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An experiment was conducted to investigate the effect of Ca nutrition on yield and incidence of blossom-end rot (BER) in tomato. Three levels of Ca (low = 20 ppm, medium = 200 ppm, and high = 1,000 ppm; selected to represent very deficient, normal, and very high levels of calcium) were applied to three cultivars of tomatoes (`Mountain Supreme', `Celebrity', and `Sunrise'; selected to represent genetic differences in susceptibility to BER) grown in modified Hoagland solutions using a greenhouse hydroponic system. The experiment was constructed in a randomized complete-block design with three blocks, two replications, three cultivars, and three calcium treatments. The source of basic nutrients was a 5–11–26 soluble fertilizer containing micronutrients. The ratio of N–P–K was adjusted to 1.0–1.3–3.0 by adding NH4NO3 (34% N). Calcium was added as CaCl2. Nitrogen concentrations were maintained at 30 (first month), 60 (second month), and 90 ppm (during fruit growth), while the concentration of other nutrients followed proportionally. Cultivars differed significantly in yield and average fruit weight but not in incidence of BER or leaf Ca concentration. There was no cultiva × calcium treatment interaction. Leaf Ca content across cultivars was increased by 34% and 44%, respectively, by the medium and high Ca treatments. Average fruit weight and total yield per plant were not significantly different between the low and medium Ca treatments, however, both were reduced by the high Ca treatment. Incidence of BER was 95% higher in the low rather than in the medium Ca treatment. There was no significant difference in BER between the medium and high Ca treatments.

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Rapid cycling brassica (RCB) plants, because of their short life cycle and ease of growth under laboratory conditions, offer a valuable tool for studying Brassica nutrition. We have been particularly interested in B nutrition in Brassica and, therefore, a hydroponic system was developed to accurately deliver micronutrient concentrations to RCB plants. RCB plants were supported in predrilled holes in the lids of brown 1-L plastic containers. Nutrients were supplied by spraying a modified Hoagland's solution onto the plant roots as they developed inside the containers. This system provided adequate solution aeration for plant growth and allowed analysis of both plant shoots and roots. RCB seeds were pregerminated for radicle emergence, then placed in the holes in the plastic container lids. The effect of B nutrient concentration on B uptake was examined using nutrient solutions containing 0.08, 0.02 and 0.00 ppm added B. Leaf B contents were 139.5, 26.1, and 7.1 g·g–1 for plants grown in 0.08, 0.02 and 0.00 ppm added B, respectively. Effects of drought stress on B uptake and distribution were studied by adjusting nutrient solution osmotic potential using polyethylene glycol (PEG) 8000. PEG-induced drought, (osmotic potential –0.1 MPa) reduced leaf and root B content ≈50% compared to plants grown in nutrient solution only (–0.05 MPa). Boron content in the shoots and pods, however, was not affected by PEG-induced drought stress. These results suggest that this system provides a reliable tool for studying nutrition and drought stress effects using RCB plants.

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Broccoli (Brassica oleraceae L. var. Italica cv. `Premium Crop') plants grown in perlite were supplied with nutrient solutions containing three levels of added boron (0.04 (severely deficient), 0.08 (moderately deficient) or 0.80 (normal) mg L-1). These treatments produced plants exhibiting either obvious (0.04 mg L-1) or no visual boron deficiency symptoms (0.08 and 0.80 mg L-1). At horticultural maturity, cross sections were taken in the upper and mid stem regions. The specimens were mounted on slides after being processed through a biological staining series. Boron availability was found to be correlated with the progressive internal deterioration of the stem which was observed histologically. An examination of staining patterns indicated that possibly a lignification process accompanies and contributes to hollow stem development. We have previously noted an increase in phenolic compounds and fiber content of broccoli produced under boron deficient conditions. The histological evidence of lignification further substantiates that boron deficiency induces changes in cell wall structure which may contribute to the development of hollow stem.

