Understanding the responses of plant growth and secondary metabolite synthesis to different light wavelengths is important for optimizing lighting conditions for vegetable production in indoor vertical farms. Basil (Ocimum basilicum) ‘Improved Genovese Compact’ (green leaf) and ‘Red Rubin’ (purple leaf), green mustard ‘Amara’ (Brassica carinata), red mustard ‘Red Giant’ (Brassica juncea), green kale ‘Siberian’ (Brassica napus var. pabularia), and red kale ‘Scarlet’ (Brassica oleracea), which are high-value and multifunctional culinary herbs and leafy greens, were used to characterize the effects of red (R), blue (B), and green (G) wavelengths on plant photosynthesis, morphology, biomass production, and secondary metabolites accumulation. Light quality treatments consisted of three R and B light combinations, R88B12 (the proportions of R and B wavelengths were 88% and 12%, respectively), R76B24, and R51B49, and two white light combinations, R44B12G44 (the proportions of R, B, and G wavelengths were 44%, 12%, and 44%, respectively) and R35B24G41. Experiments were conducted in a walk-in growth room with a photosynthetic photon flux density set at 224 μmol·m−2·s−1 and a 16-hour photoperiod. Results indicated that the net photosynthesis in purple basil and green kale were positively correlated with B proportions (BP), and that higher BP increased the relative chlorophyll concentration in purple basil and red kale. In contrast, higher BP suppressed stem elongation and leaf expansion and reduced shoot biomass in all tested species except red mustard. Higher BP increased phytochemical concentrations but decreased the total amounts of phytochemicals per plant. For all basil and brassica (Brassica sp.) cultivars, the inclusion of G wavelengths decreased shoot biomass compared with that of plants grown under R and B light combinations with similar BP. Inclusion of G wavelengths stimulated stem elongation in green basil and green mustard under 12% BP; whereas it suppressed stem elongation in purple basil, green kale, red kale, and green mustard under 24% BP. The effects on phytochemical accumulation were species-specific for the inclusion of G wavelengths. Considering biomass production, nutritional values, and working environment for growers, a white light with lower BP and G proportions is recommended for culinary herbs and Brassica leafy greens production at vertical farms.
Haijie Dou, Genhua Niu, Mengmeng Gu, and Joseph Masabni
Genhua Niu, Pedro Osuna, Youping Sun, and Denise S. Rodriguez
Ornamental chile peppers are popular bedding plants. As high-quality water supply becomes limited in many parts of the world, alternative waters such as municipal reclaimed water is encouraged to be used for landscape irrigation. The purpose of this study was to assess the relative salt tolerance of 10 cultivars of ornamental chile peppers by irrigating the mature plants with saline solutions and germinating seeds in saline substrate in a greenhouse. In the mature plant salt tolerance experiment, plants were irrigated with nutrient solution (no addition of salts, control) or saline solution at electrical conductance (EC) of 4.1 dS·m−1 or 8.1 dS·m−1 for 8 weeks. Plants in the EC of 4.1 dS·m−1 treatment did not have any foliar salt damage regardless of cultivar. At EC of 8.1 dS·m−1, ‘NuMex Memorial Day’ had the most severe foliar salt damage, whereas ‘NuMex April Fool’s Day’, ‘NuMex Cinco de Mayo’, ‘NuMex Thanksgiving’, and ‘NuMex Twilight’ had little or no foliar damage. Shoot dry weight (DW) reduction at EC of 8.1 dS·m−1 compared with control was smallest in ‘NuMex Thanksgiving’ (15%), whereas ‘NuMex Memorial Day’ had the greatest reduction of 74% followed by ‘NuMex Christmas’ of 61%. The highest shoot DW reduction in ‘NuMex Memorial Day’ coincided with lowest visual score, indicating that this cultivar was the least tolerant to salinity. The leaf Na+ and Cl− concentrations increased dramatically with increasing EC of the irrigation water in all cultivars. The highest Na+ concentration of 10.9 mg·g−1 DW at EC of 8.1 dS·m−1 was observed in ‘NuMex Christmas’. The highest Cl− concentration at EC of 8.1 dS·m−1 was found in ‘NuMex Memorial Day’ with 64.8 mg·g−1 DW, which was four times higher than the control. In the seedling emergence experiment, seeds of the 10 cultivars were germinated in substrate either moistened with reverse osmosis water (EC ≈0) or saline solution at EC of 17.1 dS·m−1. ‘NuMex Christmas’ and ‘NuMex Memorial Day’ had the lowest relative seedling emergence index, indicating that these two cultivars were the least tolerant to salinity during the seedling emergence stage. ‘NuMex Thanksgiving’ and ‘NuMex Cinco de Mayo’ had the highest relative seedling emergence index. Combining the results from both experiments, we concluded that ‘NuMex Cinco de Mayo’ and ‘NuMex Thanksgiving’ were the most tolerant cultivars, whereas ‘NuMex Christmas’ and ‘NuMex Memorial Day’ were the least tolerant ones.
