Salinity stress is among the major abiotic stresses prevailing in arid and semiarid areas such as the southern high plains of the United States. In these areas, both declining quality of groundwater and cultivation practices have resulted in increased accumulation of salts in the root zone. The occurrence of excessive salts in the root zone is detrimental for plant growth and economic yield. Recently, biochar has received a great consideration as a soil amendment to mitigate the detrimental impacts of salinity stress. However, the effectiveness of biochar to mitigate the salinity stress depends on the feedstock type, pyrolysis temperature and time, soil type and properties, and plant species. Therefore, a pot experiment in a greenhouse was conducted to 1) examine the effects of salinity stress on physiology, shoot and root growth, and yield of eggplant (Solanum melongena L.), and 2) evaluate the potential of hardwood biochar and softwood biochar to mitigate the damaging effects of salinity stress on eggplant. The experiment was conducted in a split-plot design with three salinity levels of irrigation water [S0 (control, 0.04 dS·m−1), S1 (2 dS·m−1), and S2 (4 dS·m−1)] as main-plot factor and three biochar treatments [B0 (control, non-biochar), Bh (hardwood biochar), and Bs (softwood biochar)] as subplot factor with four replications. Results showed that stomatal conductance (g S) and photosynthesis rate decreased significantly, while leaf temperature and electrolyte leakage increased significantly with increase in irrigation water salinity levels. Root growth (root length density and root surface area density), shoot growth (plant height, stem diameter, and leaf area), and yield of eggplant declined with increase in levels of salinity stress. Biochar application helped to enhance g S and photosynthesis rate, and to decrease leaf temperature and electrolyte leakage in leaf tissues of plants. This resulted in better root growth, shoot growth, and fruit yield of eggplant in treatments amended with biochar than non-biochar (control) treatment. There was no significant difference in the effect of two types of biochars (hardwood and softwood biochar) on physiology, root growth, shoot growth, and yield of eggplant. Therefore, it can be concluded that softwood and hardwood biochars could be used to minimize the detrimental impacts of salinity stress in eggplant.
Ved Parkash and Sukhbir Singh
Marlee A. Trandel, Penelope Perkins-Veazie, and Jonathan Schultheis
In triploid (seedless) watermelon [Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus (Thunb. Matsum. and Nakai)], hollow heart (HH) is a disorder that is expressed as a crack in the center of the fruit that expands to an open cavity. Although HH incidence and severity is part of a screening process for marketable watermelon fruit during cultigen evaluations, HH incidence is highly variable with growing season, even when the best cultural practices are used. Placental tissue firmness is also measured because firmness is related to the marketability of watermelon and may be related to HH. Genetic and environmental factors can influence watermelon HH development, including plant genetics, pollen amount and viability, pollinator activity, and temperature and rainfall fluctuations. We used seedless watermelon cultigen evaluation data collected over 3 years (2012–14) to determine the relationship between germplasm HH and tissue firmness. Transplanted watermelon representing 30 to 44 cultigens per year were grown at the Central Crops Research Station, Clayton, NC, and interplanted with pollenizers ‘Ace’ and/or ‘SP-6’. Harvested fruit were cut length-wise and rated for HH incidence and severity. Flesh firmness was determined by a handheld penetrometer at five locations in the flesh (stem end, top side, ground spot, blossom end, and heart). A common cultigen subset, consisting of 13 cultigens that were grown in all three experiments, was used for analysis of HH severity and incidence, and placental firmness. The presence of HH was negatively correlated with tissue firmness in both the large multiyear cultigen set (R 2 = −0.32; P = 0.0001) and the common cultigen set (R 2 = −0.78; P = 0.0001). Cultigens with lower watermelon tissue firmness values had higher HH incidence and severity. By using multiyear cultigen studies and logistic regression, we were able to detect trends for cultigen susceptibility to this highly variable disorder. Using logistic regression, the probability of HH development was highest for ‘Bold Ruler’, ‘Liberty’, and ‘Affirmed’, and lowest for ‘Maxima’ and ‘Captivation’. The identification of cultigens with a tendency for higher or lower rates of HH will be useful for further research of the causes of HH. Measurements of placental flesh firmness may be useful indicators of susceptible cultigens.
