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Alexandra B. Napier, Kevin M. Crosby and Soon O. Park

Muskmelons (Cucumis melo L.) play an important role in the American diet. Ranked as one of the top 10 most-consumed fruits by the USDA, cantaloupe melons have the highest amount of beta-carotene of all the ranked fruits. Beta-carotene, also called pro-Vitamin A, is an essential nutrient required for eye health, and may have the potential, as an antioxidant to reduce the risks associated with cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses. Breeding melons with increased levels of beta-carotene will benefit consumer health. Research has found phytonutrients are most bioavailable when consumed in their fresh form, rather than as vitamin supplements. The high level of beta-carotene found in some melons has a genotypic component, which may be exploited to breed melons high in beta-carotene. Molecular markers and marker-assisted selection (MAS) can be used to increase the efficacy of the breeding process, while lowering breeding costs. An F2 population was created using `Sunrise', the female parent, containing no beta-carotene crossed with `TAM Uvalde', a high beta-carotene variety. A field population consisting of 115 F2 individuals and a greenhouse population containing 90 F2 individuals were grown. The resulting fruit were screened phenotypically and ranked according to beta-carotene content. Chisquare values fit the previously reported model of a single dominant gene for presence of beta-carotene (orange-flesh) vs. absence (green or white flesh). A continuous distribution of beta-carotene concentrations from high to low suggested quantitative inheritance for this trait. Two eight-plant DNA bulks composed of either high or low beta-carotene F2 individuals were screened for polymorphic molecular markers using the amplified fragment-length polymorphism technique.

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Lori Hoagland, Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, David Granatstein, Frank Peryea, Jeff Smith and John Reganold

Organic orchards represent a significant and growing component of Washington state agriculture. Comparison studies have shown that organic apple systems can be equally profitable yet more environmentally sustainable than their conventional counterparts. Despite this success, sustainable methods of weed control, fertility, and soil quality stabilization and improvement have remained a challenge. Intensive cultivation is commonly used to control weeds in organic orchards. This can lead to reduced or degraded soil organic matter, structure, water infiltration, aerated pore space, and other soil productivity parameters. In addition, tillage accelerates nutrient cycling and can result in the loss of valuable nutrients from the system. To address the need for sustainable organic methods of weed management, an integrated study of alternative understory management options was established in a newly planted orchard in 2005. Weed control measures included efficient tillage using a Wonder weeder, organically approved herbicide, wood chip mulch, and living cover mulches. Three rates of nitrogen (low, medium, and high) were applied across the Wonder weeder, wood chip, and living cover mulch plots in order to determine ideal N fertility rate. Analyses of total C and N and N-15 in organic fertilizers, soil pools, living cover biomass, and tree leaves are being used to track N and C cycling and partitioning, N-use efficiency, soil quality, and to determine optimal fertility guidelines. Preliminary results indicate intense competition between living mulch understory and orchard trees, and a trade-off may exist between maximizing soil quality and orchard productivity.

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Usha Palaniswamy and Zafar Bokhari

Zafi Beverages, Inc., envisioned energy drinks, mineral natural water, healthy drinks for kids, exotic drinks, flavored drinks, and cholesterol-reducing tea. Emphasis is on non-carbonation and the use of herbal extracts. Consumption of carbonated drinks can lead to reflux, ulcer, and other stomach problems. Zafi Beverages is also developing a unique marketing approach for its products, offering a niche for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Zafi's educational process of entrepreneurship also covers the steps on the road to success: innovative, value-creating, and growth-oriented. Emphasis is also placed on ethical marketing. Small businesses employ 53% of the total private nonfarm work force, contribute to 47% of all sales in the country, are responsible for 51% of the gross domestic product (GDP), produce about two out of every three new jobs each year, and account for over half of United States GDP. Studies report that 40% of the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans got there by building a small business. Interest in small business is increasing, because many Americans believe this is one of the best paths to riches in the United States. About 16 million Americans are in some type of part- or full-time entrepreneurial activity. Entrepreneurship is attractive to people of all ages. Some unique contributions of small business concepts promoted by Zafi Beverages are to encourage innovation and flexibility, maintain close relationships with customers and community, and provide employees with comprehensive learning experience, develop risk-takers, generate new employment, and provide greater job satisfaction. Zafi Beverages is 2 years old; its growth and challenges in the development of herbal drinks for health and new entrepreneurs are described.

