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Natalie R. Bumgarner, Mark A. Bennett, Peter P. Ling, Robert W. Mullen, and Matthew D. Kleinhenz

Low and high tunnels and root-zone heating systems are proven tools in horticultural production. However, impacts of their individual and combined application on crop yield, composition, and microclimates are under-reported. We set out to enhance the record of management strategy effects on abiotic environmental conditions and cropping variables in open field and high-tunnel settings. In each setting, raised bed plots were subsurface heated (underlain by electric heating cables), aerial covered (0.8-mil, clear, vented, low tunnels), subsurface heated and aerial covered, or unheated and uncovered (control). The study was repeated four times in spring and fall seasons across 3 years in Wooster, OH. Red-leaved romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa ‘Outredgeous’ and ‘Flagship’) was direct seeded in all plots in early October and late March and harvested after ≈4 weeks. Subsurface and aerial temperatures were monitored throughout the experiments. Here, we report primarily on treatment effects on crop microclimate conditions, including temperature and light, and related cropping variables. Subsurface and aerial temperatures varied consistently with plot microenvironment management. Relative to control plots, variability in shoot- and root-zone temperatures generally increased and decreased, respectively, with the addition of low tunnels and electric heating cables, regardless of setting. Still, the relative influence of aerial and soil temperature on crop biomass appeared to differ by setting; aerial temperature correlated most strongly with yield in the high tunnel, while the combination of aerial and root-zone temperature correlated most strongly with yield in the field. Growing degree day accumulation was least in control plots. And, the highest thermal energy to plant biomass conversion efficiency was recorded in the high tunnel. Comparing study-wide and historical climatic data collected in Wooster and other locations in the region suggests that results reported here may hold over a larger area and longer time frame in Wooster, OH.

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Natalie R. Bumgarner, Mark A. Bennett, Peter P. Ling, Robert W. Mullen, and Matthew D. Kleinhenz

Low and high tunnels and root-zone heating systems are proven tools in horticultural production. However, impacts of their separate and combined application on crop yield, composition, and microclimates are underreported. We addressed these gaps in the literature by exposing lettuce (Lactuca sativa) to four microclimates established with low and high tunnels and root-zone heating during the spring and fall of 2 years in Wooster, OH. Red-leaved romaine lettuce cultivars Outredgeous and Flagship were direct-seeded into raised beds in both outdoor and high-tunnel settings in early October and late March and harvested multiple times over 4 weeks. Half of all plots in each setting were underlain by electric heating cables, and half were covered with 0.8-mil, clear, vented, low tunnels. A growing medium consisting of peat moss, compost, soil, and red clover (Trifolium pratense) hay was used, and all plots were overhead-irrigated. Soil and air temperatures were monitored throughout the experiments, which were repeated four times (2 seasons/year × 2 years). Here, we report primarily on treatment effects on crop yield and related variables. Root- and shoot-zone conditions and cultivar significantly affected leaf biomass in both settings (outdoor, high tunnel), while population was more often affected in the outdoor experiments. Microclimate main effects were more prevalent than cultivar effects or interactions. Leaf yield was greater in low-tunnel-covered and bottom-heated plots than in uncovered and unheated plots. We take these data as further evidence of the potential to alter lettuce yield through root- and shoot-zone microclimate modification, particularly in regions prone to dynamic seasonal and within-season temperature and light conditions. The data also suggest that the relative performance of low and high tunnels in the production of short-statured, quick-cycling crops during fall and spring be more thoroughly evaluated.

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Aparna Gazula, Matthew D. Kleinhenz, John G. Streeter, and A. Raymond Miller

