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Puffy Soundy, D.J. Cantliffe, G.J. Hochmuth, and P.J. Stoffella

`South Bay' lettuce transplants were grown in F392A styrofoam Speedling® flats at different levels of N to evaluate the effect of N on transplant quality and subsequent yield and head quality in the field. Plants were irrigated eight times over a 4-week growing period by floating flats for 30 min in nutrient solution containing eight 0, 15, 39, 45, or 60 mg·liter–1 N supplied from NH4NO3. Dry shoot mass, leaf area, and plant height increased linearly with increasing N rates and dry root mass and stem diameter increased in a quadratic fashion. Transplants with the greatest plant biomass were, therefore, produced with 60 mg·liter–1 N. Plants from the 15, 30, 45 and 60 mg·liter–1 N treatments were planted in sandy soil in plastic-mulched beds under drip irrigation. To optimize lettuce head maturity among the treatments, plants from the N treatments were harvest 53, 56, and 59 days after transplanting (DAT). The optimum time to harvest was determined to be 56 DAT. There was no yield response (measured in terms of head mass) or quality response (measured in terms of head height, head diameter, head compactness or core length) to N applied during transplant production. This indicated that transplants produced with 15 mg·liter–1 N gave equally good yield to those produced with 30, 45, or 60 mg·liter–1 N when N was applied via flotation irrigation.

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Puffy Soundy, Daniel J. Cantliffe, George J. Hochmuth, and Peter J. Stoffella

Several levels of P were supplied via floatation irrigation to `South Bay' lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) transplants to determine the optimum P concentration necessary. Plants were propagated by floating flats (ebb and flow system) in a nutrient solution containing P at either 0, 15, 30, 45, or 60 mg·L-1 in summer and fall experiments, and either 0, 15, 30, 60, or 90 mg·L-1 P in a factorial combination with 60 or 100 mg·L-1 N in a winter experiment. Adding more than 15 mg·L-1 P had minimal effect on growth. Transplants produced with 0 P grew poorly, regardless of the level of N applied. Nitrogen at 100 mg·L-1 improved the response of shoot growth to any level of P, but adversely affected root growth compared with N applied at 60 mg·L-1. In general, relative growth rate was improved, while net assimilation rate was reduced at all levels of P. High-quality transplants had a root to shoot ratio of about 0.25, total root lengths between 276 and 306 cm, and total root area between 26 and 30 cm3 in a 10.9-cm3 cell volume. Only 30% of the plants produced without P could be pulled from the transplant flats, whereas 90% could be pulled when P was added. Pretransplant P hastened maturity and increased lettuce head weight at harvest in the field. This work suggested that at least 15 mg·L-1 P, supplied via floatation irrigation to a peat + vermiculite mix, was required to produce a transplant with sufficient roots for ease of pulling, rapid field establishment, and earlier harvest.

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Puffy Soundy, Daniel J. Cantliffe, George J. Hochmuth, and Peter J. Stoffella

Although floatation irrigation has numerous advantages for vegetable transplant production, including improved seedling health, lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) transplants grown with floatation (ebb and flow) irrigation can have poor root systems. Floatation fertigation of `South Bay' transplants with K at 15, 30, 45, or 60 mg·L-1 K applied every 2 to 4 days, increased fresh and dry root weight at 28 days. Higher K (24 mg·kg-1) in the medium did not affect root weight. Fresh and dry shoot weight, leaf area, relative shoot ratio (RSR), relative growth rate (RGR), leaf weight ratio (LMR), and root weight ratio (RMR) were unaffected by applied K, regardless of the initial K concentration in the medium. Available K in a vermiculite-containing medium may have supplied all the K required. When 60 was compared with 100 mg·L-1 N at various levels of K, the applied K again did not influence dry root weight; however, at 100 mg·L-1 N, root weight was reduced as compared with 60 mg·L-1 N, regardless of the level of applied K. In a field experiment, pretransplant K had no effect on growth. Transplants grown with no added K in a peat + vermiculite mix with at least 24 mg·L-1 water-extractable K produced yields equivalent to transplants supplied with 15, 30, 45, or 60 mg·L-1 K via floatation irrigation.

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Puffy Soundy, Daniel J. Cantliffe, George J. Hochmuth, and Peter J. Stoffella

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) `South Bay' transplant growth and development were evaluated at 0, 30, 60, 90, and 120 mg·L–1 N fertigated at frequencies of every 1, 2, 3, or 4 days in a floatation production system to produce plants with optimum roots and shoots which easily pull from trays. Greenhouse experiments (four) were conducted to evaluate root and shoot weight, percent transplant pulling success, and leaf N content, 28 days after sowing (DAS). Field trials, using transplants produced in Greenhouse experiments 2 and 4, were conducted to evaluated subsequent yield, head quality characteristics, and leaf N content. Generally, as N concentrations increased, dry shoot weight and leaf N concentration increased, and root:shoot ratios decreased linearly or quadratically. Lettuce transplants grown in a floatation irrigation system fertigated every second to third day with 60 to 90 mg·L–1 N resulted in transplants with optimum root systems to achieve the highest pulling success rate from flats. Subsequent yields and head quality were optimum for pretransplant production fertigation N concentration of 60 to 90 mg·L–1, regardless of irrigation frequency.

