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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.

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Edgar L. Vinson III, Elina D. Coneva, Joseph M. Kemble, Floyd M. Woods, Jeff L. Sibley, Esendugue G. Fonsah, Penelope M. Perkins-Veazie, and J. Raymond Kessler

The development of more cold-tolerant short-cycle banana cultivars has made subtropical production possible, but fruiting may be unreliable in colder margins, such as the coastal region of Alabama, as a result of cold winter temperatures and other suboptimal growing conditions. Thus, the objectives of this study were to determine plant growth parameters that predict flowering, and to evaluate vegetative and reproductive growth of Cavendish and non-Cavendish banana cultivars. Pseudostem circumference and the height-to-circumference ratio (HCR) for tall cultivars and HCR for medium cultivars exhibited linear or quadratic relationships when regressed to the number of days from planting to inflorescence emergence (DPE), and hence were the best predictors of inflorescence emergence. The banana cultivars Double, Grand Nain, Cardaba, Ice Cream, and Goldfinger demonstrated cropping potential by producing mature bunches in the cooler environment of the subtropics and currently offer the best possibilities for banana production in Alabama.

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Gina Fernandez, Jeremy Pattison, Penelope Perkins-Veazie, James R. Ballington, Elizabeth Clevinger, Rocco Schiavone, Sanjun Gu, Jayesh Samtani, Edgar Vinson, Amanda McWhirt, and Jose Guillermo Chacón