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Ethephon (2-chloroethyl phosphonic acid) has been widely used under field conditions as a growth regulator to trigger the ripening of processing tomatoes prior to mechanical harvesting. Recent interest in whole-peeled and diced tomato products has raised questions about ethephon rates, and possible split applications for top quality. This 3-year field study tested two commercial cultivars of processing tomatoes (`OH8245' and `P696') and the effect of various ethephon applications on fruit firmness, color uniformity, and peeling variables. Transplants were established in mid to late May of 1996–1998 on raised beds in single rows at the OSU/OARDC Veg. Crops Branch in Fremont, Ohio. Ethrel applications for each cultivar were: 0, 0.58, 0.58 × 2 applications, 1.17, 1.17 × 2 applications, 1.75, 2.34, 4.68, and 7.02 L·ha–1. Fruit were tested for firmness, color uniformity, pH, titratable acids, and soluble solids. Samples from ethephon treatments of 0, 1.17 × 2 applications, 2.34, 4.68, and 7.02 L·ha–1 were peeled and canned for color inspection and firmness after 18 months storage. Three-year data for red fruit yield showed a typical response to increasing amounts (0 to 7.0 L·ha–1) of applied ethephon. While high rates (4.7 or 7.0 L·ha–1) gave some of the highest red fruit yields, and the greatest percent red fruit values, high rates were also linked with among the lowest fruit solids values. Split application comparisons showed little influence on quality variables examined in this study. However, chroma values were improved (more vivid color) when 2.3 L·ha–1 was applied vs. 1.17 L·ha–1 applied twice. Split applications also tended to produce softer fruit. Our results suggest that single ethephon applications of 1.17 to 2.34 L·ha–1 provide optimal fruit ripening and quality under midwestern U.S. conditions.

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Successful organic farming requires synchronizing soil-based processes affecting nutrient supply with crop demand, variable among and within crops. We report here on two studies conducted in transitional- (TO) and certified-organic (CO) systems containing subplots that, annually, were either amended with compost or not amended prior to vegetable crop planting. Dairy-manure compost was added at rates providing the portion of a crop's anticipated nitrogen requirement not provided by a leguminous rotation crop and/or carryover from previous compost application. In the TO study, potato (2003), squash (2004), green bean (2005), and tomato (2006) were planted in main-season plots in open fields and high tunnels, and beet, lettuce, radish, spinach, and swiss chard were planted in high tunnels in early spring and late fall. Long-term CO open-field plots (±compost) were planted to multiple varieties of lettuce, potato, popcorn, and processing tomato in 2004–2006. Drip irrigation was used in all TO plots and CO lettuce and processing tomato plots. Treatment effects on crop physical and biochemical variables, some related to buyer perceptions of crop quality, were emphasized in each study. Yield in TO, compost-amended plots exceeded yield in unamended plots by 1.3 to 4 times, with the greatest increases observed in high-tunnel-grown mesclun lettuce and the smallest response observed in potato. Similar results were found in CO plots, although compost effects differed by crop and variety. The data suggest that: 1) compost application and the use of specific varieties are needed to maximize yield in organic vegetable systems in temperate zones, regardless of age; and 2) production phase management may influence buyer-oriented aspects of crop quality.

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Our lab characterized the growth and development of 83 velvetleaf accessions, collected from locations in Asia, India, Europe, Eastern Africa and North America, to test the hypothesis that two biotypes (“crop” and “weedy”) exist and are easily differentiated. Measurements taken to gauge morphological and phenological variability include: initial seed weight, stem height at 3, 7, and 11 weeks, leaf size at 3, 7, and 11 weeks, stem and petiole color, time to flowering, time to first capsule maturity, stem height at flowering, height to first mature capsule, basal stem diameter, number of capsules, and capsule size and color. Analyses indicate that accessions producing yellow-colored seed capsules were taller, produced fewer nodes, and were longer-lived than their brown-colored counterparts. This finding supports previous assertions that the yellow-colored varieties were originally selected for use as a fiber crop: i.e., increased stem yield resulted in longer lengths of lignified tissue. The accessions producing brown-colored capsules exhibited greater reproductive output, as measured by the number of capsules and the number of seed-containing valves per capsule, a desirable trait for weedy species. Using capsule color as an independent variable, Discriminant Analysis was able to correctly classify 96% of the observations by the remaining characters, further affirming that the yellow- and brown-capsuled accessions varied, significantly, with respect to their morphology and phenology. Velvetleaf is believed to have originated in China, where it was eventually domesticated. Early records suggest that velvetleaf, a noxious weed in modern agricultural production, was introduced to colonial America to serve as a fiber source for the burgeoning rope-making industry.

