Spotlight

in HortTechnology

Horticultural Activities Relieve Stress

Lee (p. 971) found that pressing flowers, planting, creating flower arrangements, and making topiaries provided stress relief to mentally challenged people. Pressing flowers and planting improved autonomic nervous system activity and decreased cortisol density. Topiary activities resulted in the largest decrease in cortisol density and the greatest positive effect on autonomic nervous system activity.

Twin-head “V” High-wire System Reduces Greenhouse Cucumber Costs

High-wire systems are an essential component of year-round greenhouse cucumber production, but they require high plant densities, which increase crop start-up costs. Hao et al. (p. 963) report the development of a twin-head “V” high-wire cucumber system that reduced start-up costs. This system achieved similar plant growth, fruit yield, and fruit grades as conventional single-head systems on four seedless cucumber varieties/breeding lines. Since transplant costs for the twin-head system are only about half of that for the conventional single-head system, the high-wire system was more cost-effective for year-round cucumber production.

Biodegradable Mulches Used for Container-grown Arborvitae

Amoroso et al. (p. 957) observed that biodegradable mulches in 3-L container-grown giant arborvitae did not reduce water consumption in comparison to non-mulched containers, which demonstrated that transpiration is the main factor of water loss from the soil–plant system in these container-grown plants. Mulching materials tested in the experiment provided weed control similar or better than oxadiazon, but did not allow an increase of plant biomass. Substrate temperature was unaffected by the tested mulches.

Apple Crispness Measured by Computerized Penetrometer

Consumers desire crisp apples; however, industry textural standards focus on firmness rather than crispness. To redirect the focus onto crispness, a method for quick and efficient measurement of crispness needs to be introduced. Evans et al. (p. 1026) found a correlation between sensory crispness data from a wide range of apple varieties and selections from the Washington State University apple breeding program and crispness values determined by a computerized penetrometer (Mohr® Digi-Test), a compact, robust instrument capable of field recording.

A Computer-based Model to Understand How Peach Trees Grow

Carbohydrate assimilation and partitioning determines the growth of trees. Integration of concepts related to carbon assimilation and distribution at the whole-tree level and over multiple years is complex, and requires a modeling approach. Lopez et al. (p. 983) present L-PEACH, a three-dimensional, computer-based model that simulates the growth of peach trees based on carbohydrate assimilation and partitioning concepts. L-PEACH also includes modeling of the responses to tree pruning and fruit thinning. L-PEACH is a powerful tool for understanding how peach trees function and can be used as an educational and research tool.

Cut Rose Production in Punjab, Pakistan

As the economies of numerous countries develop, farmers often turn to high-value floricultural crops to replace row crops. Ahmad et al. (p. 1010) surveyed cut flower growers in Pakistan to determine the status of the industry and identify major bottlenecks to further development. Cut roses were the leading flower crop. The majority of growers had only a basic education and less than 1 ha of land. Prospects for the industry were positive in that 30% of growers were in business over 10 years, yet 52% entered during the last 5 years. Training in production and postharvest management was identified as the major need.

Modification of Switchgrass Substrate pH

Most container nursery crops in the U.S. are grown in substrates composed primarily of pine bark. Researchers are developing alternative substrates to reduce reliance on pine bark. Substrates composed primarily of locally produced biomass crops, such as switchgrass, have been shown to be effective. Substrates composed of switchgrass tend to have high pH (>7) when used alone. Altland and Krause (p. 950) report that additions of sphagnum peat moss and municipal solid waste compost were effective in lowering pH and buffering pH against change.

What Public Garden Programs Would the General Public Prefer?

An Internet study was conducted to investigate what traditional and non-traditional programs might attract community members to public gardens and arboretum, and to identify potential barriers, perceived or real, that might discourage the general public from visiting. Based on results, Kelley et al. (p. 1001) found that females were more interested in “hands-on workshops” (42.5%) and “fact sheets, instructional bulletins, and how-to guides” (37.4%) than males (26.8% and 26.3%, respectively). In examining events and activities, significant differences based on household income were found for interest in “wine tasting and tours” and “outdoor concerts and live performances.”

U.S. Tree Fruit Growers Surveyed about Automation Technologies

Tree fruit growers in the Pacific northwestern and eastern U.S. were surveyed for their opinions on automated production technologies for specialty crops. Ellis et al. (p. 1043) report grower concerns about equipment cost, reliability, and reduced fruit quality. Participants saw benefits through increased returns, increased workforce productivity, and improved management of harvest operations. On-farm trials, demonstration field days, and region-specific outreach education were recommended to help speed the adoption of automated equipment.

Sweetpotato “Seed” Quality Declines during Commercial Propagation

Commercial propagation of sweetpotato seed roots from virus-tested foundation seed stock is necessary to provide growers with enough seed roots for commercial production. Most growers propagate seed roots on their own farms in relatively close proximity to commercial production fields. Clark et al. (p. 977) found that yields of U.S. No. 1 roots from commercially produced second (G2) and third generation (G3) seed roots were reduced approximately 14% compared to those from first generation (G1) or foundation seed roots. The yield decline was attributed to rapid re-infection of these sweetpotatoes by viruses.

Vase Life of New Cut Flower Varieties

New cut flower varieties are released every year, but little is known about their postharvest performance. Over 8 years, Clark et al. (p. 1016) tested the vase life of 121 varieties representing 47 cut flower genera. In the largest category, with 53 varieties, commercial holding preservatives increased vase life. Hydrating preservatives increased the vase life of four varieties. However, holding and hydrator preservatives reduced the vase life of 14 and 18 varieties, respectively. Overall, holding preservatives should be a standard practice in cut flower postharvest handling. No treatment effects were noted for the remaining 50 varieties.

An Automated Irrigation System for Fraser Fir Christmas Trees

Irrigating fraser fir is a common practice for Christmas tree producers in the upper midwestern U.S. Nzokou et al. (p. 1030) report on the design and implementation of a tensiometer-based system for efficient irrigation scheduling of fraser fir. Water on-demand was controlled by a high soil water tension limit that triggered a solenoid, delivering irrigation water until the soil moisture tension reached a lower preset limit. The system generally functioned according to the design; however, there were several associated challenges to consider before a similar system can be transferred to commercial facilities.

Implanted Microchips for Identification of Roses

Plant tagging using radiofrequency identification (RFID) microchips may be useful for ornamental shrubs such as roses. Luvisi et al. (p. 1037) report a new method of microchip insertion into rose canes of less than 10 mm diameter, such as those typically found in nurseries. In order to evaluate the effects of methods of microchip insertion, histological observations of tissues around the microchip and growth analysis of plant canes were performed. They found that rose plants could be safely tagged with a RFID microchip following suitable selection of cane calliper as early as the nursery phase, without negative effects on plant appearance.

Ultraviolet Fluorescence to Identify Poor Quality Navel Oranges

Commercial sorting systems often do not accurately identify oranges with poor peel quality, and sometimes allow substandard fruit to be packed. Obenland et al. (p. 991) manually sorted navel oranges under ultraviolet light in packinghouse black light rooms for the degree of peel fluorescence present, and found that fruit with moderate to high amounts of fluorescence had poor peel quality initially and after 3 weeks of cold storage. Peel fluorescence commonly is used to remove highly fluorescing decayed fruit, but the removal of fruit with lesser amounts of fluorescence would benefit peel quality.