Understanding the responses of plant growth and secondary metabolite synthesis to different light wavelengths is important for optimizing lighting conditions for vegetable production in indoor vertical farms. Basil (Ocimum basilicum) ‘Improved Genovese Compact’ (green leaf) and ‘Red Rubin’ (purple leaf), green mustard ‘Amara’ (Brassica carinata), red mustard ‘Red Giant’ (Brassica juncea), green kale ‘Siberian’ (Brassica napus var. pabularia), and red kale ‘Scarlet’ (Brassica oleracea), which are high-value and multifunctional culinary herbs and leafy greens, were used to characterize the effects of red (R), blue (B), and green (G) wavelengths on plant photosynthesis, morphology, biomass production, and secondary metabolites accumulation. Light quality treatments consisted of three R and B light combinations, R88B12 (the proportions of R and B wavelengths were 88% and 12%, respectively), R76B24, and R51B49, and two white light combinations, R44B12G44 (the proportions of R, B, and G wavelengths were 44%, 12%, and 44%, respectively) and R35B24G41. Experiments were conducted in a walk-in growth room with a photosynthetic photon flux density set at 224 μmol·m−2·s−1 and a 16-hour photoperiod. Results indicated that the net photosynthesis in purple basil and green kale were positively correlated with B proportions (BP), and that higher BP increased the relative chlorophyll concentration in purple basil and red kale. In contrast, higher BP suppressed stem elongation and leaf expansion and reduced shoot biomass in all tested species except red mustard. Higher BP increased phytochemical concentrations but decreased the total amounts of phytochemicals per plant. For all basil and brassica (Brassica sp.) cultivars, the inclusion of G wavelengths decreased shoot biomass compared with that of plants grown under R and B light combinations with similar BP. Inclusion of G wavelengths stimulated stem elongation in green basil and green mustard under 12% BP; whereas it suppressed stem elongation in purple basil, green kale, red kale, and green mustard under 24% BP. The effects on phytochemical accumulation were species-specific for the inclusion of G wavelengths. Considering biomass production, nutritional values, and working environment for growers, a white light with lower BP and G proportions is recommended for culinary herbs and Brassica leafy greens production at vertical farms.
Haijie Dou, Genhua Niu, Mengmeng Gu, and Joseph Masabni
Triston Hooks, Genhua Niu, Joe Masabni, Youping Sun, and Girisha Ganjegunte
Pomegranate is a drought-tolerant and salt-tolerant crop. Its fruits contain high levels of phytochemicals that have many health benefits. Pomegranate has the potential to be an alternative crop in areas where water availability is limited, such as west Texas. However, more than 500 pomegranate varieties are estimated to exist worldwide, and little is known about which varieties are suitable for growing in the west Texas region. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the field performance of 22 pomegranate varieties, specifically based on phenology, resistance to sunburn, fruit split, fruit rot (resistance was calculated by subtracting the percent incidence by 100), yield, fruit phytochemicals, and Brix over the course of 3 years from 2016 to 2018. Cold damage, caused by below-freezing temperatures encountered from Nov. 2018 to Feb. 2019, was also evaluated in Apr. 2019. Our results showed significant varietal differences in nearly all response variables measured, indicating that varietal selection is important for pomegranate production for specific regions, such as west Texas. Leaf budding ranged from 47 to 62 days in 2016, 41 to 54 days in 2017, and 49 to 60 days in 2018. Anthesis ranged from 87 to 119 days in 2016, 80 to 94 days in 2017, and 92 to 114 days in 2018. Fruit resistance to split was broad and ranged from 7.3% to 79.1% in 2017 and from 14.2% to 99.7% in 2018. Fruit sunburn resistance ranged from 14.0% to 64.6% in 2017 and from 28.3% to 90.0% in 2018. Fruit heart rot incidence was nominal for all varieties. Total phenolic compound contents of the pomegranate fruit juice ranged from 0.81 to 1.52 mg GAE/mL, and the total antioxidant capacity ranged from 3.44 to 6.81 mg TE/mL. The yield per tree ranged from 1.00 to 7.96 kg in 2017 and from 0.81 to 10.26 kg in 2018. Brix ranged from 12.5% to 17.4% in 2017 and from 13.9% to 18.4% in 2018. Early winter below-freezing temperatures caused different degrees of cold damage; however, 5 of 22 varieties that originated from Russia did not show any cold damage. Results of a hierarchical cluster analysis based on the means of the key response variables of yield and Brix indicated that four varieties (Al-Sirin-Nar, Russian 8, Ben Ivey, and Salavatski) were notable for having both high yield and high Brix.
