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Bizhen Hu, Mark A. Bennett, and Matthew D. Kleinhenz

The primary objective of this study was to test an improved method for estimating vegetable seedling vigor, which is important in grafting and other contexts. The study was also designed to test correlations between destructive and nondestructive measures of seedling growth and the effect of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) rootstock and scion seedling vigor on graft success. Emergence and biomass accumulation and distribution of 18 tomato rootstock and five scion cultivars were monitored in the greenhouse through 18 days after sowing using seven destructive and nondestructive measures; growing conditions were also monitored. Plant and environmental data were used: 1) to develop cultivar growth curves, rank-sum values, and multicomponent seedling vigor values, and 2) to test correlations between percent canopy cover and other foliar measures. Also, seedlings representing all 90 rootstock–scion combinations and their associated seedling vigor values were cleft-grafted using accepted methods and grafted-plant survival was evaluated 2 weeks later. The experiment was conducted twice. Overall seedling vigor and its components differed significantly between runs of the experiment and among cultivars, although most cultivars had similar rankings (relative vigor) in both runs. Rank-sum and seedling vigor values ordered cultivars similarly. However, the range of cultivar seedling vigor values (3–11,504) greatly exceeded the range of rank-sum values (4–92). Correlations between destructive and nondestructive measures were significant. Graft success did not differ among cultivar combinations. We conclude that 1) the method to estimate seedling vigor described herein is useful in grafting and other contexts, including when discerning cultivar and other treatment effects, 2) nondestructive measures can substitute for some destructive ones, and 3) graft success in tomato is unrelated to rootstock and scion seedling vigor, provided proper grafting and healing techniques and commercial cultivars are used.

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Theodore J.K. Radovich, Matthew D. Kleinhenz, and John G. Streeter

To better understand the influence of environmental factors on components of crop productivity and nutritional and sensory quality parameters, the fresh-market cabbage (Brassica oleracea L. Capitata Group) `Bravo' was irrigated at different periods relative to head development in 2002 and 2003 at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster. Irrigation was provided to plots either: 1) from planting to maturity, 2) during frame development only, or 3) during head development only. Control plants received no irrigation after plant establishment. Irrigation timing relative to crop stage significantly affected all head characteristics with the greatest differences between cabbage receiving irrigation during head development and cabbage not irrigated during head development. On average, heads from cabbage irrigated during head development were heavier, larger, less pointed, and had less volume occupied by the core than heads from cabbage not irrigated during head development. A positive, linear relationship (r 2 = 0.89) was found between head volume and head weight. Across years, combined head fructose and glucose concentrations were significantly greater and sucrose concentrations significantly lower in cabbage receiving irrigation during head development than in cabbage not irrigated during head development. Total and individual glucosinolate levels were greater in cabbage not irrigated during head development relative to cabbage receiving irrigation during head development. Head weight, fructose and glucose were positively related to the proportion of estimated crop evapotranspiration replaced by irrigation during head development, while the opposite response was observed in head sucrose and total and indole glucosinolate concentrations.

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Christopher C. Gunter, Matthew D. Kleinhenz, and Jiwan P. Palta

Pathogenic bacteria (Erwinia spp.) can have a significant impact on stand establishment and sprout health. These bacteria cause soft rot of the seed piece, which is common in wet spring conditions resulting in great economic loss. Recent studies have demonstrated that the incidence and severity of soft rot can be significantly reduced by increasing tuber calcium. We investigated the influence of seed piece calcium on tuber production. Field growing potato plants were treated with supplemental calcium during tuber bulking (calcium at 168 kg·ha–1 from calcium nitrate or N-Hib) to increase the seed tuber medullary calcium levels. All three cultivars (`Superior', `Atlantic', `Dark Red Norland') responded to supplemental calcium application with increases in mean calcium contents, even though soil tests showed high native calcium levels (1000 kg·ha–1). Seed tubers were sampled for calcium by removing a longitudinal slice from the center of each tuber and planting one of the resulting halves for seed piece decay evaluation and the other for yield evaluation. Calcium nitrate-treated seed tubers produced higher yields compared to ammonium nitrate and N-Hib in `Atlantic' in `Dark Red Norland'. This trend did not hold true for `Superior'. Our results suggest that a) it is possible to increase seed piece tuber calcium levels with supplemental calcium application even in soils testing high in calcium and b) improving the calcium concentration of the seed piece can increase tuber yield in some cultivars.