Pigment concentrations in leaf tissue affect the visual and nutritional value-based indices of lettuce crop quality. To better discern the independent and interactive effects of temperature and cultivar on anthocyanin and chlorophyll b concentrations, three closely related Lolla Rosso lettuce cultivars (`Lotto', `Valeria', and `Impuls'), varying primarily in the number of genes controlling anthocyanin concentrations, were subjected to different air temperatures in controlled environments. Fifteen-day-old seedlings previously grown at 20 °C day/night (D/N) were transplanted into growth chambers maintained at 20 °C (D/N), 30/20 °C D/N and 30 °C D/N air temperatures. Twenty days later, leaf tissue was sampled for measures of pigment concentrations, calculated based on spectrophotometric absorbance readings taken at 530 nm (anthocyanin) and 660 nm (chlorophyll b) respectively. Although significant, the temperature × cultivar interaction resulted from differences in the magnitude (not direction) of the change in pigment concentrations among cultivars with changes in temperature. Regardless of cultivar, anthocyanin and chlorophyll b concentrations were highest, moderate and lowest after growth at 20 °C D/N, 30/20 °C D/N and 30 °C D/N respectively. Likewise, irrespective of temperature, anthocyanin and chlorophyll b concentrations followed the pattern `Impuls' (three genes) > `Valeria' (two genes) > `Lotto' (one gene). These data provide additional strong evidence that lettuce leaf pigment concentrations and growing temperatures are negatively related. The data also suggest that low temperatures during the dark phase may mitigate high temperature-driven reductions in lettuce leaf pigment levels.

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Theodore J.K. Radovich, Matthew D. Kleinhenz, John G. Streeter, A. Raymond Miller, and Joseph C. Scheerens

Glucosinolates are secondary plant metabolites derived from amino acids and they influence human health, pest populations and crop flavor. Our primary objective was to determine the independent and interactive effects of planting date (PD) and cultivar (C) on total glucosinolate concentrations in cabbage, in part to help develop management systems that optimize them. A second objective was to explore the reported link between total glucosinolate concentrations and pungency in fresh cabbage. Six commercial fresh market cabbage cultivars were planted in May and June 2001 and 2002 at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) Vegetable Crops Research Branch in Fremont, Ohio. Total glucosinolate concentrations in horticulturally mature heads were determined using a glucose evolution procedure. In 2001, 12 to 14 experienced panelists also scored sample pungency. Total glucosinolate concentrations were significantly affected by PD and C, but the PD × C interaction was not significant. Mean glucosinolate concentrations were greater in Maythan June-planted cabbage in both years. Cultivar ranking with regard to glucosinolate concentrations was similar between planting dates in both years. `Cheers' had the highest mean glucosinolate concentrations (23.1 and 29.5 mmol·kg-1 dry weight in 2001 and 2002, respectively) and `Solid Blue 790' the lowest (17.1 and 19.7 mmol·kg-1 dry weight in 2001 and 2002, respectively). In 2001, panelists generally scored cultivars highest in glucosinolates as more pungent than cultivars lowest in glucosinolates. These data suggest that planting date and cultivar effects on total glucosinolate concentrations in cabbage are largely independent. Climatic data suggest that higher air temperatures during head development of May-compared to June-planted cabbage induced plant stress and resulted in higher glucosinolate concentrations in May-planted cabbage.

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Matthew D. Kleinhenz, R. Vaughan James, Walter R. Stevenson, and Jiwan P. Palta

Plots set up on a commercial seed farm were supplemented with 0 or 168 Ca/ha supplied from liquid calcium nitrate at 3 and 6 weeks after hilling (84 kg Ca/ha per application). Paired measurements of tuber medullary tissue Ca concentration and decay severity after inoculation with Erwinia carotovora pv. atroseptica (Eca.) were taken on identical tubers from these separate plots of `Atlantic', `Superior', `Red Norland', and `Russet Burbank'. Fresh-cut seed pieces sprayed with a suspension of Eca. (108 cfu/ml) were planted in separate 1-liter containers filled with field soil maintained under two soil moisture regimes: 1) air-dry days 1–5, saturation days 6–10, field moisture capacity (FMC) days 11–18, or 2) FMC days 1–18. Containers were placed at 22C constant air temperature at the Univ. of Wisconsin–Madison Biotron. Decay severity (percent volume seed piece decay) and decay incidence (percent tubers with any decay) were rated after 18 days. Eight seed pieces per treatment were evaluated. The mean tuber Ca concentration was higher in plots receiving calcium compared to nonsupplemented plots. Mean medullary Ca concentration varied among cultivars as `Russet Burbank' > `Atlantic' > `Superior' > `Red Norland'. The influence of cultivar on decay showed an incidence and severity pattern `Atlantic' = `Russet Burbank' > `Superior' = `Red Norland'. Decay incidence and severity were greatest in seed pieces kept in temporarily saturated soil compared with those in soil maintained at FMC. Decay incidence and severity were ≈6% lower in tubers produced on Ca-supplemented soil. A scatter plot of decay severity × Ca concentration for seed pieces held at FMC suggests that a threshold of Ca concentration exists above which little or no decay occurs.

