Although the number of students in conventional production agriculture is declining, there is increased interest and opportunity in growing organic fruits and vegetables. Land grant universities need to invest in resources to develop curricula and hands-on opportunities to attract students from varied backgrounds who may currently be enrolled in a number of non-agricultural majors. At the University of Minnesota the student organic farm Cornercopia has successfully attracted students from 12 different majors to plan, plant, harvest, and market organic produce. The enthusiasm, interest, experiential learning, and public relations were well worth the land, faculty, and staff time.
Albert (Bud) H. Markhart III
Large lectures continue to challenge teaching and learning. Our plant propagation course attracts a large number of non-majors seeking to fulfill their science requirement. Although the laboratory is quite successful in maintaining interest, the lecture is plagued by poor attendance and lack of commitment. To deal with these issues, I have incorporated an audience response system (as used in America's Funniest Home Videos) and a multiple-choice exam that uses a scratch-off answer system similar to the instant-win lottery tickets. The audience response system facilitates attendance, and both systems provide immediate feedback to questions. Student and faculty assessment will be presented. Technological and pedagogical challenges will be discussed.
Albert H. Markhart III and Mark S. Harper
Leaves on cut stems of commercially grown Rosa hybrida cv. Kardinal placed in preservative solutions containing sucrose developed necrotic dry patches that began interveinally and progressed toward the major veins until the entire leaf was dehydrated. Ultrastructural observations of initial damage showed disorganized protoplasm and plasmolyzed cells. Leaves on cut stems pretreated with abscisic acid for 24 hours and transferred to preservative solution containing sucrose remained healthy. We propose that sucrose accumulates in the mesophyll cell wall, thus decreasing apoplastic osmotic potential, leading to cell collapse and tissue death.
Ami N. Erickson and Albert H. Markhart III
Reduction of floral number in Capsicum annuum has been observed during growth at high temperature. To determine whether decreased flower production or increased flower abscission is a direct response to high temperatures or a response to water stress induced by high temperatures, we compared flowers and fruit produced and flowers aborted to leaf growth rate, osmotic potential, stomatal conductance, and chlorophyll fluorescence of two cultivars. To determine the stage(s) of floral development that are most sensitive to high temperatures, flower buds were wax-embedded and examined at each stage of development during heat treatment. Rate of floral development also was examined. At first visible floral bud initiation, plants were transferred to each of three controlled environment growth chambers with set temperatures and vapor pressure deficits (VPD) of 25°C, 1.1 kPa; 33°C, 1.1 kPa; and 33°C, 2.1 kPa. Flower bud production and leaf growth rate were not significantly affected by high temperatures. Pepper fruit set, however, was inhibited at 33°C at either VPD. Preliminary water relations data suggested that water potentials were more negative under high temperature conditions. Differences in leaf fluorescence were statistically significant for temperature treatments, but not for VPD. Temperature is the primary factor in the decrease of fruit production in pepper. Decreased production is due to flower abortion and not to decreased flower initiation or plant growth.
Albert H. Markhart III and Barbara Smit
Albert H. Markhart III and Mark Harper
Roses are grown in Minnesota in the winter in closed greenhouses with the aid of HID lamps, and carbon dioxide enrichment. Although productivity is good, consumers often complain of a rapid dehydration or crisping of the leaves. Through a series of experiments using controlled environment chambers and known vase solutions we have determined that the crisping is due to the deposition of high levels of sucrose in the leaf cell walls due to transpiration from the leaves. The sucrose dehydrates the cell protoplast causing cell collapse and tissue death. Crisping is reduced by lowering the sucrose in the vase solution or reducing transpiration from the leaves. Abscisic acid added to the vase solution effectively reduced transpiration and crisping.