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Aparna Gazula*, Matthew D. Kleinhenz, Joseph C. Scheerens, Peter P. Ling, and John G. Streeter

Anthocyanins (Antho) are the source of red color in plants and the intensity of redness is an important quality parameter in red leaf lettuce. Despite the importance of Antho in leaf lettuce, little information is available regarding the effects of major production-related factors, such as planting date, on their levels. To address this issue, field studies were conducted in 2002 and 2003 in which Antho levels were measured in nine lettuce varieties planted in early and late summer (ES and LS, respectively) using a RCB design. Leaf tissue was sampled 30 d after transplanting. Data for three strongly related Lolla Rossa-type varieties (`Lotto', `Valeria', `Impuls') are reported here. The planting date × variety interaction was significant; however, Antho concentrations were higher following planting in LS than ES, regardless of variety. Planting date effects were more pronounced in 2002, when differences in average daily temperature between ES and LS plantings tended to be larger. Regardless of planting date and year, Antho levels followed the pattern `Impuls' (three genes) > `Valeria' (two genes) > `Lotto' (one gene). Correlations between human visual and two types of instrumented assessments of color are being tested in samples from the same study.

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Aparna Gazula*, Matthew D. Kleinhenz, Joseph C. Scheerens, Peter P. Ling, and John G. Streeter

In addition to their physiological and metabolic roles, anthocyanin (Antho) levels in lettuce contribute to visual and nutritional value-based assessments of crop quality. Although 7 genes are now thought to help regulate Antho synthesis, deposition and/or degradation in lettuce, the genetic and abiotic controls of Antho levels remain less well characterized in lettuce than other plants. Previous greenhouse studies demonstrated that Antho levels in diverse lettuce varieties are a function of temperature and lighting regimen. Here, three strongly related Lolla Rossa-type varieties (`Lotto', `Valeria', and `Impuls') varying in the number of genes controlling intensity of anthocyanins were subjected to differential temperature conditions in growth chambers to better discern the independent and interactive effects of temperature (T) and variety (V) on Antho levels. Fifteen day-old seedlings were placed into one of three chambers maintained at 20 °C day/night (D/N), 30 °C/20 °C D/N or 30 °C D/N. Antho levels were measured in leaf tissue collected 30 d after transplanting. The entire experiment was replicated twice. Although significant, the T x V interaction resulted from differences in the magnitude, not direction, of the change in Antho concentrations among varieties with changes in T. This suggests that T was a main driver of Antho levels in this study. Regardless of V, Antho concentrations were highest, moderate and lowest after growth at 20 °C D/N, 30 °C/20 °C D/N and 30 °C D/N, respectively. Likewise, regardless of T, Antho levels followed the pattern `Impuls' (three genes) > `Valeria' (two genes) > `Lotto' (one gene). Correlations among instrumented and human eye-based evaluations of color are also being tested in samples from both studies.

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Aparna Gazula, Matthew D. Kleinhenz, Joseph C. Scheerens, and Peter P. Ling

Leaf samples collected from field plots of nine lettuce cultivars established in the early (ES) and late (LS) summer of 2002 and 2003 in Celeryville, Ohio, were subjected to spectrophotometric measurement of anthocyanin concentrations or color analysis based on colorimeter and spectroradiometer readings and human panelist ratings. Interactions among year (Y), transplanting date (TD), and cultivar (C) main effects for anthocyanin concentration were significant as a result of shifts in response magnitude but not direction. Anthocyanin levels were higher after LS than ES transplanting regardless of Y and C. The effects of TD were pronounced in 2002, when differences in average daily temperature between ES and LS transplantings tended to be larger. Also, regardless of Y and TD, anthocyanin levels followed the pattern ‘Impuls’ > ‘OOC 1441’ > ‘Valeria’ > ‘OOC1426’ > ‘Lotto’ > ‘SVR 9634’ > ‘OOC 1434’ = ‘OOC 1310’ > ‘Cireo’. Treatment-based color differences were also evident in colorimeter and spectroradiometer readings. Also, panelists differentiated samples grown in 2003 based on red color intensity. Correlations between analytic and instrumented and human panelist-based measures suggest instrumented assessments of red coloration may serve as proxies for direct measures of anthocyanin levels or human panelist ratings, particularly if the aim is to establish color differences between major experimental groups and assign quantitative, repeatable values to red color intensity.