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Tomato fruit firmness is a key quality component of tomatoes produced for processing applications. Fruit firmness is generally considered a quantitatively inherited trait. Pericarp firmness of modern tomato cultivars is believed to be derived from a fairly narrow genetic background and is the result of the cumulative effort of numerous breeders over many years. Despite inferior phenotypes, wild species contain loci that can substantially increase tomato fruit quality. In the current study, inheritance of fruit firmness in firm and ultra-firm processing tomato germplasm developed from transgressive segregants of interspecific Lycopersicon esculentum × L. hirsutum and intraspecific L. esculentum crosses was characterized. Large-fruited breeding lines that varied in fruit firmness from soft to firm were identified for genetic analyses. A six-parent diallel of these advanced breeding lines was developed for field trials over multiple locations. Fruit firmness in the resulting 36 lines was determined by measuring fruit elastic properties during fruit puncture and compression. Following loading for compression, stress relaxation was recorded for 15 s. A three-parameter model was used to fit the relaxation curves. There was little correlation between firmness (maximum force) and the three relaxation parameters, i.e., firmness measured the elastic component and the relaxation parameters measured the viscous portions of the texture. General and specific combining ability for firmness derived from the respective genetic backgrounds was determined. Genetic variance components for fruit firmness were estimated using a diallel analysis and narrow sense heritability was measured using parent-offspring regression.

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The economics of processing tomato production are driven by soluble solids content, viscosity, color, and color uniformity of the fruit. Ripening disorders that affect color are a major limitation to the economic success of processing whole-peel and diced products. The causes of ripening disorders are not completely understood, although it is clear that soil nutritional status, weather, plant genetics, and interactions among these variables are important factors. We sampled both soil and fruit from fields in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana and were able to correlate soil fertility properties and fruit color. The correlation between soil properties and fruit color was different for fine- and coarse-textured soils. Fine-textured soils presented more frequent, but weaker, correlations with absolute color and within-fruit color differences when compared with coarse-textured soils. For fine-textured soils, exchangeable K correlated with a measure of within-fruit variation, L* difference (L*diff; r = −0.21, P < 0.01). Other measurements of K nutrition, K·Mg−½ ratio, Kact, and K%CEC, all correlated to the same extent (r = −0.29, P < 0.01). The highest correlations were identified between soil-available P and L* (r = −0.33, P < 0.01) and L*diff (r = −0.31, P < 0.01). In coarse-textured soils, exchangeable K correlated with L* (r = −0.373, P < 0.05), b* (r = −0.49, P < 0.01) and Hue° (r = −0.37, P < 0.05). K·Mg−½ ratio and Kact yielded higher correlation coefficients with absolute color measurements when compared with fine-textured soils. Soil-available P was correlated with L* (r = −0.375, P < 0.05), a* (r = 0.49, P < 0.01), Hue° (r = −0.46, P < 0.01), and C* (r = 0.40, P < 0.01). For coarse soils, K·Mg−½ ratio, Kact, and available P were important properties when the color of tomato fruit is of value. In all cases, higher exchangeable K and P nutrient status had a positive correlation with fruit color. Our sampling could not detect interactions among weather, genetics, and soil, and further work will be necessary to clearly describe the role of interactions in determining fruit quality in tomatoes.