Gretchen Hatch and Albert H. Markhart III
The concentration of active ingredient in a given dry weight of a medicinal herb is important to the consumer and producer of herbal remedies. Feverfew is a commonly used medicinal herb where the active compound has been identified. There is considerable variability in the amount of the active ingredients in different genotypes of feverfew. Important secondary plant compounds are often produced in the trichomes of leaves. The objective of this investigation is to determine if there is a correlation between the number of leaf trichomes and the level of active ingredient in several feverfew genotypes. Rooted cuttings of feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium) genotypes previously characterized for parthenolide content were grown under identical conditions in an environmentally controlled greenhouse. Light and scanning electron microscopy were used to describe and quantify the number and type of trichomes on the youngest fully expanded leaf of each plant from each genotype. The relationship between trichome number and parthenolide content will be presented.
Kimberly Swenson and Albert H. Markhart III
A major limitation to plant growth in spring is low night temperatures. A variety of plant protection systems have been developed to keep the temperatures around the plant warmer than the ambient air. One system that has been developed for use with individual plants is a double walled stiff plastic tent. The space between the walls can be either filled with water or air. The top of the tent can be either open or closed. The objective of this investigation is to quantify the effect of these protection systems under controlled environmental conditions. Two wash-tubs filled with wet soil were placed in a controlled environment growth chamber. One tent was placed on the soil surface of each tub. The chamber was programmed to simulate a cold night. Temperatures started at 20 °C and then decreased to –5 °C at a rate of about 4 °C/h. During this time, ambient air temperature, jacket temperature, soil temperature, and air inside the tent was measured continuously with self-contained data loggers. Water filled tents delayed the time it took for the inside temperature to reach the outside temperature by 2 hours. There was not apparent effect on soil temperature. The effect of water vs. air-filled jackets and the effect of capping the top will also be presented.
Susan Kreder and Albert H. Markhart III
Environmental conditions are known to affect the growth and quality of culinary and medicinal herbs. Hydroponic growing conditions often produces greater yields for many leafy crops compared to growth in more-traditional media. The objective of this investigation was to compare the yield and quality of sweet basil grown in continuous flow solution culture or well-irrigated Universal Mix. Sweet basil plants were germinated under mist and then transplanted to a continous-flow hydroponics system or to 6-inch pots containing Universal Mix. Rows of pots alternated with a row of hydroponic plants in a temperature-controlled greenhouse. Temperatures were maintained between 20 and 25 °C, the relative humidity was not controlled, pot-grown plants were irrigated as needed. HID lights added sublimentry irradiation and maintained a photoperiod of 18 h. Cohorts of plants were harvested at five time points between transplanting and maturity. Plants were divided into leaves, stems, and roots, dried, and the data subjected to mathmatical growth analysis. Several leaves from each plant were harvested and analyzed by gas chromotograpth for essential oils. Plants grown in hyroponics grew faster and produced more harvestable leaf material than the media-grown plants. Details of the plant growth analysis and the essential oil composition will be presented.
Maria G. Janssen and Albert H. Markhart III
Tepary beans (Phaseolus acutifolius Gray) are more drought tolerant and have stomata that are more sensitive to low leaf water potentials (ψ w) than common beans (P. vulgaris L.). This study was designed to examine the role of ABA in controlling stomatal behaviour in these species. Comparison of the bulk leaf ABA content does not explain why tepary stomata are more sensitive to low leaf ψ w compared to common bean (at -1.4 MPa ABA content increased 40-fold in common bean and 25-fold in tepary). We hypothesize that the greater sensitivity of tepary stomata to low leaf ψ w is related to a higher concentration of ABA in the xylem sap, and/or to a greater sensitivity of tepary stomata to ABA. Xylem sap of well-watered and water stressed plants is analyzed to determine the concentration of ABA, and whether ABA is a putative candidate serving as a chemical root signal in response to water stress in Phaseolus. To test stomatal sensitivity to ABA, epidermal strips and detached leaves are exposed to a range of ABA concentrations. The relationship between stomatal aperture and different ABA concentrations is discussed.