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Wenjing Guan and Xin Zhao

Grafting has been used for controlling certain soilborne diseases and improving abiotic stress tolerance in muskmelon (Cucumis melo) production. Grafting methods may vary considerably among geographic regions and nurseries, while excision of rootstock roots before graft healing may also be practiced, which allows root regeneration of the grafted plants. In this greenhouse study, four grafting methods including hole insertion, one-cotyledon, noncotyledon, and tongue approach methods were examined for their impacts on plant growth and root characteristics of ‘Athena’ muskmelon grafted onto ‘Strong Tosa’ interspecific hybrid squash rootstock (Cucurbita maxima × C. moschata). Nongrafted rootstock and scion plants were included as controls. Both the grafted and nongrafted plants were examined with or without root excision. The practice of root excision was unsuccessful with the tongue approach method, while it did not exhibit significant effects on graft quality and growth of plants grafted with the one-cotyledon and hole insertion methods. Grafted plants with root excision started to show active and rapid root regeneration at 8 days after grafting (DAG) and reached similar root length and surface area as the root-intact plants at 16 DAG. Plants grafted with the noncotyledon method showed a different root growth pattern with decreased root length and surface area at 16 DAG. As a result, this method reduced the quality of grafted plants. No significant differences in plant growth characteristics were observed among the hole insertion, one-cotyledon, and tongue approach grafted plants.

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Wenjing Guan, Xin Zhao, and Donald J. Huber

Interspecific hybrid squash (Cucurbita maxima × Cucurbita moschata) is a well-known cucurbit rootstock for controlling soilborne diseases and improving abiotic stress tolerance. However, reduced fruit quality has been reported on certain melon (Cucumis melo) cultivars when grafted with squash rootstocks. In this study, a field experiment was designed to explore fruit development and quality attributes of galia melon ‘Arava’ by grafting with hybrid squash rootstock ‘Strong Tosa’. Grafted plants with ‘Strong Tosa’ showed delayed anthesis of female flowers by ≈8–9 days, but harvest dates were unaffected compared with non- and self-grafted ‘Arava’ plants. Early and total yields were not significantly different between grafted and nongrafted plants. Grafted plants with ‘Strong Tosa’ rootstock exhibited accelerated fruit development and greater vegetative growth. During the harvest period, ≈27% of grafted plants with ‘Strong Tosa’ wilted, which was determined as nonpathogenic. Grafting with ‘Strong Tosa’ rootstock resulted in reduced fruit total soluble solids (TSS) and consumer rated sensory properties.

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Wenjing Guan, Xin Zhao, Richard Hassell, and Judy Thies

Grafting with resistant rootstocks is an effective strategy to manage a variety of soilborne diseases and root-knot nematodes in solanaceous and cucurbitaceous vegetables. In addition, improved resistance to some foliar diseases and viruses has also been reported in grafted plants. Hence, grafting technology is considered an important and innovative practice of integrated pest management and a promising alternative for soil fumigants in vegetable production. Inherent resistance within rootstocks and improved plant nutrient uptake are generally suggested as the main reasons for improved disease control in grafted vegetables. However, increasing evidence indicated that systemic defense mechanisms may also play an important role in plant defense as a result of grafting. This review analyzes current literature on the use of grafting techniques for disease management in vegetable crops, discusses potential mechanisms associated with grafting-conferred plant defense, and identifies needs for future research to promote more effective and efficient use of grafting technology to support sustainable vegetable production.

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Xu Zheng, Wenjing Zhao, Jintao Ge, Meihua Miao, and Xingman Liu

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Wenjing Guan, Xin Zhao, Danielle D. Treadwell, Michael R. Alligood, Donald J. Huber, and Nicholas S. Dufault