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Matthew D. Kleinhenz, Aparna Gazula, Joseph C. Scheerens, and Darla G. French

Shading effects on chlorophyll a (ChlA), chlorophyll b (ChlB) and anthocyanin (Antho) concentrations were examined at three developmental stages in four varieties of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) grown under contrasting temperature regimens in the greenhouse. Seedlings were transplanted to pots and grown at 30 °C (86.0 °F) day/night (D/N) (Study 1) or 30/18 °C (86.0/64.4 °F) D/N (Study 2). One-half of all plants in each study were positioned under bottomless shade boxes which reduced incoming light intensity by 50%. Pigment concentrations were measured in leaf tissue 9, 16, and 23 days after transplanting. Each study was repeated twice. Regardless of temperature regimen, variety influenced all pigment concentrations, while shading affected, primarily, Antho concentrations. ChlA and ChlB concentrations were influenced by growth stage. In Study 1, chlorophyll concentrations were significantly greater in `Green Vision' than `New Red Fire' or `Rolina', but not `Galactic'. Also, Antho concentrations were significantly greater in `Galactic' than the other varieties. In Study 2, chlorophyll concentrations were greatest in `Green Vision', with similar concentrations among the remaining varieties. Antho concentrations were greatest in `Galactic', intermediate in `New Red Fire' and `Rolina', and lowest in `Green Vision'. Shading significantly reduced Antho concentrations in `Galactic' and `Rolina' under both temperature regimens and `New Red Fire' at 30/18 °C D/N, but increased Antho concentrations in `Green Vision'. Chlorophyll concentrations tended to decrease with plant age. Pigment concentration data clarified what was apparent to the unaided eye—namely, that the amount and intensity of green and red color varied among plants subjected to different shading and temperature treatments. Therefore, these data may aid in developing strategies to achieve targeted levels of pigmentation (especially red) in lettuce, an important criterion of crop quality and potential market value.

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David H. Suchoff, Jonathan R. Schultheis, Matthew D. Kleinhenz, Frank J. Louws, and Christopher C. Gunter

The following study was conducted to address water use efficiency in grafted tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) in an on-farm environment. The commercial rootstock cultivars Beaufort (BE) and Shield (S) were chosen as these two have different root system morphologies that may benefit water use efficiency. The heirloom cultivar Cherokee Purple (CP) was grafted onto both rootstocks and used as the nongrafted control. The study was conducted in 2016 and 2017 on a 5-acre vegetable and cut flower farm in North Carolina’s Piedmont region. Plants were grown under protected, high-tunnel culture where they received either 100% (3 hours every other day) or 50% (1.5 hours every other day) of the grower’s normal irrigation regime. At 50% irrigation, ‘Beaufort’-grafted plants yielded significantly more than nongrafted ‘Cherokee Purple’ and ‘Shield’-grafted plants. Furthermore, ‘Beaufort’-grafted plants at 50% irrigation yielded more than nongrafted ‘Cherokee Purple’ receiving the 100% irrigation treatment. The ‘Beaufort’-grafted plants significantly improved irrigation water use efficiency (iWUE) at the 50% irrigation treatment compared with the other graft treatments. Yield and iWUE of ‘Shield’-grafted plants were comparable with the nongrafted ‘Cherokee Purple’ at both irrigation treatments. Regardless of irrigation treatment, grafting onto ‘Beaufort’ improved the quality of total fruit harvested. An economic assessment was conducted to determine the feasibility of using grafted plants in conditions lacking significant disease pressure. Purchasing grafted transplants would increase the initial investment by $5227.2 per acre. However, the increased yield obtained when using ‘Beaufort’ rootstock at 50% irrigation increased net revenue by $35,900.41 per acre compared with nongrafted ‘Cherokee Purple’ receiving 100% irrigation, amounting to a 44.6% increase in net revenue while saving ≈383,242 gal/acre of water per growing season. These results indicate that growers can select rootstocks to better manage water use in an environmentally friendly manner without limiting economic gains.

