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  • Author or Editor: Daniel Leskovar x
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Single- and double-row arrangements of a fixed population (one plant every 0.285 m2) were compared in factorial combination with two (2002) or five (2003) cultivars for effects on yield and fruit quality of bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.). Arrangements for 2002 were: (1) 1.9 m between centers of double-row beds, rows on beds 30 cm apart, plants within rows 30 cm apart; (2) single rows 0.95 m apart, plants within rows 30 cm apart; (3) 1.52 m between centers of double-row beds, rows on beds 24 cm apart, plants within rows 37.5 cm apart; and (4) single rows 0.76 m apart, plants within rows 37.5 cm apart. Only arrangements (1) and (2) were used in 2003. Row arrangement did not affect marketable fruit production in Oklahoma in 2002, but single rows resulted in a greater weight of fruit with blossom-end rot than double rows. Arrangement (2) resulted in both a greater weight of U.S. No. 1 fruit and a greater weight of sunburned fruit than arrangement (1) in Texas in 2002. `King Arthur' produced more marketable fruit than `X3R Wizard' in Oklahoma in 2002, but the opposite occurred in Texas. Arrangement (2) resulted in a greater weight of U.S. No. 1 fruit than arrangement (1) in both locations in 2003. Arrangement (2) also resulted in greater weights of sunburned (Oklahoma) or total cull (Texas) fruit than arrangement (1) in 2003. `Lafayette' and `X3R Wizard' produced a greater weight of marketable fruit than `Boynton Bell', `Karma', and `King Arthur' in Texas in 2003, but not in Oklahoma. Plant arrangement × cultivar interactions were not evident in Oklahoma and minimal in Texas. Given the tested population, a single row arrangement is likely to result in higher U.S. No. 1 fruit yields than a double-row arrangement, despite an increased potential for cull fruit production with single rows.

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High temperature stress is a major limitation to commercial production of habanero pepper (Capsicum chinense Jacq.) in tropical and subtropical regions. The ability to sustain physiological activity under stress is an important trait for newer varieties. We evaluated leaf thermotolerance [based on the cell membrane stability (CMS) test] of three habanero pepper varieties to: 1) determine genetic variability in CMS among the genotypes studied; and 2) to assess correlations between CMS, photosynthesis and chlorophyll fluorescence [(CF), an indicator of membrane-dependent photosystem II quantum efficiency, ΦPSII]. The genotypes evaluated were TAM Mild Habanero (TMH, a recently developed mild habanero pepper) and its closely related parents (Yucatan and PI 543184). Net CO2 assimilation rate (An) of intact leaves was measured in the field and leaf samples collected and exposed to heat stress (55 °C for 20 min) in temperature-controlled water baths under dim light conditions. The CF was assessed before and after the heat treatment. The CMS was highest in PI 543184, lowest in TMH and intermediate in Yucatan. All genotypes maintained high An rates in the field (25 ± 6 μmol·m-2·s-1); however, correlations between An and CMS were weak. The Φ values were similar among the genotypes (∼0.8) under nonstress conditions, but differed significantly following stress exposure. PI 543184 had the highest post-stress ΦPSII values (0.506 ± 0.023), followed by Yucatan (0.442 ± 0.023) and TMH (0.190 ± 0.025). Observed differences in CMS and ΦPSII indicate plasticity in the response to heat stress among these genotypes.

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This study was conducted to investigate how irrigation systems alter root elongation, root morphology, shoot growth characteristics and yield of `TAM-M' jalapeno pepper seedlings. Transplants were grown in containerized trays (18 cm3/cell) for 6 weeks in a greenhouse in Spring 1991. Irrigation systems were: a) floatation (FI), b) 4-week floatation plus 2-week overhead (FI+OI); c) alternate floatation and overhead (FI/OI), and d) overhead (OI). The growing media was maintained between 50 and 20% of its water holding capacity. Between 20 and 41 days after seeding (DAS), FI and FI/OI transplants maintained a constant lateral root length increase. In both FI+OI and OI transplants, lateral root elongation response tended to a `plateau' at ≈ 31 DAS. However, between 31 and 41 DAS, OI transplants had a root growth compensation, increasing the number and length (33%) of basal roots. In FI+OI transplants, basal root growth compensation occurred later in the field. At planting, OI transplants had higher shoot/root ratio (S:R=5) and maintained a higher shoot water potential (ψ= -0.58 MPa) than FI transplants (S:R=3; ψ= -0.69 MPa), respectively. Overhead-irrigated transplants had higher early fruit yields than floatation-irrigated transplants, but total yields were unaffected.