Christine Yung-Ting Yen, Terri W. Starman, Yin-Tung Wang, and Genhua Niu
The effects of cooling temperature [constant (10, 13, 15, or 18 °C, or 15, 18, or 21 °C)] and duration (2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 weeks, or 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 weeks) at two separate locations (College Station and Weslaco, TX) on growth and flowering of Dendrobium Sea Mary ‘Snow King’, a Dendrobium nobile Lindl. hybrid, were investigated and the cooling requirement for flowering was quantified. Interactions between temperature and cooling duration were significant on time required to reach anthesis from either the beginning or completion of cooling, average flower number per flowering node, and percentage of nodes with aborted buds. Increasing cooling duration from 2 to 6 or 3 to 7 weeks resulted in less time to reach anthesis after the completion of cooling. However, the increased cooling durations extended the time needed for producing a flowering crop. Plants cooled at a relatively higher temperature among 10, 13, and 15 °C required less time to reach anthesis after the completion of cooling. Plants had more flowering nodes and total flowers when cooled at 10, 13, or 15 °C than at 18 °C in College Station or at 15 or 18 °C than at 21 °C in Weslaco. The results suggest that 3 weeks at 13 °C has saturated the cooling requirement, and 3 weeks at 13 or 15 °C is a recommended cooling treatment that saves production cost without retarding flower development.
Raul I. Cabrera, L. Rahman, Genhua Niu, Cynthia McKenney, and Wayne Mackay
In this preliminary study, we evaluated the salinity tolerance of selected herbaceous perennials. Liners of Rudbeckia hirta `Becky Orange', Phlox paniculata `John Fanick', Coreopsis grandiflora `Early Sunrise', Lantana ×hybrida `New Gold' and Cuphea hyssopifolia `Allyson' were transplanted to 4-gal plastic containers filled with peat moss: pine bark: sand (3:1:1) medium amended with dolomite, Micromax and Osmocote 18-6-12 (at 2, 0.6, and 6 kg·m3, respectively). The plants were irrigated for 14 weeks with tap water containing 0, 1.5, 3, 6, 12, and 24 mM of NaCl: CaCl2 salt mixture (2:1 molar ratio). Increasing salt stress had differential effects on plant growth and quality, with Rudbeckia and Phlox being the most adversely affected even by the lowest salt treatment of 1.5 mM, with dry weight reductions of ∼25% compared to the controls. Conversely, Lantana and Cuphea tolerated extremely well salinity up to 12 mM, where dry weight reductions were less than 10% of the nonsalinized controls. The Lantana and Cuphea plants also presented the lowest leaf Cl accumulation with increasing salinity, whereas Coreopsis showed the highest Cl accumulations at any salinity level. Plots of leaf Cl concentration against dry weights showed steeply declining relationships for Rudbeckia and Phlox plants, confirming our observations and assessment that these species are to be considered salt-sensitive. Leaf Na accumulation is currently being analyzed.
Xinjing Qu, Hui Wang, Ming Chen, Jiao Liao, Jun Yuan, and Genhua Niu
Oil tea (Camellia oleifera) is an important edible oil tree. However, its growth and yield are strongly limited by drought. This study investigated the physiological and metabolic responses of two common oil tea cultivars, Huajin and Changlin53, to moderate and severe drought stress. Based on the photosynthetic and physiological indices, ‘Changlin53’ may be more tolerant to drought than ‘Huajin’. A total of 41 key metabolites induced by drought stress, including 12 amino acids, 12 organic acids, 10 carbohydrates, 3 fatty acids, and 4 phenols, have been identified by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Under moderate drought stress, the contents of carbohydrates, amino acids, and some organic acids in ‘Changlin53’ were significantly increased; however, under severe drought stress, the contents of soluble sugars were decreased and the synthesis ability of amino acids and organic acids were enhanced. The glutamic acid–mediated proline biosynthesis pathway and salicylic acid synthesis were continuously upregulated in ‘Changlin53’ under moderate and severe drought stress, which could regulate osmotic pressure and maintain intracellular environmental stability. Under moderate drought stress, the contents of monosaccharides, amino acids, and organic acids increased in ‘Huajin’ leaves. Furthermore, the shikimic acid–mediated secondary metabolite synthesis pathway was weakened. More secondary metabolites were used to increase glycolysis and tricarboxylic acid cycle to accelerate energy production and to enhance the glutamic acid–mediated proline biosynthesis pathway, which are necessary to increase osmotic regulation. Under severe drought stress, the contents of carbohydrates, organic acids, and some amino acids were significantly decreased in ‘Huajin’ leaves, indicating serious damage. These results deepened our understanding of the mechanisms involved in oil tea drought tolerance, which will help improve water management of oil tea seedlings.
