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Sandra B. Wilson, Robert L. Geneve, and Fred T. Davies

Interactive web-based questions were developed for students to review subject matter learned in an online plant propagation course. Articulate Storyline software was used to build nearly 250 review questions with five different testing styles to ascertain proficiency in subject areas, including the biology of propagation, the propagation environment, seed propagation, vegetative propagation, micropropagation, and cell culture. Questions were arranged to correspond to the supporting textbook chapters in Hartmann and Kester’s Plant propagation: Principles and practices, ninth edition. These are open access and available to instructors and students worldwide. Users received immediate feedback for each question answered correctly or incorrectly. The system remembers where one leaves off, which enables starting and stopping multiple times within a chapter. Means of pre- and posttest responses to nine content knowledge items showed that students perceived a significant content knowledge gain in the course. These online interactive reviews can be adapted easily to other courses in a variety of fields, including horticulture, botany, systematics, and biology. They can also be expanded to overlay multiple objects and trigger events based on user response. Since inception, the website hosting these online reviews averaged 156 unique visitors per month. Students have reported this to be a useful tool to prepare them for course exams.

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Marissa Moses and Pathmanathan Umaharan

Capsicum chinense is commercially the most important pepper species grown in the Caribbean. It is popularly used to impart pungency and flavor to Caribbean cuisine. However, unlike Capsicum annuum, which is the most commercially exploited domesticated species internationally, C. chinense has not been methodically collected or characterized for systematic improvement through plant breeding. The objectives of the study were to assess the diversity of C. chinense and its structure within the Caribbean basin and to determine its phylogenetic relationship to groups within South America. DNA isolated from 201 accessions of C. chinense, representing geographical regions where the species is found, were amplified using arbitrary primers to generate 138 polymorphic and reproducible random amplification of polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers. Nei’s and Shannon’s diversity indices for C. chinense (0.28 and 0.419, respectively) were higher in South America compared with Central America or the Caribbean, corresponding to its putative center of diversity. The study showed the existence of three phylogenetic clusters within C. chinense. The largest cluster consisted of accessions from the Upper Amazon region, the Guianas including Venezuela, and the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean. The other major cluster was represented by accessions principally from the Lower Amazon region. Another distinct but small cluster consisted of samples solely from the Greater Antilles of the Caribbean. The discovery of the three phylogenetic clusters within C. chinense may have potential for exploiting heterosis in breeding. The implications of the findings to the understanding of the phylogenetic origin and distribution of C. chinense are discussed.

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Kelly T. Morgan, T.A. Obreza, and J.M.S. Scholberg

Understanding the growth pattern of fibrous, orange tree [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck] roots enables proper fertilizer placement to improve nutrient uptake efficiency and to reduce nutrient leaching below the root zone. The objective of this study was to develop relationships defining citrus fibrous root length density (FRLD) as a function of soil depth, distance from the tree trunk, and tree size. Root systems of 18 trees with tree canopy volumes (TCV) ranging from 2.4 to 34.3 m3 on two different rootstocks and growing in well-drained sandy soils were sampled in a systematic pattern extending 2 m away from the trunk and 0.9 m deep. Trees grown on Swingle citrumelo [Citrus paradisi Macf. × Poncirus trjfoliata (L.) Raf.] rootstock had significantly greater FRLD in the top 0.15 m than trees on Carrizo citrange (C. sinensis × P. trifoliata). Conversely, Carrizo citrange had greater FRLD from 0.15 to 0.75 m below the soil surface. FRLD was significantly greater for ‘Hamlin’ orange trees grown on Swingle citrumelo rootstock at distances less than 0.75 m from the tree trunk compared with those on Carrizo citrange. Fibrous roots of young citrus trees developed a dense root mat above soil depths of 0.3 m that expanded both radially and with depth with time as trees grow and TCV increased. Functional relationships developed in this study accounted for changes in FRLD with increase in tree size.