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John F. Willcutts, Allen R. Overman, George J. Hochmuth, Daniel J. Cantliffe, and Puffy Soundy

Modern fertilization recommendations must optimize crop yield and quality and minimize chances of negative environmental effects due to overfertilization. Data from fertilizer studies can be fitted to several mathematical models to help determine optimum fertilizer rates, but resulting recommendations can vary depending on the model chosen. In this research, lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) was used as a case study vegetable crop to compare models for estimating fertilizer N requirements. Greenhouse studies were conducted with `South Bay' and `Sierra' cultivars of crisphead lettuce to measure yield response to applied N. Individual plants were grown in pots and received six rates of N (0.0, 0.2,0.4,0.6,0.8, and 1.0 g/plant) as ammonium nitrate in split applications. Data for plant fresh mass and N uptake were recorded. The logistic model described the data for both cultivars quite well, with correlation coefficients of 0.98 and above. The logistic model was also applied to field data for average head mass of `South Bay' lettuce following application of N at 0,56,112,168,224, and 280 kg·ha-1. Logistic, linear-plateau, and quadratic models were compared for the field data. Coefficients for the linear-plateau model were derived from the logistic model. All three models for lettuce production were compared graphically and analytically. The model coefficients were then used to make improved estimates of fertilizer recommendations for field production of lettuce.

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Ambani R. Mudau, Puffy Soundy, Hintsa T. Araya, and Fhatuwani N. Mudau

The aim of the current study was to determine the influence of modified atmospheric pressure on the quality of baby spinach during storage. Treatments consisted of control [(normal air) (78% N2; 21% O2)], modified atmosphere (MA) (5% O2; 15% CO2; balance N2), storage temperature (4, 10, and 20 °C), and number of days after storage (0, 3, 6, 9, and 12). Parameters recorded are gas composition, weight loss, sensory quality, minerals and trace elements (Mg, Fe, and Zn), flavonoids, and antioxidant activity. The results of this study demonstrated that in the headspace gas there was overall reduction in O2 and increase in CO2 levels over the storage period. After 6 days of storage, all samples in normal air irrespective of the storage temperature were found to fall short of acceptable marketability with regard to visual appearance. The total antioxidant activity and flavonoids were well maintained under controlled atmosphere (CA) at 4 °C when stored for 9 days.

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Ambani R. Mudau, Puffy Soundy, Hintsa T. Araya, and Fhatuwani N. Mudau

Spinach is an annual, cool-season, green leafy vegetable that in temperate areas can be grown year-round. However, different seasons can influence the quality and shelf life of the produce. The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of different seasons on the quality of baby spinach leaves during growing and postharvest storage. The study was initiated in early Nov. 2013 and culminated toward the end of Oct. 2014, then was repeated from Nov. 2014 until Oct. 2015. A 4 × 5 × 3 factorial experiment was laid out in a randomized complete block design with four replicates per treatment. The treatments were arranged as follows. In autumn, winter, spring, and summer, leaves were kept up to 12 d at three different temperatures: 4, 10, and 20 °C. Parameters recorded are weight loss, leaf length, total flavonoids, and antioxidant activity. Results of the study demonstrate that the level of antioxidants in winter remained stable during storage, specifically at 4 °C, followed by autumn and spring. In contrast, the summer season reflected the worse potential of retaining a level of antioxidants compared with the other seasons. On day 12, at a storage temperature of 4 °C, winter maintained 0.55 mg·g–1 dry weight (DW), whereas autumn, spring, and summer had 0.41, 0.40, and 0.11 mg·g–1 DW, respectively. In conclusion, it is recommended that baby spinach growers consider winter, autumn, and spring for growing baby spinach to manage the quality favorably during the postharvest storage period in South Africa.

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Ambani R. Mudau, Mpumelelo M. Nkomo, Puffy Soundy, Hintsa T. Araya, Wonder Ngezimana, and Fhatuwani N. Mudau

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a member of the Amaranthaceae family. Baby spinach leaves have a very high respiration rate, thus postharvest quality is affected mostly by tissue decay and the development of off-odors. Thus, this study was conducted to investigate the influence of storage temperature and time on the postharvest quality of baby spinach. Baby spinach leaves were harvested 36 days after planting and subsequently stored at 4 and 22 °C for 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, or 12 days. Thereafter, the leaves were incubated for 72 hours at 40 °C to dry. Minerals, trace elements, total phenols, total carotenoids, flavonoids, and antioxidant activities were measured. Concentration of magnesium (Mg), zinc (Zn), and iron (Fe) were declined after 8 days of storage at 4 °C, while at 22 °C they declined after 2 days of storage. Mg, Zn, and Fe revealed a similar trend with significantly higher carotenoids found up to 6 days in storage at 4 °C, while at 22 °C the carotenoid levels declined after only 2 days. Total phenolic compounds gradually decreased in samples stored at 4 °C. However, samples stored at 22 °C showed a rapid decrease after 4 days. Both total antioxidant activities and vitamin C content showed a similar trend, with the content remaining constant at 4 °C and decreasing after 6 days, whereas the total antioxidant activities and vitamin C for leaves stored at 22 °C decreased immediately after 2 days. Results demonstrated that quality of baby spinach deteriorates as storage time and temperature increase.