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Open access

Garry V. McDonald and Wayne A. Mackay

The University of Arkansas Horticulture Department was charged in 2016 by university administration to develop and implement a student learning outcome (SLO)-based assessment plan. The Horticulture Department curriculum committee was tasked to develop such a plan. Various models were considered, but ultimately a modified plan based on the work of M.P. Pritts and T. Park was adopted. Adjustments were based on student population size and particular requirements that had to be integrated with the university-mandated SLO goals and objectives. Two phases of a student’s academic career were chosen to access: an incoming freshman or transfer phase and a late-term or degree completion phase. Specific learning outcomes and goals were identified as well as courses and activities that would reasonably be measured while meeting university requirements. Data collection on entering freshmen and transfer students started in Fall 2018. The full impact of the implemented plan will not be known until 2020, when the first full cohort of incoming freshmen reaches the terminal stage of the degree program.

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Brian M. Irish, Ricardo Goenaga, Sirena Montalvo-Katz, Bernardo Chaves-Cordoba and Inge Van den Bergh

Bananas are one of the most important fruits, serving as a cash crop and staple food in many regions of the world. In Puerto Rico, bananas are an important agricultural industry, supplying all the fruit needed for local demand. Diseases significantly limit production, and the evaluation and adoption of improved genetic resistance in bananas might provide an avenue for long-term sustainable production. To this end, nine enhanced genotypes from international selection and breeding programs were introduced and evaluated for their response to black leaf streak (BLS) (Pseudocercospora fijiensis Morelet) and for their agronomic performance. Bananas were evaluated as part of a collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Tropical Agriculture Research Station (TARS) and Bioversity International’s International Musa Testing Program (IMTP). Improved genotypes were compared with disease-resistant and disease-susceptible reference genotypes across two cropping cycles. Field plants were grown following commercial production practices with no BLS management. Significant differences in disease reactions were observed during both cropping cycles for test and reference genotypes. Under high disease pressure, ‘FHIA-21’, ‘FHLORBAN 916’, and ‘FHLORBAN 920’ test genotypes showed higher numbers of functional leaves and lower disease severity at harvest in both cycles. Short cycling times were also observed for the two FHLORBAN genotypes. Larger bunches with a high number of fruits were produced by the ‘IBP 12’, ‘IBP 5-B’, and ‘IBP 5-61’ selections. Several of the GCTCV test genotypes were extremely susceptible to BLS, did not perform as expected, and appeared to be off-types. Several of the test genotypes performed well, although currently none possessed all needed traits for a commercial banana substitute. Regardless, several test genotypes have agronomic potential because they have been selected for disease resistance to other important pathogens (e.g., fusarium wilt) and therefore have become part of the permanent TARS collection. Future efforts will continue to focus on the IMTP collaboration and introduction of promising banana genotypes for evaluations.

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Kang-Di Hu, Xiao-Yue Zhang, Sha-Sha Wang, Jun Tang, Feng Yang, Zhong-Qin Huang, Jing-Yu Deng, Si-Yuan Liu, Shang-Jun Zhao, Lan-Ying Hu, Gai-Fang Yao and Hua Zhang

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) has been proven to be a multifunctional signaling molecule in plants. In this study, we attempted to explore the effects of H2S on the climacteric fruit tomato during postharvest storage. H2S fumigation for 1 d was found to delay the peel color transition from green to red and decreased fruit firmness induced by ethylene. Further investigation showed that H2S fumigation downregulated the activities and gene expressions of cell wall–degrading enzymes pectin lyase (PL), polygalacturonase (PG), and cellulase. Furthermore, H2S fumigation downregulated the expression of ethylene biosynthesis genes SlACS2 and SlACS3. Ethylene treatment for 1 d was found to induce the expression of SlACO1, SlACO3, and SlACO4 genes, whereas the increase was significantly inhibited by H2S combined with ethylene. Furthermore, H2S decreased the transcript accumulation of ethylene receptor genes SlETR5 and SlETR6 and ethylene transcription factors SlCRF2 and SlERF2. The correlation analysis suggested that the fruit firmness was negatively correlated with ethylene biosynthesis and signaling pathway. The current study showed that exogenous H2S could inhibit the synthesis of endogenous ethylene and regulate ethylene signal transduction, thereby delaying fruit softening and the ripening process of tomato fruit during postharvest storage.

Open access

Andrew K. Miles, Malcolm W. Smith, Nga T. Tran, Timothy A. Shuey, Megan M. Dewdney and André Drenth

Citrus black spot is an important fungal disease of citrus resulting in fruit drop and rind blemish in tropical and subtropical production areas. The disease is incited by the fungus Phyllosticta citricarpa (McAlpine) van der Aa (synonym: Guignardia citricarpa Kiely), with control currently relying on the application of fungicides. Because the presence and expression of resistance is poorly understood, we sought to develop a method for inoculating fruit in the field that gives reproducible symptoms of citrus black spot consistent with natural field infection. We subsequently validated this method by screening 49 citrus accessions and characterized their qualitative expression of citrus black spot symptoms. Challenge inoculations were undertaken with a known isolate of P. citricarpa, and control fruit were inoculated with water or the endophyte P. paracapitalensis Guarnaccia & Crous. Our results showed that all mandarin, sweet orange, lemon and papeda types were susceptible; pummelo, lime, and sour orange types expressed immunity; while various hybrids were susceptible, resistant and immune. Hybrid progeny from crosses using pummelo [Citrus maxima (Burm.) Merr.] as a parent showed preliminary evidence of segregation for citrus black spot immunity. The implications of these results to achieve genetic improvement for citrus black spot resistance in citrus breeding programs are discussed.