Christine Yung-Ting Yen, Terri W. Starman, Yin-Tung Wang, Andreas Holzenburg, and Genhua Niu
Hybrids of Dendrobium nobile Lindl. have high potential to become a high-value pot plant, but detailed research to support the development of commercial production protocols was lacking. A 3 × 5 factorial experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of nutrient termination date (1 Aug., 1 Sept., or 1 Oct.) and nutrient reapplication time (at the beginning or in the middle of cooling, immediately after or 2 weeks after the completion of cooling, or no nutrient reapplication) on growth and flower development of Dendrobium Sea Mary ‘Snow King,’ a D. nobile hybrid. Interaction between nutrient termination date and reapplication time on growth and flowering was nonsignificant for all variables measured, and reapplication time had only a minor effect on leaves remaining. Regardless of nutrient reapplication time, delaying nutrient termination date resulted in improved growth and flowering. Nutrient termination on 1 Oct. resulted in taller plants with more nodes, leaves remaining, flowering nodes, and total flowers as well as fewer aborted flowers than an earlier termination date. Nutrient supply until 1 Oct. did not lead to differences in time required for anthesis but extended the time needed to reach full flowering by 1.5 d. The results suggest that flower development benefited more from the nutrients that were accumulated in mature pseudobulbs before nutrient termination rather than from those being taken from the reapplied fertilizers. Only lateral buds protruding 2 mm or more from the pseudobulb surface showed differentiated floral structures when examined histologically. The buds, excised 4 weeks after cooling treatments began, showed that nutrient termination on 1 Aug. resulted in larger flower primordia than those ended on 1 Oct., indicating an earlier or faster flower differentiation with earlier nutrient termination. No aerial shoot formation or reversion of reproductive to vegetative buds arose as a result of either late nutrient termination or resumption of nutrient application.
Huan Xiong, He Sun, Feng Zou, Xiaoming Fan, Genhua Niu, and Deyi Yuan
Castanea henryi is an important woody grain tree species native to China. The objective of the current study was to find the suitable plant growth regulators (PGRs) and the optimal concentrations for direct organogenesis by using axillary shoots and cotyledonary nodes. Seeds were collected from the field, sterilized, and germinated in vitro. Axillary shoots and cotyledonary nodes of 3-week-old seedlings were used as explants. To find the suitable PGR for adventitious shoot induction, 0.5 mg·L–1 6-benzylaminopurine (6-BA), 0.1 mg·L–1 indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), 0.1 mg·L–1 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), or 0.1 mg·L–1 1-naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA) was supplemented to Murashige and Skoog (MS) medium containing 0.65% agar and 3% sucrose. A high induction percentage of adventitious shoots (85.67%) was obtained from cotyledonary nodes supplemented with 0.1 mg·L–1 2,4-D. The type of explant influenced shoot proliferation rates and quality. Apical explants produced more and longer shoots than nodal segments. For shoot multiplication, 1 mg·L–1 6-BA + 0.05 mg·L–1 indole-3-butyric acid (IBA) supplemented with MS medium produced 12.33 and 6.25 shoots per explant, respectively, from apical and nodal explants. For shoot elongation and strengthening, 2 mg·L–1 6-BA + 0.05 mg·L–1 IBA supplemented with MS medium was the best combination, producing shoots with a mean length of 3.50 cm, a diameter of 0.46 cm, and about eight leaves per shoot. The greatest rooting of 76.70% and 11.33 roots per shoot was achieved when cultured in MS medium supplemented with 3.5% perlite + 1.5 mg·L–1 IBA. For acclimatization of the rooted plantlets in the greenhouse, a survival rate of 80% was achieved. This protocol—from multiplication to acclimation—is helpful to realize mass propagation of high-quality trees of chinquapin for increasing production and nut quality.
