farmer losses.

Open Access

Many European apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) cultivars used for making alcoholic cider have a highly biennial bearing habit. To determine target crop load recommendations, seven cider cultivars grown in a high-density orchard were hand-thinned to crop densities of 0, 3, 6, and 9 fruit/cm2 trunk cross-sectional area (TCSA) or left unthinned as a control for 3 consecutive years (2016–18). Treatments were imposed on the same trees for all 3 years. Greater year-to-year yield variability, as measured by the biennial bearing index (BBI), correlated negatively with cumulative yields both within and among cultivars. Greater crop density had a negative correlation with the amount of return bloom in all years, but reducing crop density had a negligible effect on return bloom in the “off” year. When trees were left unthinned in the high-crop “on” years there was little to no return bloom in the following year. Partial budget analysis found that manually reducing crop density would result in a positive net change in 3-year profitability for Dabinett, but not the other cultivars. Over 4 years, under conservative assumptions about fruit set, chemical thinning to 9 fruit/cm2 TCSA would likely result in increased cumulative profitability in all seven cultivars. Hand-thinning was projected to be less profitable than chemical thinning but would still result in increased net profitability over 4 years, for five of the seven cultivars. These findings highlight the horticultural and economic benefits of crop load management for cider apple orchards. Further, many high-tannin cider cultivars can sustain a higher crop density than what is recommended for fresh-market apple production and still have adequate return bloom and cumulative yields.

Open Access

Bermudagrasses (Cynodon spp.) are the most preferred turfgrass species for athletic fields in the southern and transition zones of the United States. Developing and using bermudagrasses with superior traffic tolerance and surface playability under trafficked conditions benefits turfgrass managers, athletes, and sport organizations. A 2-year field study was conducted in Stillwater, OK, to quantify the genetic variability of traffic tolerance and surface playability from a population composed of two commercially available and 87 experimental interspecific hybrid bermudagrasses under fall simulated traffic stress. The experiment design was a randomized complete block design with three replications. Plots were subjected to 60 simulated cleat traffic events for 6 weeks in the fall of 2019 and 2020 using a Baldree traffic simulator. Bermudagrasses were evaluated for turfgrass quality (TQ), normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), fall percent green cover (FPGC), shear strength (SS), and surface hardness (SH) after 3 and 6 weeks of traffic. Spring green-up percent green cover (SGPGC) was evaluated in the spring of 2020 and 2021. Except for SH, significant entry effects were found for all parameters and reliability estimates were moderate to high (i 2 = 0.49 to 0.68) under simulated trafficked conditions. Experimental entries 17-4200-19X13, 17-4200-19X9, 17-4200-36X19, 17-5200-4X11, 18-7-2, 18-7-6, 18-8-2, 18-8-3, 18-8-7, 18-9-2, OSU1101, and OSU1664, and TifTuf® had excellent traffic tolerance. Entries 18-8-7, OSU1101, OSU1675, TifTuf®, and Tahoma 31® demonstrated high SS. There was a large group of entries that had consistent early spring green-up across both years, including Tilin#5, 18-9-8, OKC1221, OSU1257, OSU1318, OSU1337, OSU1406, OSU1439, OSU1651, OSU1675, Tahoma 31®, and TifTuf®. OSU1101 was the entry ranking in the top statistical grouping most often throughout the study. Findings illustrated the possibility of improving traffic tolerance and SS through breeding and using phenotypic selection could reliably select bermudagrass genotypes with improved traffic tolerance and SS in the transition zone.

Open Access

Snap beans are cultivars of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) that are cultivated for their fleshy immature pods that exhibit a wide diversity of pod shapes and sizes. The genetic basis of the snap bean pod shape is complex and involves the interaction of multiple genes. This study used a snap bean diversity panel composed of heirloom and improved cultivars used in North America and genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to investigate the genetic basis of pod morphological characteristics, including length, width, height, width/height ratio, and coefficients of variation (CVs). The GWAS detected multiple genomic regions associated with each pod trait, with a total of 20 quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for pod length, 9 for pod width, 14 for pod height, and 10 for pod width/height ratio. Regarding the CV of each pod trait, genome-wide association analyses detected six QTL for length CVs, five for width CVs, 15 for height CVs, and six for width/height ratio CVs. Thirteen regions in seven chromosomes were associated with two or more pod traits. Eighteen QTLs for pod traits in this study colocated with previously reported QTLs for pod and seed traits. The QTL intervals encompass gene models with homologues in other species that are involved in the control of developmental processes. These results capture the complex nature of the genetic control of snap bean pod traits and confirm the significance of genomic regions harboring overlapping QTLs identified in this and other studies. The phenotypic expression of pod traits in snap bean appears to be under the control of a few genomic regions with a strong effect with additional contributions of multiple small-effect regions. Validation of the function of the candidate genes identified in associated regions will contribute to our understanding of legume pod development.

Open Access

Sweetpotato [Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.] is one of North Carolina’s (USA) most important organic commodity crops; however, yields tend to be less when compared with conventionally produced sweetpotato. Standard field establishment uses unrooted stem cuttings that are transplanted vertically in the soil. Producers in other countries typically use other planting orientations, including cuttings transplanted horizontally. Empirical evidence from North Carolina, USA, sweetpotato producers suggests that a horizontal orientation may improve yields. An organically managed field study using ‘Monaco’ sweetpotato was conducted in 2020 and 2021 in Bailey, NC, USA. The study evaluated stem cutting planting orientations (vertical, sleeve, horizontal), stem cutting length (25 cm and 38 cm), and harvest time (early or late) in a full-factorial randomized complete block design. In 2020, marketable yields were 16% greater for the horizontal orientation compared with the vertical orientation, with intermediate yields using the sleeve attachment. However, in 2021, there were no differences in marketable yield among planting orientations. In both years, US No. 1–grade yields were significantly greater when cuttings were planted horizontally compared with vertically, with an average increase of 18%. Delaying harvest until ∼126 days is recommended to increase yields for ‘Monaco’, regardless of planting orientation. This study provides evidence that a horizontal planting orientation could increase premium root yields and improve land-use efficiency for organically produced sweetpotatoes.

