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  • Author or Editor: Martine Dorais x
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Needle loss after harvest is a major problem for Atlantic Canada's Christmas tree and greenery industry. Ethylene is a signal for abscission in balsam fir, but preliminary studies have suggested that the role of ethylene may be influenced by length of exposure. Short-term and long-term ethylene exposure experiments were conducted. Branches were exposed to ethylene for 24 h (short-term) or continuously (long-term) at concentrations of 0 to 1000 ppm. The response variables measured were needle retention duration (NRD), average water use (AWU), and xylem pressure potential (XPP). Short-term exposure to any concentration of ethylene delayed needle abscission by 30 to 40 days. In contrast, long-term exposure to all concentrations of ethylene accelerated abscission, most evident by a 21-day decrease in NRD at 1000 ppm ethylene. There was a 60% decrease in NRD, 160% decrease (more negative) in XPP, and 80% increase in AWU as a result of long-term exposure to ethylene. Overall, our results demonstrate an opposite effect of short-term and long-term ethylene exposure, which suggests that short-term exposure to ethylene might help to precondition balsam fir and delay needle abscission during postharvest handling.

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Our objective was to determine the relationship between daily and seasonal changes in understory light, and growth of 1- and 2-year-old american ginseng plants cultivated in a broadleaf forest. Using hemispherical photography and spectroradiometry, understory light [total, direct, and diffuse photon flux density (PFD), and sunfleck durations] and light quality [ultraviolet (UV) and red to far red (R:FR)] were evaluated during two consecutive growing seasons. While shoot and root dry weight (DW), and taproot area of 1-year-old american ginseng plants were related to sunfleck durations, accounting for up to 56% of the variation, the relationship reached a plateau at 2 h·d-1 sunfleck durations for growth. In September, growth of 1- and 2-year-old plants exposed to <2 h·d-1 sunfleck durations was positively related to diffuse PFD (and total PFD for 1-year-old plants), accounting for up to 69% of the variation. In mid-season (July 2000), shoot and root growth, and leaflet area of 2-year-old american ginseng were correlated with light PFD and light quality (UV and R:FR), accounting for up to 88% of the variation. Generally, the results suggest that exposing 1- and 2-year-old american ginseng plants to higher diffuse PFD and <2 h·d-1 sunfleck durations increases yield.

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A study was conducted in mini-greenhouses covered with single-glass (glass), double inflated polyethylene film (D-poly), or rigid twin acrylic panels (acrylic) to determine the effects of covering materials and supplemental lighting (SL) (65 μmol·m-2·s-1 at 1 m from the ground, providing a 16-hour photoperiod) on growth, yield, photosynthesis, and leaf carbohydrate concentration of `Trust' greenhouse tomato plants (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.). Regardless of the light treatment, the marketable yield (kg·m-2) and the number of fruit per square meter in D-poly houses were higher (P ≤ 0.05) by 15% to 16% and 13% to 17%, respectively, than in glasshouses. Under supplemental lighting (SL), similar results were observed in acrylic houses compared to glasshouses. Covering materials had no significant effect on photosynthesis and leaf chlorophyll (chl) concentration. SL increased the number of leaves (March) by 15% (P ≤ 0.05) in glasshouses, marketable fruit yield by 23% (P ≤ 0.01) in acrylic houses, leaf specific weight by 19% to 33% (P ≤ 0.05) in all houses, total chl concentration by 10% to 14% (P ≤ 0.01) in acrylic houses, and photosynthetic rate (March) by 22% (P ≤ 0.01) in glasshouses. Under nonsupplemental lighting (nonSL, daily solar radiation of 8.42 MJ·m-2), plant height in acrylic houses was significantly higher (P ≤ 0.05) than in glasshouses. Neither covering materials nor SL affected (P ≤ 0.05) dry matter allocation to the fruit. Results suggest that D-poly and acrylic houses with SL provide the best environment for the early yield (February to March) under southwestern Ontario growing conditions. The photosynthetic rate decreased (P ≤ 0.05) by 18% in acrylic, and 15% in D-poly and glasshouses after 2 months of growth under nonSL. Conversely, the decrease in carbon exchange rate was not significant in D-poly houses and glasshouses under SL. As a result, the photosynthesis decline observed in the present study could not be explained by leaf starch accumulation in March.

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Organic fertilizer regimens consisting of combinations of composts (yard waste, swine manure, or spent mushroom substrate) and liquid fertilizers (fish- or plant-based) were evaluated against conventional hydroponic fertilizers in two experiments with greenhouse tomatoes grown in peat-based substrate. Crop yield and fruit quality were evaluated and several assays of substrate microbial activity and community profiles (fluorescein diacetate analysis and EcoLog, values, nematode counts) were conducted. Crops grown in 20% to 40% compost (yard waste or yard waste plus swine manure) plus a continuously applied liquid source of organic potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulphate (SO4) could not be sustained more than 1 month before nutrient deficiencies became visible. Supplementation with a nitrogen (N)- and phosphorus (P)-containing plant-based liquid fertilizer at the point when plant deficiencies became apparent subsequently produced yields ≈80% that of the hydroponic control. In a second experiment, the proportion of mushroom or yard waste compost was increased to 50% of the mix, and liquid delivery of K, Ca, Mg and SO4 plus either plant-based or fish-based N- and P-containing liquid feeds was started at the date of transplanting. In this case, organic yields equal to that of the hydroponic control (8.5 kg/plant) were observed in some treatments. The most productive organic treatment was the mushroom compost supplemented with a low concentration of the plant-based liquid fertilizer. In general, organic tomatoes had a lower postharvest decay index (better shelf life) than did the hydroponic controls, possibly as an indirect consequence of overall reduced yield in those treatments. High concentrations of both organic liquid feeds resulted in lower yields as a result of treatment-induced fusarium crown and root rot. In contrast to some previous studies, those treatments showing fusarium crown and root rot also had the highest gross microbial activity. Measures of gross microbial activity and numbers of microbivorous nematodes were higher (average of 37% and 6.7 times, respectively) in compost/organic feed treatments than in the hydroponic control. Community physiological profiles of the bacterial populations, on the other hand, did not differ between organic and hydroponic treatments. Nematode populations were significantly correlated with gross microbial activity in the organic treatments.

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