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Yan Chen, Regina Bracy and Allen Owings

Annual vinca, Catharanthus roseus, is exceptionally adaptive to the summer heat and the sandy loam or clay soil in the southeastern region and provides season-long blooms once established in landscape plantings. A wide variety of colors, sizes, and applications are available for landscape use. However, diseases such as alternaria leaf spot and phytophthora leaf blight are prevalent in this region in vinca plantings. Effective disease control requires frequent fungicide application that is expensive and may pose negative effects on the environment. Proper planting techniques including date of planting, fertilization rate at planting, and variety selection may improve plant growth, reduce disease severity, and save landscape service business labor in disease management. Plants of three varieties: open-pollinated `Cooler Hot Rose', F1 hybrid `Titan Rose', and trailing variety `Mediterranean Lilac' were planted on 1 Apr. or 1 May in landscape plots. Plants were at the same growth stage at the time of planting and were fertilized with Osmocote 14–14–14 (3 months) at 0, 35, 70, or 140 g·m2. Plant growth index indicates that plant growth increased significantly at increasing fertilization rates; however, plant overall quality ratings were not significantly different among fertilized plants. Disease incidence in July suggests that late planting may reduce alternaria leaf spot in open-pollinated and hybrid upright type vinca. Disease severity in August was more pronounced on trailing vinca and more severe when plants were not fertilized or fertilized with the highest fertilization rate. Tissue analysis indicates that trailing vinca `Mediterranean Lilac' may require less fertilization than upright type.

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C. Chong, P. Purvis, G. Lumis, M.Z. Alam and E. Roesler

Plug-rooted liners of cotoneaster (Cotoneaster dammeri C.K. Schneid. `Coral Beauty') were grown in 6-L nursery containers filled with three different media: 73 pine bark: 22 peat: 5 pea gravel (Medium 1); 60 pine bark: 25 peat: 15 compost (Medium 2); and 50 pine bark: 50 compost (Medium 3). Plants were fertilized with Polyon (Nutryon) 17–5–12 (17N–2P–5K) 6-month controlled-release fertilizer at various rates (0, 2.5, 4.5, 6.5, and 8.5 kg·m-3 incorporated or dibbled (placed under the liner at potting). Shoot dry weight of cotoneaster increased with increasing fertilizer rates in all three media, and was consistently higher with dibble (calculated maximum ranges, 269-362 g/plant at 6.1–7.5 kg·m-3) than with pre-incorporated (127-263 g/plant at 6.4-8.5 kg·m-3) fertilizer. Trends for root dry weight were similar with dibbled fertilizer but nonsignificant with incorporation, while those for shoot: root ratio were reversed to those for shoot dry weight. Positive correlations were observed between foliar contents of N, P, and K and shoot dry weight from both dibbled and incorporated treatments, as well as root dry weight from dibbled treatments. With incorporation, however, only foliar K was correlated with root dry weight.

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Christine E. Coker, William Evans, Michael Collins and Walter Blankenship

The National Guard State Partnership Program seeks to link the National Guards of the United States with Ministries of Defense of emerging democratic nations in cooperative activities of mutual benefit. The Program aims to enhance those connections by bringing “Hometown America” onto the international stage through personal, sustained relationships. These associations could build a “Bridge to America,” establishing and nurturing bonds of mutual understanding at the grass roots level. The focus of the program has shifted rapidly to the “citizen” aspects of the National Guard, with instruction, orientation, and personnel exchanges in areas such as economic development, small business administration, and entrepreneurship. Mississippi's program partner is Bolivia. Mississippi State University was called upon to participate in the program by providing Subject Matter Experts. Scientists spent seven days in Bolivia working with the Bolivian military (made up of conscripted soldiers as young as 14 years of age), the Catholic University, and local villages, advising on greenhouse vegetable production and instructing program participants on cultural practices that would benefit their communities.

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Teresa Olczyk, Yuncong Li, Xing Wang and Eric Simonne

Sweet corn (Zea mays) is a major cash crop produced on calcareous soils in Miami–Dade County. Applications of large amounts of phosphorus (P) fertilizer for many years resulted in the accumulation of high levels of P in these soils. Accumulated P is slowly released into the soil solution to become available for plant roots. Previous studies conducted in this area showed little or no yield and crop quality response to P fertilizer applications. Large-scale field trials with reduced P applications were conducted in a grower's field. The treatments were: 1) no P; 2) 50% grower's rate; and 3) 100% grower's rate with six repilications. The data collected included: plant stand, height, nutrient concentrations in leaf tissue, leaf chlorophyll, tip fill, number, and weight of marketable ears/acre. Reduced rates of P fertilizer did not significantly reduce yield and quality of sweet corn.