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Excess transpiration relative to water uptake often causes water stress in transplanted vegetable seedlings. Abscisic acid (ABA) can limit transpirational water loss by inducing stomatal closure and inhibiting leaf expansion. We examined the concentration effect of exogenous ABA on growth and physiology of muskmelon (Cucumis melo L.) seedlings during water stress and rehydration. Plants were treated with seven concentrations of ABA (0, 0.24, 0.47, 0.95, 1.89, 3.78, and 7.57 mm) and subjected to 4-day water withholding. Application of ABA improved the maintenance of leaf water potential and relative water content, while reducing electrolyte leakage. These effects were linear or exponential to ABA concentration and maximized at 7.57 mm. Gas-exchange measurements provided evidence that such stress control is attributed to ABA-induced stomatal closure. First, net CO2 assimilation rate and stomatal conductance initially decreased with increasing ABA concentration by up to 95% and 70%, respectively. A follow-up study (≤1.89 mm ABA) confirmed this result with or without water stress and further revealed a close positive correlation between intercellular CO2 concentration and net CO2 assimilation rate 1 day after treatment (r 2 > 0.83). In contrast, ABA did not affect leaf elongation, indicating that stress alleviation was not mediated by leaf area adjustment. After 18 days of post-stress daily irrigation, dry matter accumulation showed a quadratic concentration-response, increasing up to 1.89 mm by 38% and 44% in shoot and roots, respectively, followed by 16% to 18% decreases at >1.89 mm ABA. These results suggest that excess levels of ABA delay post-stress growth, despite the positive effect on the maintenance of water status and membrane integrity. Another negative side effect was chlorosis, which accelerated linearly with increasing ABA concentration, although it was reversible upon re-watering. The optimal application rate of ABA should minimize these negative effects, while keeping plant water stress to an acceptable level.

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Vegetable transplants grown in commercial high-density trays can quickly outgrow the optimal size for shipping and transplanting, limiting transplant performance, and marketing flexibility for commercial nurseries. Abscisic acid (ABA) and uniconazole can suppress shoot growth by inducing stress-adaptive responses and inhibiting gibberellin synthesis, respectively. We evaluated the effectiveness of the two growth regulators in prolonging marketability of ‘Florida 91’ and ‘Mariana’ tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) transplants at commercial nursery greenhouses in Texas and Florida. Spray treatments in the Texas experiment were 0 and 3.8 mm ABA at 7, 5, 3, or 1 days before maturity (DBM), and those in the Florida experiment were no spray control, 3.8 mm ABA at 7, 5, 3, or 1 DBM, and 34 μm uniconazole at 4 DBM. Both ABA and uniconazole showed minimal cultivar-specific effects. Different growth modifications were induced by ABA and uniconazole. First, suppression of stem elongation by ABA was reversible by 7 days after maturity (DAM), whereas that by uniconazole lasted for 20 days or until 16 DAM with up to 15% suppression in stem elongation. Second, only ABA inhibited leaf expansion and shoot dry matter accumulation. The primary growth-modulating effect of uniconazole was limited to height control, which is beneficial for producing compact transplants, rather than as a growth holding strategy. By contrast, the overall growth suppression by ABA is desirable for prolonging transplant marketability. Importantly, the magnitude of this growth suppression was moderate (up to 22% shoot biomass reduction at 8 DAM) and transient, followed by a rapid recovery. Furthermore, ABA caused relatively smaller inhibition in root growth, allowing sufficient root development and increasing the root-to-shoot ratio at 0 to 8 DAM. The growth suppression by ABA was maximal when it was applied at 7 to 5 DBM, indicating the age-dependent sensitivity of tomato seedlings to exogenous ABA. Although leaf chlorosis was induced by ABA in a similar age-dependent manner, it was transient and reversible by 7 DAM. These results suggest that ABA application 7 to 5 DBM is an effective growth holding strategy for tomato transplants.

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Soil organic matter degradation and water limitation caused by intense farming activities are some of the major threats affecting agricultural production. Accordingly, the concepts of sustainable agricultural systems with optimized irrigation and improved soil quality can be adapted to address these issues. During this 2-year field study, two management factors—humic substances (HS) as organic inputs (HS vs. control) and deficit irrigation as the irrigation method (50% vs. 100% based on evapotranspiration)—were evaluated based on triploid watermelon (Citrullus lanatus cv. Fascination) yield and soil property changes. HS application increased watermelon early yield by 38.6% and total yield by 11.8% compared with the control; the early yield mainly increased under deficit irrigation. Compared with full irrigation, deficit irrigation increased water use efficiency (WUE) without significantly affecting total yield. In addition, HS application significantly increased the soil organic carbon (SOC) content, which was found to be positively correlated with crop WUE. These results indicate that soil organic inputs with HS and deficit irrigation are valuable strategies to establish sustainable systems for watermelon production, which will not only increase yield and WUE but also significantly improve soil quality and save irrigation water.

