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  • Author or Editor: Carl J. Rosen x
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Composting of municipal solid waste (MSW) has received renewed attention as a result of increasing waste disposal costs and the environmental concerns associated with using landfills. Sixteen MSW composting facilities are currently operating in the United States, with many more in the advanced stages of planning. A targeted end use of the compost is for horticultural crop production. At the present time, quality standards for MSW composts are lacking and need to be established. Elevated heavy metal concentrations in MSW compost have been reported; however, through proper sorting and recycling prior to composting, contamination by heavy metals can be reduced. Guidelines for safe metal concentrations and fecal pathogens in compost, based on sewage sludge research, are presented. The compost has been shown to be useful in horticultural crop production by improving soil physical properties, such as lowering bulk density and increasing water-holding capacity. The compost can supply essential nutrients to a limited extent; however, supplemental fertilizer, particularly N, is usually required. The compost has been used successfully as a sphagnum peat substitute for container media and as a seedbed for turf production. High soluble salts and B, often leading to phytotoxicity, are problems associated with the use of MSW compost. The primary limiting factor for the general use of MSW compost in horticultural crop production at present is the lack of consistent, high-quality compost.

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Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima Wind. ex. Klotzsch cv. Gutbier V-14 Glory) plants were grown under conditions simulating commercial stock plant production to investigate the effects of NH4-N: NO3-N fertilizer ratios, foliar Ca sprays, medium-applied Ca, and medium-applied Mo on leaf edge burn (LEB) and cutting production. Leaf edge burn expression was nearly 100% greater with NH4-N: NO3-N fertilizer ratios of 1:2 or 2:1 than with NO3-N only. However, cutting production was 28% lower with NO3-N as the sole N source. There was little difference in either LEB or cutting production between the two NH4-N levels. Weekly Ca sprays at 500 mg·liter-1 were effective in reducing LEB, while medium-applied Ca as gypsum was ineffective. Foliar Ca sprays reduced both the number of LEB leaves (90%) and symptom severity of individual leaves. Spraying plants with tap water (Ca at 25 to 30 mg·liter-1) plus wetting agent had an intermediate effect. Medium-applied Mo was ineffective in reducing LEB, despite greatly increasing leaf Mo levels. The Ca concentration in chlorotic, marginal leaf tissue was significantly lower than the Ca concentration in green leaf margins. There was also a strong, negative correlation between the Ca concentration in young leaves at the susceptible growth stage and the incidence of LEB in various treatment groups. Supplemental applications of Ca and Mo did not consistently affect cutting production. Leaf edge burn appears to be a localized Ca deficiency due to inadequate Ca uptake and/or translocation to the numerous axillary shoots simultaneously developing on poinsettia stock plants.

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Accessions of Vaccinium species (deliciosum, ovalifolium, membranaceum, parvifolium, scoparium) were evaluated for tolerance to higher pH in the root zone using an in vitro screening procedure. Seeds were germinated on media containing all essential nutrients with nitrogen in the nitrate form at pH 5 and pH 6 and evaluated for 21 weeks. Excess EDTA was used to buffer the micronutrients and pH was buffered by MES and succinic acid. Germination varied among species with V. ovalifolium being highest and V. parvifolium not germinating at all. Mortality was lower at pH 5. At pH 6, V. ovalifolium and V. membranaceum exhibited variation for growth while all other species suffered complete mortality.

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Progenies from crosses among eight highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum L.), lowbush (V. angustifolium Ait.), and V. corymbosum/V. angustifolium hybrid-derivative parents were evaluated in vitro at low (5.0) and high (6.0) pH for vitality, height, and dry weight. Succinic acid and 2[N- morpholino]ethanesulfonic acid (Mes) effectively maintained pH in the medium and rhizosphere. The pH regime did not affect percent radicle emergence from seed or survival; however, percent seed germination was slightly lower at high pH. The parental general combining ability (GCA), reciprocal and maternal, but not the specific combining ability (SCA) variance components were significant for plant vitality, height, and dry weight. The GCA variance components were six to 26 times larger than the SCA variance components for the plant growth traits. Variation due to pH regime was significant for vitality and dry weight but not for plant height. The progenies of parents with high percent lowbush ancestry were taller at both pH levels than those with less such ancestry. Little variation was apparent for higher pH tolerance as measured by dry weight; however, the GCA effects suggested that the progenies of some parents performed better than others at high pH. Vaccinium angustifolium parents differed in the extent to which tolerance to high pH was transmitted. In vitro screening in concert with a traditional breeding program should be effective in improving blueberry tolerance to higher pH.

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Thirty-three seedling progenies from crosses among Vaccinium corymbosum L., V. angustifolium Ait., and V. corymbosum/V. angustifolium hybrid-derivative parents, and `Northblue', `Northsky', and `Northcountry' were grown for 2 years at three soil pH levels at Becker, Minn. Iron sulfate and lime were incorporated to amend the soil to pH levels of 4.0 and 6.5, respectively; the native soil, pH 4.5, was the third pH regime. The plants grew well in the low pH regime, poorly in the high pH regime, and intermediately in the native pH regime. Variation among populations was significant for all traits except vitality 18 months after being planted, and pH treatment affected all traits. The pH regime × population interactions were not significant for any of the plant performance characteristics. Nondestructive subjective and objective measurements were positively and highly correlated with total plant dry weight. Therefore, populations could be effectively evaluated for tolerance to higher pH without destroying the plant. Vaccinium angustifolium was not a general source of tolerance to higher pH, but some populations derived from V. angustifolium were tolerant of high soil pH.

