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Ryan C. Costello, Dan M. Sullivan, David R. Bryla, Bernadine C. Strik and James S. Owen

New markets for organic northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) have stimulated interest in using composts specifically tailored to the plant’s edaphic requirements. Because composts are typically neutral to alkaline in pH (pH 7 to 8), and blueberry requires acidic soil (pH 4.2 to 5.5), we investigated elemental sulfur (S0) addition as a methodology for reducing compost pH. The objectives were to 1) characterize initial compost chemistry, including the pH buffering capacity of compost (acidity required to reduce pH to 5.0), 2) measure changes in compost chemistry accompanying acidification, and 3) evaluate plant growth and mineral nutrition of blueberry in soil amended with an untreated or acidified compost. Ten composts prepared from diverse feedstocks were obtained from municipalities and farms. Addition of finely ground S0 reduced compost pH from 7.2 to 5.3, on average, after 70 d at 22 °C, and increased the solubility of nutrients, including K (from 22 to 36 mmol(+)/L), Ca (from 5 to 19 mmol(+)/L), Mg (from 5 to 20 mmol(+)/L), and Na (from 6 to 9 mmol(+)/L). Sulfate-S, a product of S0 oxidation, also increased from 5 to 45 mmol(−)/L. The composts were incorporated into soil at a high rate (30% v/v) in a greenhouse trial to evaluate their suitability for use in blueberry production. Shoot and root growth were strongly affected by compost chemical characteristics, including pH and electrical conductivity (EC). Potassium in compost was highly variable (2–32 g·kg−1). Concentration of K in the leaves increased positively in response to compost K, whereas shoot dry weight and root growth declined. Leaf Mg also declined in response to compost K, suggesting that elevated K concentrations in compost may cause Mg deficiency. Composts with the highest K were also high in total N, pH, and EC. Compost acidification to pH ≤ 6 improved growth and increased leaf Mg concentration. On the basis of these results, composts derived from animal manures or young plant tissues (e.g., green leaves) appear to be unsuitable for high-rate applications to blueberry because they usually require high amounts of S0 for acidification and are often high in EC and K, whereas those derived from woody materials, such as local yard debris, appear promising based on their C:N ratio, compost acidification requirement, and EC.

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Camilo Escalante-Magaña, Luis F. Aguilar-Caamal, Ileana Echevarría-Machado, Fátima Medina-Lara, Lucila Sánchez Cach and Manuel Martínez-Estévez

Water stress is the main factor responsible for decreased productivity, which affects the growth and development of crops. Plants respond to stress by accumulating compatible solutes, which have a key role in osmotic adjustment, thereby resulting in osmoprotection of the plants. The loss of water can increase the concentration of compatible osmolytes and molecules that regulate the plant metabolism. These solutes can be metabolized as sugars (sucrose, fructose, trehalosa), amino acids (proline), an amphoteric quaternary amine (glycine betaine), and other low-molecular-weight metabolites. However, among all these compatible solutes, proline and glycine betaine occur the most. Proline is an amino acid that can accumulate in low concentrations under optimal conditions; however, stress conditions contribute to its increased content. Few data are available regarding the levels of endogenous glycine betaine on Solanaceae, which is considered a nonaccumulator under water deficit conditions. The objective of this research was to evaluate the role of compatible osmolytes, glycine betaine and proline, in Capsicum sp. plants under different water deficit conditions. In this study, the presence of endogenous levels of proline and glycine betaine in two species of pepper (Capsicum chinense var. Genesis and Rex and Capsicum annuum var. Padron) were found. The concentration levels of proline were 362, 292, and 246 μmol·g−1 DW for Genesis, Rex and Padron respectively, and irrigation conditions (rehydration) of proline levels increased to 381, 395, and 383 μmol·g−1 DW at 21 days. However, glycine betaine levels were 30–70 μmol·g−1 DW. The relative water content, electrolyte leakage, and soil water potential were also analyzed; therefore, the information suggests that proline contributes better to tolerance to water deficit in the genus Capsicum after 14 days of water deficit treatment. It seems that the contribution of glycine betaine is less effective than that of proline; therefore, it does not have an important role in osmotic adjustment.