Liyuan Huang, Jun Yuan, Hui Wang, Xiaofeng Tan, and Genhua Niu
High concentration of aluminum ion (Al3+) in acidic soil often negatively affects plant growth. To deepen understanding of the mechanisms of physiological response to Aluminum (Al) toxicity, changes in physiology and cell ultrastructure of oil tea (Camellia oleifera) were investigated under different Al levels. Oil tea plants were grown in pots filled with sand and treated with Al at 0, 0.5, 1.25, 2.0, or 4.0 mm. Results showed that Al at 0.5–2.0 mm improved plant growth, whereas Al at 4.0 mm inhibited root growth and damaged cell ultrastructure. Net photosynthetic rate (Pn), stomatal conductance (g s), transpiration rate (Tr), and photochemical efficiency increased as Al concentration increased from 0 to 2.0 mm; however, all parameters mentioned previously decreased at 4.0 mm. The activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), peroxidase (POD), and catalase (CAT) in leaves treated with 2.0 mm Al reached the maximum, which were 29%, 63%, and 28% higher than that of control. When Al was ≤2.0 mm, the content of soluble sugar and soluble protein increased with increasing Al concentration. These results may indicate that oil tea adapted to Al stress through osmotic adjustment and through increasing antioxidant enzyme system. In summary, Al at low concentration (0.5–2.0 mm) improved growth and physiological performance, whereas 4.0 mm negatively impacted performance of oil tea.
Triston Hooks, Genhua Niu, Joe Masabni, Youping Sun, and Girisha Ganjegunte
Pomegranate is a drought-tolerant and salt-tolerant crop. Its fruits contain high levels of phytochemicals that have many health benefits. Pomegranate has the potential to be an alternative crop in areas where water availability is limited, such as west Texas. However, more than 500 pomegranate varieties are estimated to exist worldwide, and little is known about which varieties are suitable for growing in the west Texas region. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the field performance of 22 pomegranate varieties, specifically based on phenology, resistance to sunburn, fruit split, fruit rot (resistance was calculated by subtracting the percent incidence by 100), yield, fruit phytochemicals, and Brix over the course of 3 years from 2016 to 2018. Cold damage, caused by below-freezing temperatures encountered from Nov. 2018 to Feb. 2019, was also evaluated in Apr. 2019. Our results showed significant varietal differences in nearly all response variables measured, indicating that varietal selection is important for pomegranate production for specific regions, such as west Texas. Leaf budding ranged from 47 to 62 days in 2016, 41 to 54 days in 2017, and 49 to 60 days in 2018. Anthesis ranged from 87 to 119 days in 2016, 80 to 94 days in 2017, and 92 to 114 days in 2018. Fruit resistance to split was broad and ranged from 7.3% to 79.1% in 2017 and from 14.2% to 99.7% in 2018. Fruit sunburn resistance ranged from 14.0% to 64.6% in 2017 and from 28.3% to 90.0% in 2018. Fruit heart rot incidence was nominal for all varieties. Total phenolic compound contents of the pomegranate fruit juice ranged from 0.81 to 1.52 mg GAE/mL, and the total antioxidant capacity ranged from 3.44 to 6.81 mg TE/mL. The yield per tree ranged from 1.00 to 7.96 kg in 2017 and from 0.81 to 10.26 kg in 2018. Brix ranged from 12.5% to 17.4% in 2017 and from 13.9% to 18.4% in 2018. Early winter below-freezing temperatures caused different degrees of cold damage; however, 5 of 22 varieties that originated from Russia did not show any cold damage. Results of a hierarchical cluster analysis based on the means of the key response variables of yield and Brix indicated that four varieties (Al-Sirin-Nar, Russian 8, Ben Ivey, and Salavatski) were notable for having both high yield and high Brix.