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Fruit firmness is a key quality component of tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) for fresh-market and processed product applications. We characterized inheritance of firmness in processing tomato germplasm developed from interspecific L. esculentum Mill. × L. cheesmanii f. minor (Hook. f.) C.H. Mull. and intraspecific L. esculentum crosses. Although firmness is a key quality attribute of tomato, there is no standard method for measuring it. We measured the elastic portion of firmness by compression (compression Fmax) and puncture (puncture Fmax), and the viscoelastic portion by force-relaxation. The experimental design incorporated six genotypes in a complete 6 × 6 diallel. Compression Fmax and force measurements recorded at 0.5, 1.0, 5.0, and 10.0 seconds of relaxation were strongly related to each other, while relaxation parameters (A, B, C) describing relaxation curve shape were generally independent. Compression Fmax, relaxation curve parameter A, and puncture Fmax were significantly different among hybrids. Significant differences between Maryland and Ohio environments were evident for compression Fmax and relaxation curve parameter A. The patterns of firmness means differed among firmness measurement methods, namely for compression Fmax and puncture Fmax, indicating that they measure different aspects of tomato fruit firmness. Soft-fruited parents generally exerted a negative effect on compression Fmax, whereas firm-fruited parents most often exerted a positive effect on compression Fmax. The force required for fruit compression best approximated subjective assessment of fruit firmness. Force required for fruit puncture was subject to a significant environmental × hybrid influence in the genotypes evaluated. Shape of the force relaxation curve (i.e., parameter A) was not predictive of relative fruit firmness. General combining ability (GCA) and specific combining ability were both significant with GCA being the principal source of genetic variation. In agreement with combining ability estimates, narrow-sense heritability estimates for compression Fmax and puncture Fmax were relatively high.

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Breeding and development of ornamental woody plants for specific ideotypes will provide diverse choices to meet specific needs for natural and constructed landscapes. An F1 half-sib family analysis of Magnolia virginiana generated from controlled pollinations was implemented to identify potential juvenile selection strategies for two mature ideotypes: a compact and rounded shrub form (to 2.5 m tall and wide) and a single-stemmed, small tree form (to 4 m tall), both with abundant flowering. The 2-year test was conducted in a container nursery. Fourteen traits were measured in 2007 and 2008, including height at three intervals (July, August, and September), mean branch length and branch count, early and late flower production, collar sprout formation, stem diameter, and branch angle. There were significant differences between F1 half-sib families (P ≤ 0.0001) for all traits. Phenotypic and genetic correlations and narrow sense heritability were estimated for these traits. Phenotypic and genetic correlations showed favorable associations among branch count, caliper, and early flower production. These traits were used to form a selection index for a shrub ideotype. Also, there were positive phenotypic and genetic correlations between height and late flower production, which were both negatively correlated with collar sprout formation. These traits were used to form a selection index for the single-stemmed, small tree ideotype. Narrow sense heritabilities were high for most traits in 2007 but were lower in 2008. Results suggest that selection of phenotypes ranking highest for the traits of interest may yield the desired ideotypes. However, introduction of additional genetic variation through new germplasm accessions may be necessary to maintain breeding progress.

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Measuring plant characteristics via image analysis has the potential to increase the objectivity of phenotypic evaluations, provides data amenable to quantitative analysis, and is compatible with databases that aim to combine phenotypic and genotypic data. We describe a new tool, which is implemented in the Tomato Analyzer (TA) software application, called Color Test (TACT). This tool allows for accurate quantification of color and color uniformity, and allows scanning devices to be calibrated using color standards. To test the accuracy and precision of TACT, we measured internal fruit color of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) with a colorimeter and from scanned images. We show high correlations (r > 0.96) and linearity of L*, a*, and b* values obtained with TACT and the colorimeter. We estimated genotypic variances associated with color parameters and show that the proportion of total phenotypic variance attributed to genotype for color and color uniformity measured with TACT was significantly higher than estimates obtained from the colorimeter. Genotypic variance nearly doubled for all color and color uniformity traits when collecting data with TACT. This digital phenotyping technique can also be applied to the characterization of color in other fruit and vegetable crops.

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A broad source of Gerbera × hybrida Hort. germplasm was evaluated for vase life. Senescence mode, i.e., bending or folding of stems or wilting of ligulae was also recorded for flowers evaluated. Intensive selection was practiced to improve vase life. About 10% of the plants from a sample population were selected for having flowers with high vase life. Progeny means for vase life resulting from a topcross between these plants and `Appleblossom' were used to select five plants (about 1.5% of the sample population) whose flowers had high vase life. A diallel cross using these five plants as parents resulted in a progeny population with an increase in mean vase life of 3.4 days compared to mean vase life for the initial sample population. Increases in vase life means for days to bending, folding, and wilting were 0.3, 3.5, and 1.2 days, respectively. Plants with flowers which senesced due to wilting had the longest mean vase life before and after breeding. Changes in proportion of senescence modes were observed; bending decreased, folding and wilting increased. Frequencies of bending, folding, and wilting were compared to vase life means for 10 progenies. Proportion of bending generally decreased as vase life increased.

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