Jenny B. Ryals, Patricia R. Knight, and Eric T. Stafne
Production of passion fruit (Passiflora sp.) via cuttings is a way to eliminate genetic variation in the crop and also results in a faster establishment time. This could aid producers in increasing production efficiency while maintaining genetic lines. The objective of this research was to evaluate ease of rooting and determine the optimal auxin source for seven species of passion fruit. Semihardwood two-node cuttings were taken from the middle of the parent vine, and auxin treatments were applied to the basal end of the cutting. The cuttings were then stuck to a depth of 1 inch on 20 Aug. 2019. Treatments included three auxin sources and seven passion fruit species. Treatments were set up as a randomized complete block design blocking on species, with 10 single-plant replications per treatment. Data were collected 30 d after sticking cuttings and included percent rooted, total root number, average root length (of the three longest roots, measured in centimeters), root quality (0–5 scale, with 0 = dead and 5 = healthy, vigorous root system), root dry weight (measured in grams), and percent callus. Results showed that passion fruit cuttings receiving a hormone treatment had significantly positive effects on rooting responses, such as increased number, length, quality, and dry weight of roots. Blue passionflower (P. caerulea) was the only species in which hormone treatment did not increase rooting compared with the control. The use of hormone to aid in cutting propagation of passion fruit is recommended, depending on the species being propagated.
Gianna Ricci and F. Bailey Norwood
The purpose of this study is to evaluate the appearance, texture, color, and taste of two popular pecan (Carya illinoinensis) clones relative to native pecans in a blind sensory analysis. Subjects tasted the raw pecans acquired from the same farm and evaluated them using hedonic scores. Results suggest consumers prefer the two clones to natives, and most of this preference seems to be related to the pecan size. A crossmodal effect was detected whereby the subjects reported an improved flavor in whole native pecans compared with clones that were cut in half and were thus less visually appealing. Consequently, although a previous study showed that consumers prefer pecans in a hypothetical (nontasting) situation when they are labeled as a “native” as opposed to clones, when the pecans are actually eaten and there are no labels designating the pecan type, they prefer the clones.
Uttara C. Samarakoon and James E. Faust
Clematis (Clematis ×hybrida) is among the flowering plants well-recognized by the retail consumer; however, production has not traditionally fit into standard greenhouse production systems. One reason is the relatively long 2-year production cycle from propagation to flowering. Four experiments were conducted with clematis ‘H.F. Young’ to understand the factors that influence shoot development and flowering of clematis so that strategies could be developed for bulking, providing a cold treatment, and flowering the plants with a shortened production time. The first experiment showed an increase in shoot and flower numbers and a decrease in time to flower as the duration of cold treatment increased from 0 to 9 weeks and the photoperiod increased from 9 to 16 hours. The second experiment resulted in greater shoot and flower numbers when plants were forced at 21 °C as compared with 27 °C. The third experiment showed that the application of ethephon (500 or 1000 mg·L−1) during bulking increased shoot formation (branching) as compared with the control or 500 mg·L−1 benzylaminopurine treatments. The fourth experiment showed that applications of 500 mg·L−1 ethephon along with a 16-hour photoperiod during the bulking period improved shoot number and flowering of the finished crop. The combined results provide guidelines for producing a well-branched, flowering clematis crop within 1 year from the start of propagation to the time of the first open flower.
Julieta Trevino Sherk, Wenyan Fu, and Joseph C. Neal
Compared with traditional roofing, green roofs (GRs) have quantifiable environmental and economic benefits, yet limited research exists on GR plant survival, maintenance practices, and costs related to plant performance. The objective of this study was to assess plant cover, site conditions, and maintenance practices on 10 extensive GRs in the Research Triangle Area of North Carolina. Green roof maintenance professionals were surveyed to assess plant performance, maintenance practices, and maintenance costs. Vegetation cover on each site was characterized. Relationships among plant performance and environmental and physical site characteristics, and maintenance practices were evaluated. Survey respondents ranked weed control as the most problematic maintenance task, followed by irrigation, pruning, and debris removal. No single design or maintenance factor was highly correlated with increased plant cover. Green roof age, substrate organic matter, and modular planting methods were not correlated with greater plant cover. Results showed a trend that irrigation increased plant cover. Plants persisting on GRs included several species of stonecrop (Sedum sp.), but flame flower (Talium calycinum) and ice plant (Delosperma basuticum) were also present in high populations on at least one roof each. Green roof maintenance costs ranged from $0.13/ft2 to $3.45/ft2 per year, and were greater on sites with more weeds and frequent hand watering.