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Seedlings from crosses among Vaccinium corymbosum L., V. angustifolium Ait, and V. corymbosum/V. angustifolium hybrid-derivative parents, and micropropagated `Northblue', `Northsky', and `Northcountry' plants, were grown for 2 years at Becker, Minn., in low (5.0) and high (6.5) soil pH regimes. Nutrient composition expressed as a concentration and total content was determined for P, K, Ca, Mg, Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, and B in the aboveground portion of the plant. Except for Fe, the pH regime effects on aboveground plant nutrient concentration and total content were much larger than population or population × pH regime interaction effects. Population × pH regime interactions were detected for all nutrients expressed as a concentration, except for P. Generalizations about plant performance and nutrient concentration of the plant could only be made in the context of a given pH regime. At low pH, P and Mn tissue concentrations increased and Ca, Mg, and B concentrations decreased as the percentage of lowbush ancestry increased. At high pH, K, Cu, and B concentrations decreased as the percentage of lowbush ancestry increased. Overall plant performance on the higher pH soils appeared to be positively correlated to aboveground tissue concentrations of Mn, K, and Cu. When expressed as total content, population × pH regime effects were only significant for tissue Mn. Differences in total nutrient content attributed to soil pH were primarily related to differences in plant dry weight.

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Application of calcium (Ca) sprays is a recommended practice to reduce the incidence of Ca-related disorders such as bitter pit in apple (Malus ×domestica), but effectiveness of sprays to increase Ca concentrations in the fruit is not always consistent. Strontium (Sr) has been used as a Ca analog to evaluate Ca transport processes and distribution in plants. A field study was conducted using foliar- and fruit-applied Sr as a tracer for Ca transport in 20-year-old `Honeycrisp' apple trees on Malling.26 (M.26) rootstock. The objectives of this study were to 1) measure the amount of Sr translocation from leaves to fruit, 2) determine the effectiveness of eight sprays applied over the growing season vs. four late-season sprays on increasing Sr concentrations in leaves and fruit, and 3) evaluate the effect of an experimental adjuvant consisting of alkyl-polysaccharides and monosaccharides on spray efficacy. Seven treatments were tested, which included a control and six Sr treatments applied in various combinations with or without an adjuvant. Trees were sprayed four or eight times during the growing season, either directly to leaves and fruit or to leaves only (fruit covered during application). Spray treatments did not significantly affect total fruit fresh or dry weight. Although some discrimination between Ca and Sr was detected, the similar distribution of Ca and Sr in fruit tissue of control treatments suggested that Sr is a suitable tracer for Ca. Based on the covered vs. uncovered fruit treatments, about 11% to 17% of the Sr in the fruit came from Sr applied directly to the leaves. Eight spray applications over the growing season more than doubled both the concentration and content of fruit Sr compared with four late season sprays. The tested adjuvant doubled Sr absorption by and translocation to fruit compared with not using an adjuvant. Assuming similar transport for Ca and Sr, and adjusting for the atomic weight of Ca relative to Sr, the maximum increase in fruit Ca concentration at harvest from foliar and fruit applications (eight sprays with adjuvant and uncovered fruit) would have been as follows: core = 78 mg·kg–1; flesh = 35 mg·kg–1; peel = 195 mg·kg–1; entire fruit = 67 mg·kg–1. In addition to being an underused tool for studying Ca transport patterns, the results also suggest that use of Sr may be a novel technique for testing the efficacy of various adjuvants used to enhance uptake and transport of Ca in leaves and fruit.

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High tunnels are an important season extension tool for horticultural production in cold climates, however maintaining soil health in these intensively managed spaces is challenging. Cover crops are an attractive management tool to address issues such as decreased organic matter, degraded soil structure, increased salinity, and high nitrogen needs. We explored the effect of winter cover crops on soil nutrients, soil health and bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) crop yield in high tunnels for 2 years in three locations across Minnesota. Cover crop treatments included red clover (Trifolium pratense) monoculture, Austrian winter pea/winter rye biculture (Pisum sativum/Secale cereale), hairy vetch/winter rye/tillage radish (Vicia villosa/S. cereale/Raphanus sativus) polyculture, and a bare-ground, weeded control. Cover crop treatments were seeded in two planting date treatments: early planted treatments were seeded into a standing bell pepper crop in late Aug/early September and late planted treatments were seeded after bell peppers were removed in mid-September At termination time in early May, all cover crops had successfully overwintered and produced biomass in three Minnesota locations except for Austrian winter pea at the coldest location, zone 3b. Data collected include cover crop and weed biomass, biomass carbon and nitrogen, extractable soil nitrogen, potentially mineralizable nitrogen, microbial biomass carbon, permanganate oxidizable carbon, soil pH, soluble salts (EC), and pepper yield. Despite poor legume performance, increases in extractable soil nitrogen and potentially mineralizable nitrogen in the weeks following cover crop residue incorporation were observed. Biomass nitrogen contributions averaged 100 kg·ha−1 N with an observed high of 365 kg·ha−1 N. Cover crops also reduced extractable soil N in a spring sampling relative to the bare ground control, suggesting provision of nitrogen retention ecosystem services.

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