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A common problem of researchers concerned with micronutrient plant nutrition is the development of a reliable and affordable experimental system. If nutrient distribution is uneven or subject to outside contamination, then the time and resources dedicated to a project will have been wasted. We have devised a dependable and cost effective nutrient distribution system which has many practical applications. This design is relatively maintenance free, easily adaptable to existing greenhouse conditions and limits the possibility of outside contamination. Using perlite as the rooting medium, our system is constructed of easily obtainable hardware and mechanical components. The total material cost of our system, which included three nutrient treatments, was approximately $800. This resulted in a conservative estimate of $12.50 per plant in our particular study. However, the cost of a larger experiment would be reduced considerably since additional replications could be added at approximately $2.00 each. The experimental set-up is described along with the initial cost analysis.

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Plant growth regulators (PGRs) are chemicals used on a wide range of horticultural crops. These exogenous chemicals, similar to endogenous plant hormones, regulate plant development and stimulate a desired growth response, such as control of plant height. One such PGR is abscisic acid (ABA), which has been used effectively to improve fruit quality, specifically sugars and phytonutrients. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of exogenous applications of ABA on tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) fruit quality, such as carotenoids, soluble sugars and organic acids, and ABA on tomato leaf chlorophylls and carotenoids. Furthermore, this study compared how ABA and calcium (Ca) treatments together affect fruit quality and whether there are added benefits to treating plants with both simultaneously. ABA treatments proved effective in increasing tomato fruit soluble sugars and decreasing organic acid concentrations. This study demonstrated that ABA is a viable PGR to significantly improve tomato fruit quality, specifically pertaining to carotenoids, soluble sugar, and organic acid concentrations.

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Trials were conducted in 2004 to compare the effects of soybean oil formulations and concentrations on flowering and fruit thinning of rabbiteye and southern highbush blueberries. Mature `Climax' bushes near Spring City, Tenn., were sprayed to runoff on 10 Feb. with water, or 9% soybean oil in the formulations TNsoy11, TNsoy12, TNsoy13, TNsoy14, or Golden Natur'l (GN). In a second trial, 3-year-old `Legacy' southern highbush plants at Spring Hill, Tenn., were sprayed on 11 Feb. with 0%, 6%, 9%, 12%, and 15% GN. A similar trial was sprayed on 5 Mar. at Fletcher, N.C., using young plants of various Southern highbush cultivars. Each formulation of soybean oil (9%) delayed bud development and flower anthesis of `Climax' bushes. Bloom opening on `Legacy' bushes was delayed by 2 to 6 days with sprays of ≥9% GN, with higher concentrations causing more delay. However, flower bud mortality of `Legacy' plants was greater when sprayed with the higher oil concentrations. `Legacy' plants sprayed with 0%, 6%, and ≥9% oil had 0%, 30% and ≥70% bud mortality, respectively, at 36 days after treatment. `Legacy' plants sprayed with 12% and 15% oil sprays had an estimated 24% and 13%, respectively, of a crop load compared to the estimated 100% crop load on control plants. Flower bud development, flower bud mortality, crop load and berry size (across cultivars) of Southern highbush cultivars at Fletcher were not affected by oil treatments. Results were variable among trials, perhaps due to factors such as cultivars, timing of application (date), maturity of plants, environmental conditions, etc. There is potential for soybean oil formulations to be used as a chemical thinner as well as to delay blooming.

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Treatments of dormant oil, at rates of 0, 3, 6, 9, or 12 % (v/v), were sprayed until drip on four year old `Biscoe' peach trees on February 6, 1990. Another treatment was applied as a split application with 6 % applied on the previous application date and a second application of 6% solution applied on February 12. The internal atmosphere of bud and twig was modified by the oil treatment. The internal concentration of CO2 was elevated the morning following treatment and continued higher than the control for seven days. A second application Of 6% oil resulted in additional elevation of internal CO2. External evolution of CO2 of all oil treated twigs was 6 to 18% lower than the control 8 days after treatment. Bud phenology and bloom date of trees receiving higher rates of oil were slightly delayed.