Open access

Suzanne P. Stone, George E. Boyhan and W. Carroll Johnson III

The southeastern United States produces 50% of U.S. conventional watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) but only 7% of U.S. organic watermelon. Weeds are a major threat to watermelon yield in the southeastern United States, and organic weed control is estimated to cost 20-times more than conventional herbicide programs. The objectives of this study were to determine the optimal weed control regime to reduce hand-weeding costs while maintaining yield and to compare the weed suppression of two watermelon types with differing growth habits in an organic system. In 2014 and 2015, watermelon plots were randomly assigned to the following treatments in a factorial arrangement: vine or compact growth habit; 1.0- or 0.5-m in-row spacing; and weekly weed control (kept weed-free by hoeing and hand-pulling weeds) for 0, 4, or 8 weeks after transplanting (WAT). At the time of the watermelon harvest, not weeding resulted in average total weed densities of 86.6 and 87.0 weeds/m2, and weeding for 4 WAT resulted in average total weed densities of 26.4 and 7.0 weeds/m2 in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Nonetheless, weeding for 4 WAT resulted in watermelon yields and fruit counts comparable to those of weeding for 8 WAT during both years. This partial-season weeding regime resulted in 67% and 63% weeding cost reductions for vine and compact plants, respectively, in 2014, and a 43% reduction for both growth habit types in 2015. In 2015, a separate experiment that evaluated weeding regimes that lasted 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 8 WAT found that yields resulting from weeding for 3 WAT were greater than those resulting from weeding for 2 WAT. However, the yields did not differ when weeding was performed for 4 WAT and 8 WAT.

Open access

John M. Ruter

Carolina laurel cherry (Prunus caroliniana) is native to the U.S. southeastern coastal plain from North Carolina westward to eastern Texas. The species has been planted extensively in the southeast as an ornamental tree or hedge. Unfortunately, carolina laurel cherry naturalizes readily and is now found in a variety of habitats, both natural and disturbed. Flowering occurs in the late winter/early spring before new leaves emerge and fruit ripens in the fall/winter. Fruit is eaten by migratory birds and seed is dispersed. Seedlings readily germinate in the understory of forests and landscapes in the spring. As there are a limited number of cultivars available, selections with improved form and sterility are needed for the landscape trade. In 2008, seed was collected and treated with Cobalt-60 gamma irradiation at rates ranging from 0 to 150 Gy. The lethal dose killing 50% of the seedlings (LD50) was between 50 and 100 Gy. Three sterile plants were selected in 2012 from the M1 (first generation of mutagen-treated seedlings) population totaling 62 seedlings. M2 (second-generation seedlings from M1 parents) seed was collected Fall 2012, and 1509 seedlings were grown to flowering size in containers. In 2014–15, 120 seedlings that showed no fruit production were planted in the field in Watkinsville, GA, for further evaluation. Ratings on field-grown plants in Dec. 2017 and 2018 showed that 73% and 78% of the plants, respectively, produced no fruit, whereas the remaining plants had minimal to heavy fruit set. Because carolina laurel cherry is andromonoecious, production of male and bisexual flowers was evaluated on 17 selections in 2018. Of 500 flowers evaluated per selection, the number of male flowers per plant ranged from 22 to 415 (4.4% to 83%). The number of racemes with all-male flowers on each selection ranged from 1 to 32. There were no significant correlations between the number of male flowers or number of all-male flowered racemes per plant and production of fruit. Approximately 5% of M2 seedlings remain seedless after 6 years of growth.

Open access

Laura Irish, Cynthia Haynes and Denny Schrock

Participation in field days increases adoption of new techniques and fosters learning. Since 1977, the Iowa State University (ISU) Department of Horticulture has hosted several Home Demonstration Garden (HDG) field days at ISU research farms each year to educate consumers on best practices and cultivars for growing annual flowers and vegetables. Gardens are planted at the farms and feature a specific topic or theme. In 2016 and 2017, 12 HDG field days were hosted in July or August. The objective of these field days was to showcase cultivars of vegetables that are in demand at food pantries and that home gardeners could grow easily for donation to these pantries. In addition to showcasing crops, presentations were delivered that focused on food insecurity implications in Iowa and how community members could impact food security locally. Of more than 400 field-day attendees in 2016, 151 (38%) participated in an optional survey at the end of the day. Similarly, in 2017, 140 of 350 (40%) attendees participated in the survey. Participants reflected on their food security knowledge and intentions to donate fresh produce before and after participation in the field day. Slightly more than a third (39.53% and 37.12%, respectively) of attendees reported some increase in food-security knowledge after participation. In addition, 85% and 72.5% of respondents reported that they will or would consider donating fresh produce to a local pantry after participation in this field day in 2016 and 2017, respectively. This was a change of more than 40% from previous donation patterns in both years. Results from this study are being used to focus future programming of the HDG field days and content of the field day surveys.

