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Stefan Sutherin, Kevin Lombard, and Rolston St. Hilaire

To fill a critical need for more information on desert-adapted low water-use landscape plants, we created Southwest Plant Selector, a mobile plant selector application (app) of landscape plants from the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer (NMOSE) online database of New Mexico landscape plants. The app, which is available for Apple® iPhone® and iPad®, was designed for homeowners and lists plant descriptive items, pest and disease information, and a photograph of the plant. The app also displays a graphic of the three regions of New Mexico and El Paso County, TX, overlaid with text that provides plant water requirements for each of those regions. An associated web page allows users to calculate supplemental plant water requirements for individual plant selections. Homeowners can select landscape plants based on botanical or common name, plant type, and category, region, and sun exposure. Even with the specific user base of New Mexico residents who own Apple® mobile devices, the app has been downloaded nearly 5000 times since its first release on 29 June 2012. New Mexico State University (NMSU) Cooperative Extension Service agents now use the app as a part of their standard toolkit for interactions with homeowners. Mobile technologies such as smartphone and tablet apps are gaining prominence as outreach tools. Land-grant institutions can be more involved in leveraging mobile application technologies for education and outreach. This article describes a process that land-grant institutions can use to produce apps for horticulture outreach.

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Cathleen Feser, Rolston St. Hilaire, and Dawn VanLeeuwen

Mexican elder (Sambucus mexicana Presl.) is used in arid landscapes of the Southwest, but the plant is known for its unpredictable performance in those landscapes. We studied drought responses of mexican elder plants grown in an arid environment using an in-ground nursery production system. Plants were maintained as well-irrigated controls or exposed to cyclic drought and irrigated based on evapotranspiration. Drought treatment lasted 165 days. Plants exposed to drought had more negative predawn and midday water potentials than well-watered plants. The ratio of variable to maximal fluorescence (Fv/Fm) for the drought group (0.76), was near the optimum value of 0.8, suggesting that chloroplasts of drought-stressed plants maintained high levels of activity. Drought cycle, but not drought treatment affected stomatal conductance. Drought-stressed plants had lower transpiration rates than controls except at drought cycle five when transpiration rates were similar between irrigation treatments. Relative water content was higher in controls (76%) than plants exposed to drought (66%). Leaf area of well-irrigated plants was over four times higher than that of plants exposed to drought. Leaf area to root dry weight ratio of drought-stressed plants was 79% lower than control plants. Severely reduced leaf area of drought-stressed plants might be one reason why landscape personnel conclude that mexican elder plants perform poorly in arid landscapes.

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Coye A. Balok and Rolston St. Hilaire

Identification of tree taxa that can thrive on reduced moisture regimes mandated by xeriscape programs of the southwest United States could be facilitated if responses to drought of those taxa are determined. Leaf water relations, plant development, and cuticular wax content of seven taxa maintained as well-irrigated controls or exposed to drought and irrigated based on evapotranspiration were studied. Leaf water potential of drought-stressed Fraxinus velutina Torr. (Arizona ash), Koelreuteria paniculata Laxm. (golden rain tree), Quercus macrocarpa Michx. (bur oak), and Quercus muehlenbergii Engelm. (chinkapin oak) were lower at predawn than the controls. Drought-stressed plants of F. velutina, K. paniculata, and Quercus lobata Née (California white oak) had more negative midday water potential than the control plants. Drought reduced stomatal conductance to as little as 17%, 23%, and 45% of controls in F. velutina, K. paniculata, and Q. macrocarpa, respectively. Drought-stressed plants of F. velutina, K. paniculata, Q. macrocarpa, and Q. muehlenbergii had reduced transpiration rates. Fraxinus velutina had both the highest net assimilation rate (NAR) and relative growth rate (RGR) regardless of irrigation treatment. Mean specific leaf weight (dry weight (DW) of a 1-cm2 leaf disc divided by the weight), trichome density, stomatal density, leaf thickness, and cuticular wax content varied among species but not between irrigation treatments. Leaves of Q. buckleyi Buckl. (Texas red oak) had one of the highest stomatal densities, and also had leaves which were among the waxiest, most dense, and thickest. Abaxial leaf surfaces of F. velutina were the most pubescent. Across species, drought led to lower ratios of leaf surface area to root DW, and leaf DW to root DW. Quercus buckleyi plants subjected to drought had the highest root to shoot DW ratio (3.1). The low relative growth rate of Q. buckleyi might limit widespread landscape use. However, Q. buckleyi may merit increased use in landscapes on a reduced moisture budget because of foliar traits, carbon allocation patterns, and the relative lack of impact of drought on plant tissue water relations.