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Jeffrey K. Brecht and Kimberly M. Cordasco

Abscission of cluster tomatoes commonly limits product marketability in the retail environment. Ripening and exogenous ethylene exposure are assumed to play important roles in cluster tomato fruit abscission. `Clarance' and `DRW7229' fruit harvested at either mature green or partially ripened stages did not abscise during storage for 2 weeks at 20 °C and 95% to 100% relative humidity (RH), although respiration and ethylene production indicated that all fruit reached the postclimacteric stage. Exogenous ethylene (1 or 10 ppm) exposure for 8 days at 20 °C and 95% to 100% RH also did not induce fruit abscission for either cultivar, although pedicel and sepal yellowing were observed. Fruit from clusters stored at 20 °C and 20% or 50% RH abscised if sepal shrivel became noticeable before the fruit reached the full red ripeness stage, while no abscission occurred in fruit that reached the full red stage prior to the appearance of sepal shrivel; no fruit stored in 95% to 100% RH abscised. Fruit that ripened prior to the appearance of sepal shrivel were “plugged” (i.e., tissue underlying the stem scar was pulled out) if manual fruit detachment from the pedicel was attempted. These results indicate that there is an interaction of water loss and fruit ripening in promoting abscission zone development in cluster tomatoes.

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Ping Lang, Can-kui Zhang, Fenny Dane, Shasha Meng, Robert Ebel and Narendra Singh

Commercial citrus species, some of the most important fruit crops worldwide, are sensitive to sub-freezing temperatures. Poncirus trifoliata, a species closely related to commercial citrus and tolerant to –30 °C, has been used in breeding programs or as a rootstock to impart greater freeze tolerance. Gene expression of P. trifoliata and C. unshiu (Satsuma mandarin) were investigated and compared under slow and fast cold-acclimation regimes. The mRNA differential display-polymerase chain reaction (DDRT-PCR) and cDNA-AFLP, coupled with quantitative relative RT-PCR or real-time PCR were used. Many unique gene fragments were isolated and found to be up- or down–regulated as a result of exposure to low temperature. The up-regulated fragments in Poncirus show high similarities to genes involved in osmotic regulation (betaine/proline transporter, water channel protein, and nitrate transporter), oxidative stress (aldoketo reductase, early light induced protein), and protein interaction (tetratricopeptide-repeat protein, F-box protein, and ribosomal protein L15). In C. unshiu the up-regulated genes show high similarities to genes involved in transcription (zinc finger and GTP-binding protein-related), signal transduction (14–3–3 protein and extension-like protein), protein synthesis and amino acid translocation (permease and ribosomal proteins), chromosome folding (chromosome condensation, structural maintenance of chromosomes-like protein), and carbohydrate metabolism (glycosyl transferase). Several genes involved in photosynthesis, defense and cell wall metabolism were down regulated. Characterization of cold responsive genes will be discussed.

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Bruce D. Whitaker and Gene E. Lester

Increases in phospholipase D (PLD) and lipoxygenase (LOX) activities are thought to play a key role in senescence of mesocarp tissues in muskmelon fruit. We have cloned and characterized two full-length cDNAs, CmPLDα and CmLOX1, encoding PLDα and LOX proteins in honeydew melon (Cucumis melo L. Inodorus Group). Levels of expression of the corresponding genes were determined by semi-quantitative RT-PCR in developing and mature fruit mesocarp tissues (20–60 d after pollination; DAP), and in roots, leaves, and stems from 4-week-old and flowers from 6-week-old plants. The coding regions of CmPLDα1 and CmLOX1 cDNAs are, respectively, 2427 and 2634 nucleotides long, encoding proteins 808 and 877 amino acids in length. CmPLDα1 is most similar to PLDα genes in castor bean, cowpea, strawberry, and tomato (77% nucleotide identity), and is the first cucurbit PLD gene cloned. CmLOX1 has 94% nucleotide identity to a cucumber LOX gene expressed in roots and 80% identity to cucumber cotyledon lipid body LOX. Transcript of CmPLDα1 was much more abundant than that of CmLOX1, but relative levels of transcript in the various organs and tissues were similar for the two genes. Expression was highest in roots, flowers, and fruit mesocarp tissues. CmPLDα1 expression in fruit was high throughout development, although maximum levels occurred at 50 and 55 DAP, respectively, in middle and hypodermal mesocarp. CmLOX1 expression was generally higher in middle than in hypodermal mesocarp with maximum transcript levels at 55 and 50 DAP, respectively. Overall, the patterns of expression of CmPLDα1 and CmLOX1 are consistent with a model in which their encoded enzymes act in tandem to promote or accelerate senescence in fruit mesocarp tissues.