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Matthew D. Kleinhenz, Sonia Walker, John Cardina, Marvin Batte, Parwinder Grewal, Brian McSpadden-Gardener, Sally Miller, and Deborah Stinner

The risk: reward for a transition to organic vegetable farming near urban areas and changes in soil, crop, and economic parameters during transition are poorly understood. A 4-year study was initiated in 2003 at the Ohio State Univ.–OARDC to document the relative advantages of four transition strategies and their effects on major cropping system variables. Soil previously in a vegetable-agronomic crop rotation has been maintained fallow, planted to a mixed-species hay, used in open field vegetable production, or used in vegetable production under high tunnels, transition strategies with a range of management intensity and expected financial return. Each strategy was replicated four times within the overall experimental area. Half of the soil in each strategy unit was amended with composted dairy manure while the remaining soil was unamended. Field vegetable plots have been planted to potato, butternut squash, and green bean. High tunnels have been planted to potato, zucchini, and a fall–spring rotation of beet, swiss chard, mixed lettuce, radish, and spinach. Data describing the outcomes of the strategies in terms of farm economics, crop yield and quality, weed ecology, plant pest and disease levels, and soil characteristics (physical, chemical, biological) have been recorded. Inputs in the high tunnels have exceeded inputs in all other strategies; however, high tunnel production has widened planting and harvesting windows and increased potato yield, relative to open field production. To date, compost application has increased crop yield 30% to 230% and influenced crop quality, based on analytical and human panelist measures. Weed (emerged seedlings, seedbank) and nematode populations also continue to vary among the transition strategies.

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David H. Suchoff, Penelope Perkins-Veazie, Heike W. Sederoff, Jonathan R. Schultheis, Matthew D. Kleinhenz, Frank J. Louws, and Christopher C. Gunter

Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) is a warm-season, cold-sensitive crop that shows slower growth and development at temperatures below 18 °C. Improving suboptimal temperature tolerance would allow earlier planting of field-grown tomato and a reduction in energy inputs for heating greenhouses. Grafting tomato onto high-altitude Solanum habrochaites (S. Knapp and D.M. Spooner) accessions has proven effective at improving scion suboptimal temperature tolerance in limited experiments. This study was conducted to determine whether commercially available tomato rootstocks with differing parental backgrounds and root system morphologies can improve the tolerance of scion plants to suboptimal temperature. Two controlled environment growth chambers were used and maintained at either optimal (25 °C day/20 °C night) or suboptimal (15 °C day/15 °C night) temperatures. The cold-sensitive tomato cultivar Moneymaker was used as the nongrafted and self-grafted control as well as scion grafted on ‘Multifort’ (S. lycopersicum × S. habrochaites), ‘Shield’ (S. lycopersicum), and S. habrochaites LA1777 rootstocks. Plants were grown for 10 days in 3.8 L plastic containers filled with a mixture of calcined clay and sand. ‘Multifort’ rootstock significantly reduced the amount of cold-induced stress as observed by larger leaf area and higher levels of CO2 assimilation and photosystem II quantum efficiency. ‘Multifort’ had significantly longer roots, having 42% to 56% more fine root (diameter less than 0.5 mm) length compared with the other nongrafted and grafted treatments. Leaf starch concentration was significantly lower in ‘Multifort’-grafted plants at suboptimal temperatures compared with the self-grafted and nongrafted controls and the ‘Shield’-grafted plants at the same temperature. The ability for ‘Multifort’ to maintain root growth at suboptimal temperatures may improve root system sink strength, thereby promoting movement of photosynthate from leaf to root even under cold conditions. This work demonstrates that a commercially available rootstock can be used to improve suboptimal temperature tolerance in cold-sensitive ‘Moneymaker’ scions.