Qiang Liu, Youping Sun, Genhua Niu, James Altland, Lifei Chen, and Lijuan Jiang
Because of limited supply of high-quality water, alternative water sources have been used for irrigation in water-scarce regions. However, alternative waters usually contain high salt levels, which can cause salt damage on salt-sensitive plants. A greenhouse study was conducted to evaluate the relative salt tolerance of 10 common ornamental taxa to saline water irrigation. The 10 taxa studied were Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Orange Storm’ and ‘Pink Storm’ (Chaenomeles Double Take™); Diervilla rivularis ‘G2X885411’, ‘G2X88544’ (Diervilla Kodiak®, Black, Orange, and Red, respectively), and ‘Smndrsf’; Forsythia ×intermedia ‘Mindor’ (Forsythia Show Off®); Hibiscus syriacus ‘ILVOPS’ (Hibiscus Purple Satin®); Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Smhmtau’ and ‘Smnhmsigma’ (Hydrangea Let’s Dance® Blue Jangles® and Rave, respectively); and Parthenocissus quinquefolia ‘Troki’ (Parthenociss quinquefolia Red Wall®). Plants were irrigated with a nutrient solution at an electrical conductivity (EC) of 1.2 dS·m−1 (control) or saline solutions at EC of 5.0 or 10.0 dS·m−1 (EC 5 or EC 10) eight times on a weekly basis. The results indicated that the 10 ornamental taxa had different morphological and physiological responses to salinity. The C. speciosa and D. rivularis plants in EC 5 had severe salt foliar damage, whereas those in EC 10 were dead. Hibiscus syriacus ‘ILVOPS’ performed well in EC 5 treatment with a shoot dry weight (DW) reduction of 26%, but those in EC 10 had severe foliar salt damage. Hydrangea macrophylla, F. ×intermedia ‘Mindor’ and P. quinquefolia ‘Troki’ were the most salt tolerant with minor foliar salt damage. The two H. macrophylla cultivars had the highest shoot sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl) concentrations with a visual quality of 3 (scale 0 to 5 with 0 for dead plants and 5 for excellent performance), indicating that H. macrophylla plants adapted to elevated salinity by tolerating high Na and Cl concentrations in leaf tissue. Forsythia ×intermedia ‘Mindor’ and P. quinquefolia ‘Troki’ had relatively low leaf Na and Cl concentration, indicating that both taxa are capable of excluding Na and Cl. Chaenomeles speciosa and D. rivularis were sensitive to salinity with great growth reduction, severe foliar salt damage, and high Na and Cl accumulation in leaf tissue.
Xi Wang, Genhua Niu, Mengmeng Gu, Paul A. Baumann, and Joseph Masabni
Mustard Seed Meals (MSMs) are by-products of biodiesel and an alternative to conventional herbicides for organic farming. However, MSMs might also suppress the emergence of vegetable seedlings. The objective of this study was to determine the response of vegetable seedling emergence to different MSM types and rates applied as an alternative herbicide. Six types of vegetable seeds, onion (Allium cepa), two cultivars of lettuce (Lactuca sativa ‘Black Seeded Simpson’ and ‘Buttercrunch’), mustard (Brassica juncea), kale (Brassica oleracea), and Mizuna (Brassica rapa var. japonica), were sowed in petri dishes containing germination mix. MSMs (Sinapis alba ‘IdaGold’ and B. juncea ‘Pacific Gold’) were incorporated into the germination mix at 0, 88, 176, or 265 g·m−2. Petri dishes were sealed for 1, 3, 5, or 7 days after sowing. For onion, ‘Pacific Gold’ had a greater suppressive effect on seedling emergence than ‘IdaGold’. For kale and mustard, ‘IdaGold’ and ‘Pacific Gold’ had similar suppressive effects on seedling emergence, but ‘Pacific Gold’ delayed emergence of kale at 88 g·m−2 when sealed for 3, 5, and 7 days. For Mizuna, ‘IdaGold’ had more suppressive effects than ‘Pacific Gold’ on seedling emergence, while sealing delayed but did not decrease emergence percentage (EP) at the lower rate (88 g·m−2) compared with the control treatment. For ‘Buttercrunch’ lettuce, there were no differences in the suppressive effects between the two MSMs. For ‘Black Seeded Simpson’ lettuce, ‘Pacific Gold’ had more suppressive effects on seedling emergence than ‘IdaGold’ when sealed at the lower rate (88 g·m−2) for longer durations (7 days) or at higher rates (176 and 265 g·m−2) for shorter durations (1 and 3 days). These results suggest that MSMs might suppress vegetable seedling emergence when applied at high rates (176 and 265 g·m−2), and sealing for more than 7 days after sowing may strengthen the suppressive effect. Extending sealing duration at the medium rates could achieve similar weed control results to high rates without sealing.