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Harwinder Singh Sidhu, Juan Carlos Díaz-Pérez and Daniel MacLean

Controlled atmosphere (CA) storage has been observed to prolong the shelf life of fresh produce. The objective of this study was to determine whether CA storage performed better than regular air (RA) storage in maintaining fruit quality of six pomegranate (Punica granatum L.) cultivars grown in the state of Georgia. Pomegranate fruit produced in Ty Ty, GA in 2010 and 2011 were stored in CA [5% CO2 + 3% O2, 5 °C, 90% to 95% relative humidity (RH)] or RA (5 °C, 90% to 95% RH) for 3 months. Pomegranate whole fruit and juice were evaluated for various physical and chemical attributes at the end of storage. Fruit differed by cultivar for rind smoothness, fruit cracking, disease incidence, and chilling injury (CI). Fruit stored in CA had a smoother and less shriveled rind, lower CI, fewer disease severity symptoms, and thus better quality than fruit stored in RA. Fruit rind color, total soluble solids (TSS), titratable acidity (TA), and anthocyanin content in fruit juice were unaffected by storage method. The results showed that pomegranate fruit quality was better sustained under CA compared with RA storage.

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Jean Carlos Bettoni, Aike Anneliese Kretzschmar, Remi Bonnart, Ashley Shepherd and Gayle M. Volk

The availability of and easy access to diverse Vitis species are prerequisites for advances in breeding programs. Plant genebanks usually maintain collections of Vitis taxa as field collections that are vulnerable to biotic and abiotic stresses. Cryopreservation has been considered an ideal method of preserving these collections as safety back-ups in a cost-effective manner. We report a droplet vitrification method used to cryopreserve 12 Vitis species (Vitis vinifera cvs. Chardonnay and ‘Riesling, V. actinifolia, V. aestivalis, V. jacquemontii, V. flexuosa, V. palmata, V. riparia, V. rupestris, V. sylvestris, V. ficifolia, V. treleasi, and V. ×novae angeliae) using shoot tips excised from plants grown in vitro. Our results demonstrated wide applicability of this technique, with regrowth levels at least 43% for 13 genotypes representing 12 Vitis species. We demonstrated that the droplet vitrification procedure can be successfully replicated by technical staff, thus suggesting that this method is ready for implementation.

Open access

Jia Liu, Tingting Xue and Yongbao Shen

Freshly harvested empress tree (Paulownia elongata) seeds have physiologic dormancy. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of exogenous and endogenous nitric oxide (NO) on the dormancy and germination of empress tree seeds. After treatment with different concentrations of sodium nitroprusside (an NO-releasing compound) solution, the germination percentage of seeds under 12 h of continuous light was significantly greater. Seed germination percentage was promoted significantly by 10–4 M sodium nitroprusside plus cold stratification compared with seeds treated with cold stratification only. At different hours during imbibition, empress tree seeds treated with 2-(4-carboxyphenyl)-4, 4, 5, 5- tetramethylimidazoline -1-oxyl-3-oxide potassium salt (c-PTIO), NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME), and sodium tungstate showed reduced seed germination percentages. During the early hours of imbibition, c-PTIO or sodium tungstate treatment inhibited seed germination significantly. The results showed that both exogenous and endogenous NO can release empress tree seed dormancy. Endogenous NO oxide was involved in dormancy release and germination of seeds during the early stages of imbibition. Wider application of NO may be used for breaking seed dormancy in other species.

Open access

Robert F. Heyduck, Steven J. Guldan and Ivette Guzmán

In a two-part study, we examined the effect of sowing date and harvest schedule on the yield of spinach (Spinacia oleracea) grown during the winter in 16 × 32-ft-high tunnels in northern New Mexico. Each part of the study was conducted for two growing seasons and took place between 2012 and 2015. In Study A (2012–13 and 2013–14), spinach was sown four times at roughly 2-week intervals (mid-October, early November, mid-November, and early December) and plant density (plants per square foot), plant height (centimeters), and yield (grams per square foot) were measured for three harvests in mid-January, mid-February, and mid-March. The earliest sowing date had the least-dense stands, and plant density increased with each subsequent sowing. The two earliest sowing dates had significantly higher season-long yield than the later two sowings. In Study B (2013–14 and 2014–15), all plots were sown in mid-October, but harvest schedule treatments were staggered such that harvests began at 9, 11, 13, or 15 weeks after sowing and continued at irregular intervals. Treatment 2, with harvests beginning after 11 weeks, had the greatest season-long yield, slightly greater than when harvests began at 9 weeks, and significantly more than when harvest began 13 weeks or later. More importantly, a staggered harvest schedule can provide spinach weekly for direct marketing opportunities.