Restricted access

W. Garrett Owen

Coral bells (Heuchera sp.) are popular herbaceous perennials grown for their colorful foliage and venation and their aesthetic appeal in mixed containers and landscapes. Commercial coral bell production requires greenhouse or nursery growers to optimize production inputs such as managing mineral nutrition, thereby maximizing plant growth potential and foliage color. The objective of this study was to determine the optimum fertilizer concentrations, identify leaf tissue nutrient sufficiency ranges by chronological age, and to expand leaf tissue nutrient standards of coral bells grown in soilless substrates during container production. Coral bells (H. hybrida ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Cherry Cola’, ‘Marmalade’, and ‘Peppermint Spice’), varying in leaf color, were grown under one of six constant liquid fertilizer concentrations [50, 75, 100, 200, 300, or 400 mg·L−1 nitrogen (N)] with a constant level of water-soluble micronutrient blend in a greenhouse. Fertilizer concentrations for optimal plant growth and development were determined by analyzing plant height, diameter, growth index, and total dry mass, and were found to be 50 to 75 mg·L−1 N after a nine-week crop cycle. Recently mature leaf tissue samples were collected and analyzed for elemental content of 11 nutrients at 3, 6, and 9 weeks after transplant (WAT) from plants fertilized with 50 to 75 mg·L−1 N. The black- (‘Black Beauty’) and red- (‘Cherry Cola’) colored-leaved cultivars contained higher total N, phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), sulfur (S), zinc (Zn), and boron (B) than the orange- (‘Marmalade’) and green- (‘Peppermint Spice’) colored-leaved cultivars. For instance, in mature growth, total N concentration for ‘Black Beauty’ and ‘Cherry Cola’ ranged between 3.45 to 3.63% and 3.92% to 4.18% N, respectively, whereas for ‘Marmalade’ and ‘Peppermint Spice’, ranges were between 2.98% to 3.25% and 2.78% to 3.23% N, respectively. Optimal leaf tissue concentration sufficiency ranges determined in this scientifically based study were narrower and often times higher than previously reported survey values for coral bells.

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Marie Abbey, Neil O. Anderson, Chengyan Yue, Michele Schermann, Nicholas Phelps, Paul Venturelli and Zata Vickers

Aquaponics, the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture into one growing system, is a controlled environment production system that potentially has increased environmental and consumer benefits over traditional production methods. There are many different ways to configure aquaponics systems that include different fish species, water circulation, lighting, plant species/density, and more. We tested three cultivars of lettuce, a common aquaponically produced crop, for yield in multiple aquaponic systems and conditions over a 13-month period in Minnesota. Four different aquaponic configurations and four types of fish were tested over the course of the experiment. There was no addition of supplemental nutrients to the systems to evaluate the differences between treatments and set a baseline. There was no difference in yield between lettuce produced aquaponically and those grown in soilless medium. However, there was a difference in yield between lettuce grown with different fish treatments. The tilapia treatment produced higher average yield than yellow perch. There was a difference between cultivars, with higher average yield from loose-leaf bunch cultivars (Salanova, Skyphos) than the bibb type (Rex). Average yield for all but one treatment was above that of reported commercial field production, making lettuce a competitive aquaponic crop in most systems.

Open access

Heidi C. Anderson, Mary A. Rogers and Emily E. Hoover

Consumer demand for local and organic strawberries (Fragaria ×ananassa) is increasing. Growers who can meet this demand have a competitive edge in the direct-to-consumer market. Innovations in strawberry production for northern climates offer new opportunities for growers to meet the demand for local organic strawberries. Typically adopted for season extension, the use of poly-covered tunnels for crop protection provides other benefits including protection from adverse weather. Low tunnels are easy to install, low cost, temporary protective structures that are well-adapted for annual day-neutral strawberry production, and they are more space efficient than high tunnels for these low-stature crops. A range of specialty tunnel plastics that modify and diffuse light are available, but there is little information on how these influence strawberry plant growth and performance in the field. Our objectives were to determine the effects of experimental ultraviolet blocking and transmitting plastics on light and microclimate in low tunnel environments and assess differences in fruit yield and quality in the day-neutral strawberry cultivar Albion in an organic production system. This research was conducted on U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic land over 2 years, in 2016 and 2017. We found that ultraviolet intensity and daily light integral (DLI) were lower in covered plots than in the open field. Maximum daily temperatures were slightly higher in covered plots. Both ultraviolet-blocking and ultraviolet-transmitting plastics improved marketable fruit yield compared with the open-field control. Strawberries grown in the open-field treatment were lower in chroma than covered plots in 2017, and there was no difference in total soluble solids between treatments in either year. Low tunnel systems allow for increased environmental control and improved fruit quality and are well-adapted for day-neutral organic strawberry production systems.