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Rolston St. Hilaire and William R. Graves

Selection of sugar maples (Acer saccharum Marsh.) and black maples (Acer saccharum Marsh. ssp. nigrum Desm. or Acer nigrum Michx. f.) that will be more resilient than existing cultivars in managed landscapes could be facilitated by defining relationships between geographic origin and foliar traits critical to leaf function. We examined variation in leaf morphology and anatomy of both taxa, known collectively as hard maples, near 43 °N latitude and tested for relationships between foliar traits and the longitude of origin from 70 ° to 94 °W longitude. Leaves exposed to direct solar radiation were sampled from up to 20 trees indigenous at each of 42 sites during 1995 and 1996. All leaves from east of 75.84 °W and from 92.73 °W and further west expressed morphological characters associated with sugar maple and black maple, respectively; leaves with intermediate traits were found between these two longitudes. Leaves from 90 ° to 94 °W had the highest surface area due to increases in the areas of middle and proximal portions of laminae. Up to 1162 trichomes/cm2 were present on the abaxial surface of laminae from west of 85 °W, while laminae from further east were glabrous or had ≤300 trichomes/cm2. Laminae from western habitats also had relatively high stomatal frequency, and stomatal apertures of laminae west of 91 °W were particularly narrow. Longitude did not affect specific weight and thickness of laminae, which averaged 5.5 mg·cm-2 and 90 μm, respectively. Principal component analysis of laminar traits showed existence of two clusters. A large group dominated by data from trees in New England also contained data from trees as far west as ≈93 °W longitude; data for trees further west were clustered separately. Although phenotypic continua were defined, laminae west of 93 °W were distinct, which suggests trees selected there may function differently in managed landscapes than trees selected from native populations further east.

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Rolston St. Hilaire and William R. Graves

Its more westerly native range and apparent xeromorphic foliar traits have led to speculation that black maple (Acer nigrum Michx.f.) is more drought resistant than sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.). We examined differences in morphology and anatomy of leaves of trees of these species indigenous near the 43°N latitude in the midwestern and eastern United States. Leaves were collected during July, Aug., and Sept. 1995, from 10 trees in each of 24 sites at longitudes of 71°W in Maine to 94°W in Iowa. Density of trichomes on abaxial surfaces and lamina surface area showed quadratic relationships with longitude and were greatest for leaves from westerly sites in Iowa. The percentage of total lamina surface area partitioned in the two most basipetal lobes increased linearly with longitude. Abaxial surfaces had 6 to 960 trichomes/cm2, lamina surface area was 28 to 176 cm2, and surface area partitioned in basipetal lobes was 5% to 9%. A quadratic regression function related increases in trichome density to decreasing mean annual rainfall at collection sites. Specific leaf mass ranged from 3.5 to 7.6 mg·cm–2 and did not relate to longitude. Scanning electron microscopy showed leaves throughout the range had similar trichome morphology, and light microscopy is being used to examine variation in leaf anatomy and stomatal traits.

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Rolston St. Hilaire and William R. Graves

Differences in foliar morphology and anatomy of hard maples (Acer saccharum Marsh. and Acer nigrum Michx. f.) may explain contrasting responses to moisture stress of these species. We conducted a 2-year study to examine leaf morphology and anatomy of populations of hard maples indigenous near the 43°N latitude from 94°W longitude in Iowa to the 71°W longitude in Maine. Leaves were collected from shoots exposed to direct solar radiation on multiple trees at each of 24 sites in 1995, and at 36 sites in 1996. Samples collected in 1995 showed stomate frequency on the abaxial leaf surface ranged from 380 to 760 stomata/mm2. Mean guard cell pair width and length were 16 and 17 μm, respectively. Stomate frequency related quadratically to longitude, was greatest for leaves from Iowa, and was negatively correlated with mean annual precipitation of the sample site. Leaf thickness did not vary with longitude and averaged 96 μm. Palisade thickness showed a greater correlation than mesophyll thickness to total leaf thickness. Mesophyll thickness was more highly correlated than palisade thickness to specific leaf mass, which did not vary with longitude and averaged 5.2 mg·cm–2. Analysis of leaves collected over both years showed trichome frequency and lamina area were related quadratically to longitude; the largest and most pubescent laminae were from westerly sites. These studies are being coordinated with greenhouse experiments on responses of seedlings from selected populations to moisture deficits.