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David Obenland, Paul Neipp, Sue Collin, Jim Sievert, Kent Fjeld, Margo Toyota, Julie Doctor, and Mary Lu Arpaia

It is commonly believed within the citrus industry that handling, waxing, and storage of navel oranges may have undesirable effects on flavor. However, the effect of each potential influencing factor under commercial conditions is not completely understood. The purpose of this study was to systematically investigate these potential influences on navel orange flavor. Navel oranges were harvested on two separate dates, using three grower lots per harvest date, and the fruit run on a commercial packing line. Fruit were sampled at four different stages of the packing process: in the field bin; after the washer; after the waxer; and after packing into standard cartons. Fruit quality, flavor, and juice ethanol concentration were evaluated immediately after sampling and following 3 and 6 weeks of storage at 5 °C. The overall hedonic score, a measure of flavor, significantly declined from 6.5 to 5.7, as a result of 6 weeks storage. Fruit selected from field bins, from after the washer, and after the waxer were all judged by the taste panel to be equivalent in flavor. The packed fruit were judged to be slightly inferior in flavor. Titratable acidity declined while soluble solids increased as a result of storage; the stage of the packing process influenced neither. Waxing and storage both were associated with higher ethanol levels in the fruit.

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Hirofumi Terai, Alley E. Watada, Charles A. Murphy, and William P. Wergin

Structural changes in chloroplasts of broccoli (Brassica oleracea L., Italica group) florets during senescence were examined using light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) with freeze-fracture technique, and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to better understand the process of chloroplast degradation, particularly at the advanced stage of senescence. Light microscopy revealed that chloroplasts, which initially were intact and green, became obscure in shape, and their color faded during senescence. Small, colored particles appeared in cells as the florets approached the final stage of senescence and became full- to dark-yellow in color. Scanning electron microscopy showed that stroma thylakoids in the chloroplast initially were parallel to each other and grana thylakoids were tightly stacked. As senescence advanced, the grana thylakoids degenerated and formed globules. The globules became larger by aggregation as senescence progressed, and the large globules, called “thylakoid plexus,” formed numerous vesicles. The vesicles ultimately were expelled into the cytosol, and the light microscope revealed many colored particles in the senescent cells. These results indicate that the degradation of chloroplasts in broccoli florets progresses systematically, with the final product being colored particles, which are visible in yellow broccoli sepal cells.

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Alan T. Bakalinsky, Hong Xu, Diane J. Wilson, and S. Arulsekar

A total of eight random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers were generated in a screen of 77 primers of 10-base length and were detected reproducibly among nine different grape (Vitis) rootstocks. Occasional failed amplifications could not be explained rationally nor easily corrected by systematic replacement of individual reaction components. In an effort to improve their reliability, the RAPD markers were cloned, their termini sequenced, and new sequence-specific primer pairs were synthesized based on addition of 10 to 14 bases to the 3' termini of the original 10-mers. Six pairs of the new primers were evaluated at their optimal and higher-than optimal annealing temperatures. One primer pair amplified a product the same size as the original RAPD marker in all rootstocks, resulting in loss of polymorphism. Post-amplification digestion with 7 different restriction endonucleases failed to reveal restriction site differences. Three primer pairs amplified an unexpected length variant in some accessions. Two other pairs of primers amplified a number of unexpected bands. Better approaches for exploiting the sequence differences that account for the RAPD phenomenon will be discussed.

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A. Medlicott, J. Brice, T. Salgadol, and D. Ramirez

No systematic curing and storage techniques are currently used with onions in Honduras; postharvest losses occur rapidly. The objective of this study was to evaluate the use of storage bins (maximum capacity 7t) that use forced ambient air ventilation to manipulate the atmospheric conditions around the onions. The desired storage conditions were 26 to 30C and 60% to 75% relative humidity. Ventilation regimes were manipulated in an attempt to obtain these conditions. The rate of deterioration in four varieties of onions over a 3-month period was determined and compared with onions stored under normal ambient conditions. Marketable onions in the forced-air storage bin compared to the controls stored under ambient conditions after 13 weeks were 82% vs. 37% for `Granex 33'; 71% vs. 40% for `Granex 429'; 63% vs. 31% for `Granex 438'; and 90% vs. 44% for `Texas Grano 502'. This represents a significant increase in the number of marketable onions after storage. All losses were increased by rain and tornado damage after 1 month of storage. The methods used to maintain uniform temperature and humidity conditions in the storage bin are discussed together with the problems encountered. The construction and operating costs are given together with the market prices and the required returns to cover the bin costs.

