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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

Bermudagrass (Cynodon spp.) is a drought-resistant warm-season turfgrass adapted to the southern and transitional zones in the United States. Multiple hybrid cultivars have been developed and released for use as turfgrass, and others are still undergoing development. Increasing genetic diversity of commercial cultivars is vital to stress tolerance. A DNA profiling study of 21 experimental selections from the Oklahoma State University turfgrass breeding program and 11 cultivars was conducted using 51 simple sequence repeat primer pairs across the bermudagrass genome. A pairwise genetic relationship analysis of the genotypes using 352 polymorphic bands showed genetic similarity coefficients ranging from 0.59 to 0.89. The average pairwise population differentiation values were 0.012 for the 11 cultivars and 0.169 for the 21 selections. A cluster analysis using the unweighted paired group with the arithmetic average method grouped the entries into six clusters. A correlation analysis identified different levels of pairwise genetic relationships among the entries that largely reflected parental relationship. Directional breeding and selection for cold hardiness or drought resistance created progeny that had distinct genetic diversity in the tested bermudagrasses. It is evident that an increase in genetic diversity of the existing cultivar pool with the release of one or more experimental selections for commercial use will strengthen and improve bermudagrass systems.

Open Access

Irrigation decision support systems evolving in the domestic temperate tree fruit production industry incorporate measures of soil moisture status, which diverges from classic physiological indicators of edaphic stress. This study used an autonomous sensor-based irrigation system to impose a water deficit (soil matric potential targets of –25, –40, –60, and –80 kPa) on ‘Autumn Gala’, ‘CrimsonCrisp’, and ‘Golden Delicious’ apple (Malus domestica) cultivars grafted to ‘Budagovsky 9’ rootstock in the greenhouse (n = 60). It was hypothesized that relationships between physiological plant function, assessed via infrared gas exchange and chlorophyll fluorescence, and the soil matric potential may be used to advance emerging irrigation decision support systems. Complications arising from defoliation by day 11 at –60 and –80 kPa indicate the generation of substrate-specific soil–water relationships in research applications of autonomous sensor-based irrigation systems. ‘Autumn Gala’ carbon assimilation rates at –80 kPa declined from day 0 to day 8 (9.93 and 5.86 μmol⋅m–2⋅s–1 carbon dioxide), whereas the transpiration rate was maintained, potentially reducing observed defoliation as other cultivars increased transpiration to maintain carbon assimilation. Correlation matrices revealed Pearson’s r ≤ |0.43| for all physiological metrics considered with soil matric potential. Nevertheless, exploratory regression analysis on predawn leaf water potential, carbon assimilation, transpiration, stomatal conductance, and nonphotochemical quenching exposed speculatively useful data and data shapes that warrant additional study. Nonlinear piecewise regression suggested soil matric potential may useful as a predictor for the rate of change in predawn leaf water potential upon exposure to a water deficit. The critical point bridging the linear spans, –30.6 kPa, could be useful for incorporating in emerging irrigation decision support systems.

Open Access

Summary.

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

Nonpoint-source phosphorus (P) from agricultural fields is a contaminant of surface waters, and high soil P fertility exacerbates this problem. Many vegetable growers and gardeners have a history of applying more P than is necessary for optimum plant growth. Avoiding unnecessary P applications is an important part of the long-term solution to reducing P loading in water. When soil P levels are very high, management practices that result in more intense P removal are recommended to reduce these levels and the potential for aquatic ecosystem contamination with P. Growers may apply soluble starter fertilizer containing P to encourage rapid transplant establishment; however, the effectiveness of this practice is unknown for soil P levels considered high or very high. Grafting tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum L.) onto vigorous rootstocks may help the plant remove more P from the soil than nongrafted plants. This study investigated the effects of organic starter P fertilizers applied to three hybrids of nongrafted tomato and the same hybrids grafted onto ‘Estamino’ rootstock in field-grown conditions during three site-years with high preplant P fertility. The yield, fruit P concentration, and amount of P removed from the field were measured to elucidate starter P and grafting impacts on P removal. Starter P was not impactful on all responses. Grafting increased the total yield by 11.6%, fruit P concentration in a genotype-dependent manner (average of 12.6%), and net P removal from the field by 28.4% (6.0 kg P/ha). Net P removal was positively correlated with the total yield (r = 0.821) and fruit P concentration (r = 0.502), suggesting that practices to increase the yield or P concentration independently increase net P removal.

Open Access

This research study evaluated the suitability of controlled-release urea (CRU) as an alternate nitrogen (N) fertilizer source to conventional soluble urea (U) for tomato production under a humid, warm climate in coastal plain soils. Tomatoes are typically produced on raised plastic-mulched beds, where U is fertigated through multiple applications. On the other hand, CRU is applied once at planting, incorporated into soil before the raised beds are covered with plastic mulch. N source and management will likely impact tomato yield, N use efficiency (NUE), and apparent recovery of N fertilizer (APR). A 2-year field study was conducted on fall and spring tomato crops in north Florida to determine the crop N requirement and NUE in tomatoes (var. HM 1823) grown in sandy soils under a plastic-mulched bed system. In addition to a no N fertilizer treatment, three urea N sources [one soluble source and two polymer-coated CRU sources with different N release durations of 60 (CRU-60) and 75 (CRU-75) days] were applied at three N rates (140, 168, and 224 kg⋅ha−1). Across all N sources and N rates, fall yields were at least 20% higher than spring seasons. At the 140 kg⋅ha−1 N rate, APR and NUE were improved, especially when U was applied in fall tomato, whereas preplant CRUs improved N efficiency in spring tomato. Based on the lower APR values found in spring production seasons (0% to 16%) when compared with fall (57.1% to 72.6%), it can be concluded that residual soil N was an important source for tomatoes. In addition, the mean whole-plant N accumulation of tomato was 102.5 kg⋅ha−1, further indicating that reducing the N rate closer to crop N demand would greatly improve conventional vegetable production systems on sandy soils in north Florida. In conclusion, polymer-coated CRU and fertigation U applications were able to supply the N requirement of spring and fall tomato at a 38% reduction of the recommended N rate for tomato in Florida (224 kg⋅ha−1). Preliminary results show that adoption of CRU fertilizers can be considered a low-risk alternative N source for tomato production and the ease of applying CRU once during the bed preparation period for tomato may be an additional incentive.

Open Access

Plants native to the United States, defined as those being present before European settlement, have aesthetic and environmental benefits. In 2018, only 10% of plant sales were native plants, a plant category that tends to be underrepresented in many residential and commercial landscapes. Although earlier research indicated that consumers find native plants less aesthetically appealing relative to introduced species, more recent research reported a growing demand for native plants. Thus, a better understanding of consumer perceptions would facilitate their marketing. We used an online survey of 1824 participants representing five geographic regions (West, Southwest, Midwest, Southeast, and Northwest) to classify adopters based on their purchase of native plants. A double-hurdle model was used to estimate factors influencing purchasing native plants among US homeowners, and the factors influencing the amount spent on native plants in 2021. Demographically, metropolitan, college-educated, and younger participants were more likely to be native plant adopters; they also spent 80% more on plants compared with nonnative plant adopters. More native plant adopters agreed that native plants were better for the environment than exotic plants (68%), are readily available in their area (67%), and are better adapted to difficult sites (75%). Marketing efforts should capitalize on the environmental benefits to stimulate purchases.

Open Access