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Rolston St. Hilaire, Cathleen F. Feser, Theodore W. Sammis, and Anderson S. St. Hilaire

Accurate measurement of evapotranspiration (ET) is difficult and expensive for large, in-ground container (pot-in-pot) plants. We engineered and used a simple and inexpensive system to determine evapotranspiration of in-ground container trees. The system was shop-assembled and used a block and tackle system attached to a collapsible tripod. A unique container harness system attached to the block and tackle system was used to lift containers that were sunken in the ground. Containers were weighed with a battery-operated balance that was accurate to 1 g (0.04 oz) at its maximum load capacity of 60 kg (132.3 lb). One person operated the system, and the weight of the system exclusive of the balance was 17.5 kg (38.50 lb). Gravimetric water use data obtained with the system werecombined with meteorological data to compute crop coefficients (Kc) of mexican elder (Sambucus mexicana). The system detected small changes in daily water use of mexican elder trees grown in 76-L (20-gal) in-ground containers. Crop coefficients ranged from 0.17 to 0.71. The acquisition of evapotranspiration data from relatively large, containerized landscape plants may be facilitated because the system is simple, inexpensive, and accurate.

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Yahia Othman, Dawn VanLeeuwen, Richard Heerema, and Rolston St. Hilaire

Demand for New Mexico’s limited water resources coupled with periodic drought has increased the necessity for tree water status monitoring to guide irrigation scheduling of pecan (Carya illinoinensis) orchards. The objectives of this study were to assess the impact of water status developed during the flood irrigation dry-down cycles on photosynthesis (P n), and gas exchange [stomatal conductance (g S) to H2O (g H2O), transpiration (E), and intercellular CO2 (c i)] and to establish values of midday stem water potential (Ψsmd) that are needed to maintain P n and gas exchange of pecan. We conducted the study simultaneously on two southern New Mexico mature pecan orchards from 2011 through 2013. Flood irrigation as determined by grower practice was used on both orchards and P n, g H2O, E, and c i were assessed at Ψsmd of –0.4 to –2.0 MPa. Photosynthesis and gas exchange were higher in pecan trees shortly after irrigation than trees exhibiting water deficit near the end of a flood irrigation dry-down cycle. The decline in P n was markedly noticeable when Ψsmd dropped below –0.9 MPa. We attributed the reduction in P n mostly to stomatal limitation. The decline in P n and g H2O exceeded 50% when Ψsmd ranged from –1.5 to –2.0 MPa. For those reasons, we recommended that pecan orchards be maintained at Ψsmd higher than –0.90 MPa to prevent significant reductions in carbon assimilation and gas exchange.

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Rolston St. Hilaire, Theodore W. Sammis, and John G. Mexal

We integrated the construction and operation of hoop houses into a general education course to provide students with basic agriculture skills such as basic agricultural construction, greenhouse crop production, and greenhouse environmental data collection, while immersing them in an experiential learning environment. Students in the class constructed three 12 × 15-ft hoop houses, installed an irrigation system and climate data acquisition system, and grew radish (Raphanus sativus ‘Cherry Belle’) and lettuce (Lactuca sativa ‘Black-Seeded Simpson’) within each hoop house. At the end of the exercise, 86% of students agreed that they knew the basic techniques of hoop house construction, and 89% agreed that they understood the practical application of building a hoop house. More instruction on calculating crop fertilizer requirements would benefit students because only 43% of students agreed or strongly agreed that they understood how to compute crop fertilizer requirements. Climate data demonstrated that air temperature within the unvented hoop houses exceeded the optimal growing temperature for lettuce and radish. We conclude that construction and operation of hoop houses provided practical agricultural skills in an experiential learning environment while revealing subject areas that warrant further instruction.

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Rolston St. Hilaire, Dawn M. VanLeeuwen, and Patrick Torres

We surveyed homeowners with residential landscapes in Santa Fe, NM, to determine their attitudes toward high desert plants and to assess their preferences for urban landscapes and water conservation strategies in a high desert urban environment. While there was low acceptance for the traditional turf lawn, 64% of residents agreed that high desert plants provided the variety they needed in their residential landscapes and 92% of residents would use high desert plants to landscape their front yard. Homeowners had a strong preference for retaining their current desert landscapes and converting traditional landscapes to high desert-adapted landscapes. Logistic regression revealed a negative relationship between length of residency in the southwestern United States and the willingness to use high desert plants. When homeowners who irrigated their landscape were asked whether water shortages, environmental concerns, information on water, city regulations, high water bills, or water rate increases would cause them to use less water on their landscapes, the highest level of agreement (94%) was for water shortages. Eighty-eight percent of respondents agreed that they liked any type of landscape that contains interesting features and is well planned. We conclude that homeowners have a preference for desert-adapted landscapes and agree that high desert plants provide an adequate palette of plants for urban landscapes. Additionally, the length of residency in the southwestern U.S. and the possibility of water shortages have the potential to impact water conservation strategies in high desert urban landscapes.