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M.H. Maletta, W.P. Cowgill Jr., T. Manning, W. Tietjen, S.A. Johnston, and P. Nitzsche

Weather information has many applications in crop production practices, including disease forecasting. A variety of weather instruments are available for on-farm use, but associated costs and need for regular calibration and maintenance can limit actual use, especially by smaller growers. Subscription to an electronic meteorological service may be a viable alternative to on-site weather stations. In 1997 and 1998, hourly temperature, relative humidity and leaf wetness were monitored at six sites in a 400-m2 area of New Jersey with Field Monitor™ data loggers (Sensor Instruments, Inc.) and by subscription to SkyBit, Inc., an electronic meteorological service. There was close correspondence in temperature data from the two sources at all sites, the average seasonal difference ranging from 0 to 2 °F. Relative humidity data was variable between the two sources, the greatest variation occurring at low and high humidity, the ranges at which relative humidity sensors had been shown to be least accurate. Leaf wetness estimates from the two sources agreed at least two-thirds of the time. Data differences related to source were attributed to both systematic and random error. The usefulness of electronic weather data in crop production depends on how sensitive the particular weather-dependent applications (e.g., predictive disease and insect models) are to variation in the input data. The TOM-CAST early blight forecaster for tomatoes was not particularly sensitive to differences between SkyBit and Field Monitor leaf wetness estimates.

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Mark W. Farnham

A collection of collard (Brassica oleracea L., Acephala group) germplasm, including 13 cultivars or breeding lines and 5 landraces, was evaluated using randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers and compared to representatives of kale (Acephala group), cabbage (Capitata group), broccoli (Italica group), Brussels sprouts (Gemmifera group), and cauliflower (Botrytis group). Objectives were to assess genetic variation and relationships among collard and other crop entries, evaluate intrapopulation variation of open-pollinated (OP) collard lines, and determine the potential of collard landraces to provide new B. oleracea genes. Two hundred nine RAPD bands were scored from 18 oligonucleotide decamer primers when collard and other B. oleracea entries were compared. Of these, 147 (70%) were polymorphic and 29 were specific to collard. Similarity indices between collard entries were computed from RAPD data and these ranged from 0.75 to 0.99 with an average of 0.83. Collard entries were most closely related to cabbage (similarity index = 0.83) and Brussels sprouts entries (index = 0.80). Analysis of individuals of an OP cultivar and landrace indicated that intrapopulation genetic variance accounts for as much variation as that observed between populations. RAPD analysis identified collard landraces as unique genotypes and showed them to be sources of unique DNA markers. The systematic collection of collard landraces should enhance diversity of the B. oleracea germplasm pool and provide genes for future crop improvement.

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James L. Glancey, Edwin Kee, and Tracy Wootten

The vegetable industry is important to our nation as a provider of nutritious and safe food directly consumed by our citizens. It is also critical to a rich and vigorous national agriculture. During the 20th century, engineering innovations coupled with advances in genetics, crop science, and plant protection have allowed the vegetable industry in the U.S. to plant and harvest significantly more land with higher yields while using less labor. Currently, fresh and processed vegetables generate 16% of all U.S. crop income, but from only 2% of the harvested cropland. Yet, many of the challenges in production that existed a century ago still exist for many crops. Perhaps the most significant challenge confronting the industry is labor, often accounting for 50% of all production costs. A case study of the mechanized production system developed for processed tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) confirms that systematic methodology in which the machines, cultural practices, and cultivars are designed together must be adopted to improve the efficiency of current mechanized systems as well as provide profitable alternatives for crops currently hand-harvested. Only with this approach will horticultural crop production remain competitive and economically viable in the U.S.