Huan Xiong, Feng Zou, Sujuan Guo, Deyi Yuan, and Genhua Niu
Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima), which is native to China, has been cultivated as a nontimber forest tree species for 4000 years. This species has been found to display self-sterility, which results in a significantly lower seed set following self-pollination (SP) compared with that following cross-pollination (CP). Self-sterility can be induced by prezygotic or postzygotic late-acting self-incompatibility (LSI) or early-acting inbreeding depression (EID). To elucidate the causes of self-sterility in chestnut, we investigated pollen–pistil interactions, fertilization, and early ovule development following SP and CP by using a paraffin section technique and fluorescence microscopy. The fruit set percentage and seed characteristics also were evaluated among different pollination treatments. The results show that there were no significant differences in pollen tube behavior following SP vs. CP, regardless of the stigmatic or stylar level. Double fertilization was significantly greater following CP (18.09%) than SP (2.58%). The significantly lower percentages of ovule penetration and double fertilization in the selfed vs. crossed ovules support a prezygotic LSI mechanism in C. mollissima. The fruit set resulting from chase-pollination (CHP; 53.85% to 63.64%) was greater than that resulting from SP (12.12% to 14.00%). In addition, the distribution of aborted seed sizes after SP showed a widely clumped pattern. Abortion occurred at different stages during seed development rather than at a uniform stage, which supported the idea that EID was operating in C. mollissima. Levels of self-sterility in the chinese chestnut trees ranged from 88.2% to 90.5%. Thus, partial prezygotic LSI and EID contributed to self-sterility in the C. mollissima ‘Yanshanzaofeng’, with prezygotic LSI rejecting part of the self-pollen in the ovary and EID aborting part of the self-fertilized seeds.
Youping Sun, Guihong Bi, Genhua Niu, and Christina Perez
The goal of this experiment was to evaluate the efficiency of foliar application of dikegulac sodium on increasing the lateral branching of ‘Merritt’s Supreme’ bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla). Plants were grown in greenhouses at two locations including El Paso, TX and Kosciusko, MS. Two weeks before application of dikegulac sodium, half of plants were hand-pinched leaving two nodes. Foliar spray of dikegulac sodium at 400, 800, or 1600 mg·L−1 was then applied to pinched and unpinched plants. There were two additional control treatments: pinched or unpinched without application of dikegulac sodium. Data were collected at 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 80 days, and 10 months after treatments. Bigleaf hydrangea plants exhibited severe phytotoxicity including interveinal chlorosis or bleaching of new growth at 2 weeks after application of dikegulac sodium with more pronounced symptoms at higher dikegulac sodium concentrations. The severity of phytotoxicity symptoms became less significant at 6 weeks after treatment. The effect of dikegulac sodium on bigleaf hydrangea plant growth, number of branches, and number of flowers depended on both locations and dosages. In El Paso, TX, dikegulac sodium at 800 or 1600 mg·L−1 inhibited bigleaf hydrangea plant growth at 6 weeks and 80 days after treatment, and this effect disappeared at 10 months after treatment. Dikegulac sodium at all tested dosages doubled or tripled the number of branches of pinched or unpinched bigleaf hydrangea, respectively, at 80 days after treatment. At 10 months after treatment, the number of branches and flowers of bigleaf hydrangea plants tended to increase, but was insignificant. In Kosciusko, MS, dikegulac sodium at 1600 mg·L−1 reduced the plant growth at 6 weeks after treatment. This treatment increased the number of branches and flowers of unpinched plants by 196% and 95% and pinched plants by 53% and 31%, respectively, at 10 months after treatment. Dikegulac sodium application could be used to increase number of branches and flowers and produce compact ‘Merritt’s Supreme’ bigleaf hydrangea. However, the efficacy varied with environmental conditions.
Ockert Greyvenstein, Brent Pemberton, Terri Starman, Genhua Niu, and David Byrne
The decline in sales of garden roses can, in part, be attributed to the lack of well-adapted cultivars. Successful selection for any trait requires an accurate phenotyping protocol. Apart from field screening, a protocol for phenotyping high-temperature tolerance in garden roses is yet to be established. An experiment was conducted to determine the stage of development when flowers were most sensitive to high-temperature stress. Liners of Rosa L. ‘Belinda’s Dream (BD) and the Knock Out® rose ‘RADrazz’ (KO) were planted in a soilless medium and grown in a greenhouse. Established plants were pruned retaining several nodes with leaves on two main shoots and treatments started. The experiment was conducted in growth chambers held at either 24/17 °C (control) or 36/28 °C (stress) day/night temperatures. Six time and duration temperature treatments included 8 weeks of continuous control conditions, 8 weeks of continuous stress conditions, and four sequential 2-week high-temperature shock treatments. Continuously stressed plants flowered in the least amount of days but did not differ from the continuous control-treated plants based on nonlinear thermal unit accumulation until flowering. Both cultivars had a 70% reduction in flower dry weight under continuous stress conditions. Flowers were most sensitive to high-temperature stress at the visible bud stage, which corresponds to Weeks 5 to 6 and Weeks 7 to 8 for BD and Weeks 3 to 4 and Weeks 5 to 6 for KO, respectively. KO was more resistant to flower abscission than BD when treated at the visible bud stage, but no difference in flower dry weight reduction between BD and KO was found. The number of vegetative nodes to the flower was unaffected by treatment and differed between the cultivars.