Open Access

Grape (Vitis) production and fruit quality traits such as cluster size, berry shape, and timing of fruit development are key aspects when selecting cultivars for commercial production. Molecular markers for some, but not all, of these traits have been identified using biparental or association mapping populations. Previously identified markers were tested for transferability using a small (24 individual) test panel of commercially available grape cultivars. Markers had little to no ability to differentiate grape phenotypes based on the expected characteristics, except the marker for seedlessness. Using a biparental interspecific cross, 43 quantitative trait loci (QTLs) (previously identified and new genomic regions) associated with berry shape, number, size, cluster weight, cluster length, time to flower, veraison, and full color were detected. Kompetitive allele-specific polymerase chain reaction markers designed on newly identified QTLs were tested for transferability using the same panel. Transferability was low when use types were combined, but they were varied when use types were evaluated separately. A comparison of a 4-Mb region at the end of chromosome 18 revealed structural differences among grape species and use types. Table grape cultivars had the highest similarity in structure for this region (>75%) compared with other grape species and commodity types.

Open Access

Grafting can be a useful technology to improve productivity of vegetable crops, including tomato, particularly under the serious challenges of climate change for agricultural systems. This study aimed to evaluate the impact of some local tomato interspecific hybrid rootstocks along with Maxifort on the vegetative growth, productivity, and fruit quality of tomato under field production conditions. Heat-tolerant tomato hybrid 023 F1 was used as a scion over the two late summer seasons of 2021 and 2022. Grafting 023 F1 onto Maxifort or KFS-16 rootstocks resulted in the maximum plant growth. Similarly, Maxifort and KFS-16 rootstocks significantly increased the fruit setting percentage from 22.2% to 23.5% and 17.8% to 24.6%, total fruit yield from 33.5% to 53.7% and 29.6% to 51.6%, and marketable yields from 34.1% to 56.0% and 27.3% to 56.7%, respectively, during both seasons compared with nongrafted plants. These two rootstocks enhanced nutrient (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) uptake compared with nongrafted planted. However, grafting with the interspecific hybrid rootstocks (KFS-8 and KWS-9) significantly decreased the content of catalase, peroxidase, and proline, which might be associated with lower plant vigor and yield in these rootstocks. All rootstocks had an impact on fruit chemical composition; however, generally, Maxifort and KFS-16 had greater contents of vitamin C, β-carotene, and total antioxidants than nongrafted plants. KFS-16 had also greater lycopene content than nongrafted plants. These results demonstrate the potential use of Maxifort and local rootstock KFS-16 to boost the growth and yield of tomato plants under high-temperature stress in the late summer season.

Open Access

Electric lighting is often necessary to achieve a target daily light integral (DLI) for the production of high-quality young annual bedding plants (plugs). Early in production, plugs have a low leaf area index that limits light interception and likely results in wasted radiation supplied by electric sources. Previous research has shown that the addition of far-red radiation (700–780 nm) to the radiation spectrum in sole-source lighting experiments or the use of end-of-day far-red (EOD-FR) radiation treatments can promote an increase in leaf expansion and leaf area for many species. However, leaf expansion in response to far-red radiation may depend on other factors such as the ratio of red (600–699 nm) to far-red radiation (R:FR) and air temperature. Thus, the objectives of this work were to examine the effects of far-red radiation applied throughout the photoperiod and as an end-of-day radiation treatment on the morphology of petunia ‘Dreams Midnight’ seedlings grown under different temperature conditions. Specifically, petunia seed was sown in 128-cell trays and moved to one of two growth chambers set at 16 or 21 °C when cotyledons unfolded. Seedlings received an equal total photon flux density (400–780 nm) of 164 µmol·m−2·s−1 for a 17.25-hour photoperiod, and either a high (∼10.7) or low R:FR (0.5). Low R:FR-treated seedlings were grown at a constant temperature of either 16 or 21 °C and placed under blackout conditions at the end of the photoperiod. High R:FR-grown seedlings received either a 1-hour end-of-day white (EOD-W) or EOD-FR treatment at the end of the photoperiod, and were grown at a constant 16 or 21 °C; one EOD-FR treatment was also shifted from the 21 °C chamber to the 16 °C at the end of the photoperiod for both the EOD-FR treatment and subsequent dark period. Seedlings were harvested at 21 and 28 days after treatment initiation. For petunia seedlings grown at 21 °C, EOD-FR treatments had minimal effect on morphology or dry mass as all measured parameters, including total and average leaf area and stem length, were similar to EOD-W treatments. In contrast, low R:FR-treated seedlings showed responses characteristic of plants grown under shade, including significant stem elongation, an increase in total and average leaf area, and a reduction in leaf mass per unit area. As expected, production at 16 °C slowed the growth of petunia seedlings resulting in much smaller plants compared with the 21 °C grown plants, but shade responses such as elongated leaves and stems under a low R:FR were apparent. The EOD-FR–treated seedlings that received the diurnal temperature shift also showed reduced leaf area and dry mass compared with their constant 21 °C counterparts. Shade responses were observable at both 16 and 21 °C for low R:FR-grown plants, but the quantifiable impact of temperature on far-red responses could not be fully determined in the present study. Further research is warranted investigating crop responses to far-red radiation as well as potential interacting environmental factors as the promotion of morphological responses, such as leaf expansion, early in production may prove a useful strategy.

Open Access