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Drying of spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) and kale (Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala D.C.) is required to determine percentage of dry matter (%DM) and pigment concentration of fresh leaves. ‘Melody’ spinach and ‘Winterbor’ kale were greenhouse-grown in hydroponic nutrient solutions containing 13 or 105 mg·L−1 N. Using vacuum freeze dryers and convection ovens, plant tissues were dried for 120 h at five different temperature treatments: 1) freeze drying at −25 °C; 2) freeze drying at 0 °C; 3) vacuum drying at +25 °C; 4) oven drying at +50 °C; and 5) oven drying at +75 °C. Spinach leaf tissue %DM was affected, but kale %DM was unaffected by drying temperature. Spinach and kale leaf tissue %DM were both affected by N level. The high N spinach decreased from 7.3 to 6.4%DM when drying temperature increased from +25 to +75 °C. The low N spinach decreased from 12.7 to 9.6%DM as the drying temperature increased from −25 to +50 °C. Kale averaged from 14.8%DM for the high N treatment and from 21.8%DM for the low N treatment. However, drying temperature did not have a significant impact on measured %DM in kale. Lutein, β-carotene, and chlorophyll levels for both spinach and kale leaf tissue were affected by drying temperature. Measured concentrations of all pigments decreased over 70% as the drying temperature increased from −25 to 75 °C. The largest pigment fresh and dry weight concentrations for spinach and kale were measured at drying temperatures below +25 °C. The spinach and kale samples dried between −25 and +25 °C were not significantly different from each other in %DM or pigment concentration measured on a dry or fresh weight basis. Thus, drying leaf tissue for accurate pigment analysis requires temperatures below +25 °C using vacuum or freeze drying technology.

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Light is one of the most important environmental stimuli impacting plant growth and development. Plants have evolved specialized pigment-protein complexes, commonly referred to as photoreceptors, to capture light energy to drive photosynthetic processes, as well as to respond to changes in light quality and quantity. Blue light can act as a powerful environmental signal regulating phototropisms, suppression of stem elongation, chloroplast movements, stomatal regulation, and cell membrane transport activity. An emerging application of light-emitting diode (LED) technology is for horticultural plant production in controlled environments. Work by our research group is measuring important plant responses to different wavelengths of light from LEDs. We have demonstrated positive impacts of blue wavelengths on primary and secondary metabolism in microgreen and baby leafy green brassica crops. Results show significant increases in shoot tissue pigments, glucosinolates, and essential mineral elements following exposure to higher percentages of blue wavelengths from LED lighting. The perception of energy-rich blue light by specialized plant photoreceptors appears to trigger a cascade of metabolic responses, which is supported by current research showing stimulation of primary and secondary metabolite biosynthesis following exposure to blue wavelengths. Management of the light environment may be a viable means to improve concentrations of nutritionally important primary and secondary metabolites in specialty vegetable crops.

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Mature apples (Malus domestica Borkh. cv. Golden Delicious) were immersed for 2 min in 0, 0.14, 0.27, or 0.41 mol·L−1 (0, 2%, 4%, or 6%, respectively) aqueous solutions (w/v) of CaCl2 at 0 or 68.95 kPa, and were stored at 0 °C. Histological samples of peel/cortex were taken at harvest and at four monthly intervals in storage. Paraffin sections were stained with an aqueous mixture of alcian blue 8GX, safaranin 0 and Bismark brown Y, or with the periodic acid-Schiff (PAS) reaction. No histological difference was observed in fruit treated with 2% CaCl2 compared with those pressure-infiltrated with greater amounts of Ca. Fruits pressure-infiltrated with 6% CaCl2 exhibited the greatest amount of flattened epidermal cells and hypodermal cavities. Cuticles were also affected at the higher CaCl2 treatment levels (with regard to staining with Bismark brown), becoming more condensed and uniform. Cuticle and hypodermis were stained differentially with PAS in the 6% CaCl2 treatment. All tissues, including the cuticle, were stained magenta red, indicating a possible chemical alteration of the cuticle and the underlying tissue by Ca.

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