Ockert Greyvenstein, Terri Starman, Brent Pemberton, Genhua Niu, and David Byrne
The decline of garden rose sales over the past 20 years can be partially attributed to the lack of material adapted to a wide range of landscapes, which includes adaptation to high temperature stress. Current methods for evaluating high temperature susceptibility in garden roses are based on field observations, which are time consuming and subjected to ever-changing environmental conditions. A series of experiments were conducted to optimize protocols and compare the use of chlorophyll fluorescence (CFL) and cell membrane thermostability (MTS) by way of electrolyte leakage as methods to screen for high temperature susceptibility. Immature leaves proved better than mature leaves for both CFL and MTS measurements, using either detached leaf or whole plant stress assays. MTS measured on immature leaves stressed in a water bath at 50 °C for 45 minutes proved most consistent in separating rose clones based on high temperature susceptibility. Stressing actively growing plants with flower buds of 2 mm in diameter in a heat chamber at 44 °C for 3 hours resulted in increased flower abscission and leaf necrotic lesions on more susceptible clones when compared with those that were heat tolerant. Combining MTS measurements from immature leaves stressed in a water bath with the flower abscission and leaf necrosis responses 10 days after stress in a heat chamber could be the first step to screen and select against the more susceptible clones in a garden rose breeding program. Power analyses suggest that the proposed MTS protocol would be efficient in detecting differences between clones when the difference in electrolyte leakage is greater than 10%.
Yoshiaki Kitaya, Genhua Niu, Maki Ohashi, and Toyoki Kozai
Artificial lighting is widely used in controlled environment plant production to enhance plant growth and quality. However, high light intensity with artificial lighting is costly, and often causes increase of leaf temperature and, thus, leaf burn. We investigated the effects of photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) and photoperiod on the growth and morphogenesis of lettuce plug transplants under ambient and enriched CO2 levels. Three days after seeding, the plants were cultured under four PPF levels (100, 150, 200, and 300 μmol·m–2·s–1), two photoperiods (16 and 24 hr), and two CO2 levels (400 and 800 μmol·mol–1) for 18 days in growth chambers. Light source was fluorescent lamps. The air temperature around the plants was kept at 20°C. The results showed that dry weight of the plants increased linearly as PPF and daily integrated PPF (product of PPF and photoperiod) increased under both CO2 levels. At the same daily integrated PPF, higher CO2 level and longer photoperiod led to higher dry weight of the plants. CO2 enrichment increased significantly dry weight of the plants. The ratio of T/R and specific leaf area of the plants decreased quadratically as daily integrated PPF increased under both CO2 levels. The ratio of leaf length to leaf width of the plants decreased quadratically as PPF increased under the two photoperiods and CO2 levels.
Youping Sun, Genhua Niu, Joseph G. Masabni, and Girisha Ganjegunte
A greenhouse experiment was conducted to determine the relative salt tolerance of pomegranate (Punica granatum) cultivars. Twenty-two pomegranate cultivars were irrigated weekly with a saline solution at an electrical conductivity (EC) of 10.0 dS·m–1 for 4 weeks and subsequently with a saline solution at an EC of 15.0 dS·m–1 for another 3 weeks (salt treatment). Another group of uniform plants was watered with a nutrient solution without additional salts at an EC of 1.2 dS·m–1 (control). No visual foliar salt damage (leaf burn, necrosis, or discoloration) was observed during the entire experimental period; however, salt treatment impacted pomegranate growth negatively, with a large variation among cultivars. Salt treatment reduced shoot length by 25% and dry weight (DW) by 32% on average for all cultivars. Cluster analysis classified the 22 tested pomegranate cultivars in two groups. The group consisting of ‘Arturo Ivey’, ‘DeAnda’, ‘Kazake’, ‘Russian 8’, ‘Apseronski’, ‘Purple Heart’, ‘Carolina Vernum’, ‘Chiva’, ‘Kunduzski’, ‘Larry Ceballos 1’, ‘ML’, ‘Salavatski’, ‘Spanish Sweet’, and ‘Wonderful’ was more salt tolerant than the group including ‘Al-Sirin-Nar’, ‘Kandahar’, ‘Surh-Anor’, ‘Early Wonderful’, ‘Angel Red’, ‘Ben Ivey’, ‘Utah Sweet’, and ‘Mollar’. The sodium (Na) concentration in the leaf tissue of all 22 pomegranate cultivars was less than 1 mg·g–1 on a DW basis. All pomegranate cultivars in the salt treatment had an average leaf chloride (Cl) content of 10.03 mg·g–1 DW—an increase of 17% from the control. These results indicate that pomegranate plants have a strong capability to exclude Na and Cl accumulation in leaf tissue. In conclusion, the pomegranate plant is very tolerant to saline water irrigation up to an EC of 15 dS·m–1 with little foliar salt damage and a slight growth reduction. Investigation is needed to determine the effects of saline water on the fruit yield and nutritional quality of pomegranate.