Hunter A. Hammock, Dean A. Kopsell, and Carl E. Sams
Light emitting diodes (LEDs) can produce a wide range of narrowband wavelengths with varying intensities. Previous studies have demonstrated that supplemental blue (B) and red (R) wavelengths from LEDs impact plant development, physiology, and morphology. High-pressure sodium (HPS) lighting systems are commonly used in greenhouse production, but LEDs have gained popularity in recent years because of their improved energy efficiency and spectral control. Research is needed to determine the efficacy of supplementary B and R LED narrowband wavelengths compared with traditional lighting systems like HPS in terms of yield, quality, and energy consumption for a variety of greenhouse-grown high-value specialty crops. The objective of this study was to determine the impact of LED and HPS lighting on greenhouse hydroponic basil (Ocimum basilicum var. ‘Genovese’) biomass production and edible tissue nutrient concentrations across different growing seasons. Basil was chosen because of its high demand and value among restaurants and professional chefs. A total of eight treatments were used: one nonsupplemented natural light (NL) control; one HPS treatment; and six LED treatments (peaked at 447 nm/627 nm, ±20 nm) with progressive B/R ratios (10B/90R; 20B/80R; 30B/70R; 40B/60R; 50B/50R; and 60B/40R). Each supplemented light (SL) treatment provided 8.64 mol·m−2·d−1 (100 µmol·m−2·s−1, 24 h·d−1). The daily light integral (DLI) of the NL control averaged 9.5 mol·m−2·d−1 across all growing seasons (ranging from 4 to 18 mol·m−2·d−1). Relative humidity averaged 50%, with day/night temperatures averaging 27.4 °C/21.8 °C, respectively. LED treatments had the greatest total fresh biomass (FM) and dry biomass (DM) accumulation; biomass for LED treatments were 1.3 times greater on average than HPS, and 2 times greater than the NL control. Biomass partitioning revealed that the LED treatments had more FM and DM for the individual main stem, shoots, and leaves of each plant at varying levels. LED treatments resulted in greater height and main stem diameter. Some essential nutrient concentrations were impacted by SL treatments and growing season. An energy analysis revealed that on average, narrowband B/R LED treatments were 3 times more energy efficient at increasing biomass over HPS. LED treatments reduced SL energy cost per gram FM increase by 95% to 98% when compared with HPS. In addition, the rate of electricity consumption to biomass increase varied across LED treatments, which demonstrates that basil uses different B/R narrowband ratios at varying efficiencies. This experiment shows that spectral quality of both supplemental sources and natural sunlight impacts primary metabolic resource partitioning of basil. The application of LED lighting systems to supplement natural DLI and spectra during unfavorable growing seasons has the potential to increase overall biomass accumulation and nutrient concentrations in a variety of high-value specialty crops.
Arthur Villordon, Jeffrey C. Gregorie, and Don LaBonte
The primary objective of this work was to generate species-specific information about root architectural responses to variations in inorganic phosphate (Pi) availability at the onset of storage root formation among six sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) cultivars. Three Pi levels were used: 0 (low Pi); 0.17 (medium Pi); and 0.34 (high Pi) g/pot triple super phosphate (0N–46P–0K). The check cultivar ‘Bayou Belle’ (BB) consistently showed evidence of storage root formation at 15 days in adventitious roots (ARs) grown across three Pi levels and two planting dates (PDs). Storage root formation was also detected in ‘Orleans’ (OR) and ‘Beauregard’ (BX), but it was less consistent relative to BB. In general, BB had the lowest adventitious root (AR) number relative to the other cultivars, but the magnitudes of difference varied with Pi availability and PD. With the first PD, BX had a 45% higher AR number compared with BB in low Pi conditions; however, there were no differences in the second PD. Within cultivars, BX and Okinawa grown in low Pi showed combined 17% and 24% reductions in primary root length (PRL) relative to roots grown in high Pi. BB had a higher lateral root number (LRN) and lateral root density (LRD) across Pi levels, corroborating prior data regarding the association of these root architectural attributes with the onset of storage root formation. The experimental data support the hypothesis regarding the existence of genetic variation for Pi efficiency in sweetpotato and that some well-documented Pi-efficient root traits like high LRN and LRD are indirectly selected for in-breeding programs that focus on early storage root formation and stable yields across environments.
Richard P. Marini, Tara Auxt Baugher, Megan Muehlbauer, Sherif Sherif, Robert Crassweller, and James R. Schupp
‘Honeycrisp’ (Malus ×domestica) apples were harvested from a total of 17 mid-Atlantic orchards during 2018 and 2019 to verify a previously published bitter pit prediction model. As in the previous study, bitter pit incidence was associated with low calcium (Ca) levels and high ratios of nitrogen (N), potassium (K), and/or magnesium (Mg) to Ca in the fruit peel and excessive terminal shoot growth. The best two-variable model for predicting bitter pit developed with the 2018–19 data set contained boron (B) and the ratio of Mg to Ca (R 2 = 0.83), which is different from previous models developed with data from three individual years (2015–17). When used to predict the bitter pit incidence of the 2018–19 data, our previous best model containing the average shoot length (SL) and the ratio of N to Ca underestimated the incidence of bitter pit. The model is probably biased because one or more important variables related to bitter pit have not yet been identified. However, the model is accurate enough to identify orchards with a low incidence of bitter pit.