Open access

Ariana P. Torres, Susan S. Barton and Bridget K. Behe

As more individuals use the Internet for business and leisure, the opportunities for firms to promote products and services and to communicate with consumers online increases. The objective of this study was to investigate green industry managerial decisions to engage in online advertising and how much to invest while determining the main drivers contributing to these decisions. A double-hurdle model analyses of 1735 responses to the 2014 National Green Industry Survey, which gathered information on business practices, showed >40% of green industry business invested in online advertising. Typically, businesses investing in online advertising spent more than 43% of all advertising expenditures in online methods, including websites, social media, and newsletters. Furthermore, the decision to engage in online advertising was driven by the percentage of wholesale and contract sales, market access, firm size, product mix, and business owners’ perceptions. Results also showed that the amount of dollars invested in online advertising depended on firm size, tools used to find customers, location, and business owners’ perceptions. Our findings can help extension personnel and policymakers with the design and deliver social media training and educational events. Our findings can also help green industry businesses understand the two-step nature of the decision to invest in online advertising.

Open access

George E. Boyhan, Suzanne O’Connell, Ryan McNeill and Suzanne Stone

Organic production is a fast-growing sector of agriculture in need of variety evaluations under their unique production systems. This study evaluated 16 watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) varieties for their performance characteristics under organic production practices. Plants were grown on plastic mulch-covered beds on land that had been certified organic in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program. Six of the entries were F1 hybrids; the remaining entries were open-pollinated (OP) varieties. Of the 10 OP varieties, three were considered heirloom varieties, including Cream of Saskatchewan, Georgia Rattlesnake, and Moon & Stars. ‘Georgia Rattlesnake’ was the highest yielding variety and had the greatest average fruit weight. Along with ‘Georgia Rattlesnake’, ‘Nunhems 800’, ‘Nunhems 860’, ‘Orangeglo’, and ‘SSX 8585’ were included in the top five yielding varieties. The top five yielding varieties had fruit size that averaged more than 20 lb. Fruit size correlated with rind thickness, with lighter fruit having thinner rind (Pearson’s correlation, r = 0.779), which is not unexpected. ‘Sangria’ had the greatest average soluble solids content at 11.2%, which was greater than all entries with soluble solids less than 10%.

Open access

Analena B. Bruce, Elizabeth T. Maynard and James R. Farmer

High tunnels are an increasingly popular part of the infrastructure among small and diversified farms that market their products directly to consumers. In addition to extending the growing season, research has strongly indicated that high tunnels can increase yield, enhance shelf life, and improve the quality of crops grown. The objective of this study was to gain a better understanding, from the perspective of farmers, of the challenges and opportunities associated with adopting high tunnels for specialty crops in Indiana. We collected information through a case study that included questionnaires and in-depth interviews with 20 farmers. We found that the additional labor and time requirements of high tunnel production, the increased complexity of high tunnel production, soil fertility, and disease management, and limited winter markets posed the greatest challenges. The ability to differentiate their products based on higher quality and longer shelf life, the ability to obtain a premium price, the ability to have a source of income during the off-season, and the ability to produce complementary crops were the most important opportunities for using high tunnels. This research implied ways to expand opportunities and reduce barriers to maximizing the potential of high tunnels. Understanding the human dimensions of managing high tunnels is important for providing extension educators and Natural Resources Conservation Service field staff with better knowledge of the common difficulties and benefits of this technology so they are better able to advise farmers considering investing in a high tunnel. A focus on the human dimensions is also helpful for identifying research priorities to evaluate new approaches to decreasing problems and increasing benefits. Consequently, this study provided an in-depth understanding of farm-level challenges associated with high tunnel adoption to improve future research in diverse fields.

Open access

Youngsuk Lee, Hun Joong Kweon, Moo-Yong Park and Dongyong Lee

Nutrient content assessment of plant tissues is widely performed by farmers to determine the appropriate amount of fertilization to use for their crops. A nondestructive leaf chlorophyll meter is one of the most commonly used devices for performing field assessments of the nutrient status of leaves. However, it is challenging to use a chlorophyll meter to assess the nutritional status of perennial plants, such as the apple (Malus ×domestica) tree, because of the difficulty estimating nitrogen (N) during the entire growing period. We compared the chlorophyll meter readings with leaf nutrient profiles collected from young ‘Arisoo’/M.9 apple trees throughout the growing period. A significant positive correlation between the chlorophyll meter readings and leaf N content was found from May to August during the midseason. Regression analysis indicated that the best sampling time for predicting the foliar N content of apple tress is from late June to late July. This result suggests that a reliable leaf N assessment can be performed in a rapid, nondestructive way in apple orchards.