Open Access

The impact of nitrogen application on the growth of olive trees has been well studied. However, little is known about the role of levels and forms of N on the development of roots and physiological traits during establishment of young trees. The objective of this 2-year study was to evaluate the influence of N source and level on shoot morphology (tree height, stem diameter, and branch number) and physiology [leaf area and fresh weight, photosynthesis (Pn), transpiration (E), and stomatal conductance (g s)], root components (length, diameter, surface area, and fork number) and N content of young olive (Olea europaea cv. Arbequina) cuttings. Three-month-old olive cuttings were planted in 15-L pots filled with a growing substrate composed of peatmoss + bark + sand (2:1:1/by volume) and placed in a screen house. Two N levels, 2.8 and 5.6 g/tree, and control (0 N) and four N sources, calcium nitrate (CN, 12%N, 17%Ca+2), ammonium nitrate (AN, 35%N), urea (46%N), and the slow-release Osmocote (OSC, 18%N, 6%P, 12%K) were evaluated. Effects of low– (2.8 g/tree) and high N (5.6 g/tree) levels on shoot components (plant height, diameter, branch number, leaf area, and fresh weight) and gas exchange (Pn, g s and E) were similar implying that the low rate of N was adequate for the establishment of young olive cuttings. Nitrogen sources, particularly AN and CN had significant effects on shoot and root morphology, physiology, and leaf and root N concentration. In fact, AN and CN were the best fertilizer sources for olive transplants in term of root and shoot growth. Overall, 2.8 g/tree N level and AN or CN sources were the best treatments for newly established olive ‘Arbequina’ trees. Root components treated with high N rate (5.6 g/tree N) using the slow-release fertilizer (OSC) was similar to those treated with the low AN rate (2.8 g/tree N). Therefore, for nursery containerized olive trees of ‘Arbequina’ or other cultivars with comparable growth rates, we recommend to apply the CN or AN source at 2.8 g/tree N or the controlled-released fertilizer OSC at 5.6 g/tree N.

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The effect of different nitrogen (N) concentrations on growth changes, leaf N concentration and accumulation patterns, N nutrition index (NNI), fresh weight yield, and N use efficiency (NUE) was determined for lettuce grown over three consecutive seasons (fall, winter, and spring) in a recirculating hydroponic system, under unheated and naturally lit hoop house in Uvalde, TX. The lettuce cultivars Buttercrunch, Dragoon, and Sparx were grown at six N concentrations, initially 100, 150, 200, 250, 300, and 400 mg·L−1 using a nutrient film technique (NFT). Leaf number, accumulated dry weight (DW) and N, and leaf area index (LAI) followed a logistic trend over time, characterized by a slow increase during early growth followed by a linear increase to a maximum. By contrast, plant total N concentrations were the highest at early stage and decreased slightly over time. Effect of season and cultivar on these growth traits was more pronounced than that of the N concentrations. Averaged across cultivar and N concentrations, DW in spring was 73% and 34% greater than that in fall and winter, respectively. At each sampling date, there were linear, quadratic, or cubic effects of N concentrations on each of these variables. The cultivar Sparx was the most productive, with 63% and 32% higher fresh weight yield in fall, 145% and 114% in spring, than ‘Buttercrunch’ and ‘Dragoon’, respectively. Increasing nutrient solution N concentrations from 100 to 400 mg·L−1 increased the yield from 5.9 to 6.7 kg·m−2 in fall, 8.1 to 10.7 kg·m−2 in winter, and 10.3 to 12.6 kg·m−2 in spring. The NUE was the highest at the lowest N concentration (100 mg·L−1) and decreased with increasing N concentrations. The NNI during mid- to late-growth stages was near or greater than one, even at the lowest N. These results demonstrated that N concentrations of 100–150 mg·L−1 maximized the growth and yield of hydroponically grown lettuce.

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Areas with mild climate conditions are suitable for growing winter spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.). Successful production depends on choosing slow-bolting cultivars resistant to major diseases in each area. Field experiments with a total of 18 cultivars were conducted during 8 years in the Winter Garden region of Texas, an area known for its high white rust (Albugo occidentalis G.W. Wils) inoculum. Spinach cultivars differed widely in their resistance to both white rust and bolting, and the incidence of both traits was more severe as the season progressed. White rust infection increased linearly with average monthly minimal air temperature. Cultivars Fidalgo, Springfield, and Springer were slow bolting and are suitable for areas with no white rust incidence, while cvs. ASR-318, DMC 66-09, Fall Green, Samish, and San Juan were more white rust resistant.

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Containerized `Lavi' muskmelon [Cucumis melo L. (Reticulatus Group)] transplants were grown in a nursery with two irrigation systems: overhead irrigation (OI) and flotation irrigation (FI). Initially, root development was monitored during a 36-day nursery period. Thereafter, seedling root growth was monitored either in transparent containers inside a growth chamber, or through minirhizotrons placed in the field. During the nursery period, OI promoted increased early basal root growth, whereas FI promoted greater basal root elongation between 25 and 36 days after seeding (DAS). At 36 DAS leaf area, shoot fresh weight (FW) and dry weight (DW), and shoot to root ratio were greater for OI than for FI transplants, while root length and FWs and DWs were nearly the same. Total root elongation in the growth chamber was greater for FI than for OI transplants between 4 and 14 days after transplanting. Similarly, the minirhizotron measurements in the field showed a greater root length density in the uppermost layer of the soil profile for FI than for OI transplants. Overall, muskmelon transplants had greater root development initially when subjected to overhead compared to flotation irrigation in the nursery. However, during late development FI transplants appeared to have a greater capacity to regenerate roots, thus providing an adaptive mechanism to enhance postplanting root development and to withstand transplant shock in field conditions. At harvest, root length density and yield were closely similar for the plants in the two transplant irrigation treatments.

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