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Matthew D. Kleinhenz, Jiwan P. Palta, Christopher C. Gunter, and Keith A. Kelling

Three Ca sources and two application schedules were compared for their effectiveness for increasing tissue Ca concentrations in 170 to 284 g field-grown tubers of `Atlantic' potato (Solanum tuberosum L.). Additional observations were made of internal physiological defects. Paired measures of tissue (periderm and nonperiderm) Ca concentration and internal quality (±hollow heart, ±internal brown spot) were made on individual tubers produced in plots fertilized with N at 224 kg·ha-1 and Ca at either 0 or 168 kg·ha-1, supplied from either gypsum, calcium nitrate or NHIB (9N-0P-0K-11Ca, a commercial formulation of urea and CaCl2). Application of N and Ca at emergence and hilling (nonsplit) was compared to application at emergence, hilling, and 4 and 8 weeks after hilling (split). Tuber yield and grade were unaffected by treatments. Split Ca application (from either calcium nitrate or NHIB) increased mean tuber nonperiderm tissue Ca concentrations and the percentage of tubers with an elevated Ca concentration in both years compared with non-Ca-supplemented controls. Split Ca application also resulted in greater increases in Ca in nonperiderm tissue than nonsplit Ca application in 1994. Although the correlation coefficient between Ca level in periderm and nonperiderm tissue of >400 individual tubers was highly significant in both study years, linear regression analyses suggested the Ca level in the two tissues were poorly related. Split application was associated with a 37% reduction in the incidence of internal tuber defects, relative to nonsplit application in 1994. Calcium application did not affect tuber internal quality based on means analysis, but chi-square analysis suggested that Ca concentration and internal quality of individual tubers may be related. The incidence of internal defects was 16.4% in tubers with nonperiderm tissue Ca >100 μg·g-1 dry weight compared to 10.6% in tubers with nonperiderm tissue Ca >100 μg·g-1 dry weight. These data suggest that 1) it is feasible to increase tuber Ca levels by field applications of moderate amounts of Ca, 2) tuber quality is impacted by N and Ca application schedule, and 3) Ca concentrations in tuber periderm and nonperiderm tissues may be controlled independently.

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David H Suchoff, Christopher C. Gunter, Jonathan R. Schultheis, Matthew D. Kleinhenz, and Frank J. Louws

Improvement of crop water use is imperative. Plants’ responses to limited water can dictate their ability to better use available resources and avoid prolonged and severe stress. The following study was conducted to determine how tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) rootstocks with different root system morphologies respond to drying soils. Plants were grown in pots containing an inorganic substrate composed of calcined clay and sand in a greenhouse on North Carolina State University’s campus. The heirloom tomato cultivar Cherokee Purple was used as the scion for ‘Beaufort’ and ‘Shield’ rootstocks as well as the self-grafted control. These rootstocks were assigned either normal or reduced irrigation treatments. Plants grown under the normal irrigation schedule were weighed and watered daily to maintain container capacity for one week. Those receiving reduced irrigation had all water withheld for one week, at which point strong midday wilting became evident. Shoot physiological and morphological data as well as root morphological data were collected at the end of the study. A constitutive positive increase on relative water content, leaf area, stomatal conductance (g S), and net CO2 assimilation rate was observed with scions grafted on ‘Beaufort’. In addition, this rootstock had a significantly longer total root system (118.6 m) compared with ‘Shield’ (94.9 m) and the self-grafted control (104.2 m). Furthermore, 76.4% of the total root length observed in ‘Beaufort’ was composed of very thin diameter roots ( <0.5 mm), which was higher than ‘Shield’ (73.67%) and the self-grafted control (69.07%). The only significant rootstock irrigation interaction observed was for effective quantum yield of photosystem II (φPSII). At normal irrigation there were no differences among the rootstock treatments; however, at reduced irrigation ‘Beaufort’ had significantly higher φPSII than both ‘Shield’ and the self-grafted control. These results may explain some of the improved production and water use efficiency observed in field trials using ‘Beaufort’ rootstock, and data secured may allow for better screening of rootstocks for improved water use efficiency in the future.