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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

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

Young almond (Prunus amygdalus) orchards replanted where old orchards of stone fruits (Prunus sp.) have been removed are subject to physical, chemical, and biotic stressors. Among biotic challenges, for example, is almond/stone fruit replant disease (ARD; formally known as Prunus replant disease), which specifically suppresses the growth and yields of successive almond and other stone fruit plantings and is caused, in part, by a soil microbial complex. During four orchard trials representing different almond replant practices and scenarios in the San Joaquin Valley in California, we examined the impacts of phosphorus (P) fertilization on the growth of replanted almond. During all trials, P was applied to tree root zones just after replanting, and the impact was assessed according to trunk cross-sectional area (TCSA) growth for 2 years. Expt. 1 was performed where a previous almond orchard was cleared using whole orchard recycling (i.e., the old orchard was “chipped” and then turned into the soil). The land was replanted without preplant soil fumigation. We tested separate fertilizer treatments based on various P, nitrogen, micronutrient, and “complete” formulations. Expt. 2 was also performed where an old almond orchard was recycled, but the soil was preplant-fumigated before replanting. Here, we tested only P fertilization. Expts. 3 and 4 were conducted where an old peach (Prunus persica) orchard was removed. Here, P and nitrogen fertilizer treatments were tested among additional factors, including preplant soil fumigation (Expts. 3, 4) and whole orchard recycling chips (Expt. 4). During all four trials, P fertilization (P at 2.2 to 2.6 oz/tree within a few weeks after planting) significantly increased TCSA growth. The growth benefit was nuanced, however, by almond cultivar, date of replanting, rootstock, and other site-specific factors. Although P fertilization did not match the benefit of preplant soil fumigation for the management of ARD, our data indicated that P fertilization can improve the growth of young almond orchards in diverse replant settings with or without preplant soil fumigation and should be considered by California almond producers as a general best management practice.

Open Access

Overwinter mustard cover crops incorporated into soil may suppress early-season weeds in chile pepper (Capsicum annuum). However, the potential for mustard cover crops to harbor beet leafhoppers (Circulifer tenellus) is a concern because beet leafhoppers transmit beet curly top virus to chile pepper. The objectives of this study were to determine the amounts of a biopesticidal compound (sinigrin) added to soil from ‘Caliente Rojo’ brown mustard (Brassica juncea) cover crops ended on three different days before beet leafhopper flights during spring and to determine the effects of the cover crop termination date on weed densities and hand-hoeing times for chile pepper. To address these objectives, a field study was conducted in southern New Mexico. In 2019–20, the cover crop was ended and incorporated into soil 45, 31, and 17 days before beet leafhopper flights. In 2020–21, cover crop termination occurred 36, 22, and 8 days before beet leafhopper flights. Treatments also included a no cover crop control. Cover crop biomass and sinigrin concentrations were determined at each termination. Chile pepper was seeded 28 days after the third termination date. Weed densities and hand-hoeing times were determined 28 and 56 days after chile pepper seeding. In 2019–20, the third termination (17 days before beet leafhopper flights) yielded the maximum cover crop biomass (820 g⋅m−2) and greatest sinigrin addition to soil (274 mmol⋅m−2). However, only the second termination (31 days before beet leafhopper flights) suppressed weeds in chile pepper. In 2020–21, the third termination (8 days before beet leafhopper flights) yielded the maximum cover crop biomass (591 g⋅m−2) and greatest sinigrin addition to soil (213 mmol⋅m−2), and it was the only treatment that suppressed weeds. No cover crop treatment reduced hand-hoeing times. These results indicate that overwinter mustard cover crops can be ended to evade beet leafhopper flights and suppress weeds in chile pepper.

Open Access