Interest in producing specialty melons (Cucumis melo) is increasing in Florida, but information on yield performance, fruit quality, and disease resistance of specialty melon cultivars grown in Florida conditions is limited. In this study conducted at Citra, FL, during the 2011 Spring season, 10 specialty melon cultivars were evaluated, in both certified organic and conventionally managed fields, including: Creme de la Creme and San Juan ananas melon (C. melo var. reticulatus), Brilliant and Camposol canary melon (C. melo var. inodorus), Ginkaku and Sun Jewel asian melon (C. melo var. makuwa), Arava and Diplomat galia melon (C. melo var. reticulatus), and Honey Pearl and Honey Yellow honeydew melon (C. melo var. inodorus). ‘Athena’ cantaloupe (C. melo var. reticulatus) was included as a control. ‘Sun Jewel’, ‘Diplomat’, ‘Honey Yellow’, and ‘Honey Pearl’ were early maturing cultivars that were harvested 10 days earlier than ‘Athena’. ‘Athena’ had the highest marketable yield in the conventional field (10.7 kg/plant), but the yield of ‘Camposol’, ‘Ginkaku’, ‘Honey Yellow’, and ‘Honey Pearl’ did not differ significantly from ‘Athena’. Under organic production, ‘Camposol’ showed a significantly higher marketable yield (8.3 kg/plant) than ‘Athena’ (6.8 kg/plant). ‘Ginkaku’ produced the largest fruit number per plant in both organic (10 fruit/plant) and conventional fields (12 fruit/plant) with smaller fruit size compared with other melon cultivars. Overall, the specialty melon cultivars, except for asian melon, did not differ significantly from ‘Athena’ in terms of marketable fruit number per plant. ‘Sun Jewel’, ‘Diplomat’, and ‘San Juan’ showed relatively high percentages of cull fruit. ‘Honey Yellow’, ‘Honey Pearl’, and ‘Sun Jewel’ exhibited higher soluble solids concentration (SSC) than ‘Athena’ in both organic and conventional fields, while ‘Brilliant’, ‘San Juan’, and ‘Ginkaku’ also had higher SSC than ‘Athena’ under organic production. ‘Honey Yellow’, ‘Sun Jewel’, ‘Brilliant’, and ‘Camposol’ were less affected by powdery mildew (caused by Podosphaera xanthii) and downy mildew (caused by Pseudoperonospora cubensis) in the conventional field. ‘Honey Yellow’ and ‘Camposol’ also had significantly lower aboveground disease severity ratings in the organic field compared with ‘Athena’, although the root-knot nematode (RKN) (Meloidogyne sp.) gall rating was higher in ‘Honey Yellow’ than ‘Athena’.

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Wenjing Guan, Xin Zhao, Donald W. Dickson, Maria L. Mendes, and Judy Thies

Interest in specialty melons (Cucumis melo) with distinctive fruit characteristics has grown in the United States in recent years. However, disease management remains a major challenge in specialty melon production. In this study, grafting experiments were conducted to determine the effectiveness of using Cucumis metulifer, a species known for its genetic resistance to root-knot nematodes (RKNs; Meloidogyne spp.), as a potential rootstock for managing RKNs in susceptible specialty melon cultivars. In the greenhouse experiment, honeydew melon ‘Honey Yellow’ was grafted onto C. metulifer and inoculated with M. incognita race 1. The grafted plants exhibited significantly lower gall and egg mass indices and fewer eggs compared with non- and self-grafted ‘Honey Yellow’. Cucumis metulifer was further tested as a rootstock in conventional and organic field trials using honeydew melon ‘Honey Yellow’ and galia melon ‘Arava’ as scions. ‘Honey Yellow’ and ‘Arava’ grafted onto C. metulifer exhibited significantly lower galling and reduced RKN population densities in the organic field; however, total and marketable fruit yields were not significantly different from non- and self-grafted plants. Although the improvement of RKN resistance did not translate into yield enhancements, incorporating grafted specialty melons with C. metulifer rootstock into double-cropping systems with RKN-susceptible vegetables may benefit the overall crop production by reducing RKN population densities in the soil. At the conventional field site, which was not infested with RKNs, ‘Honey Yellow’ grafted onto C. metulifer rootstock had a significantly lower total fruit yield than non-grafted ‘Honey Yellow’ plants; however, fruit yields were similar for ‘Arava’ grafted onto C. metulifer rootstock and non-grafted ‘Arava’ plants. Although no significant impacts on the fruit quality attributes of ‘Honey Yellow’ were observed, grafting onto C. metulifer decreased the flesh firmness of ‘Arava’ in both field trials and resulted in a reduction in total soluble solids content under conventional production. In summary, grafting RKN-susceptible melons onto C. metulifer rootstock offers promise for growing these specialty melons; however, more studies are needed to elucidate the scion–rootstock interaction effect on fruit yield and quality.