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Haly L. Neely, Richard T. Koenig, Carol A. Miles, Teresa C. Koenig and Meriam G. Karlsson

Tissue nitrate (NO3) concentration (TNC) in leafy greens generally decreases with increasing light intensity and photoperiod in controlled environment studies. Harvesting late in the day has been recommended as a way to produce leafy greens with lower TNC, although data from field research do not support this recommendation. This study investigated the effect of time of day of harvest on TNC in lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) and spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) grown in the field during the summer at Pullman, WA (lat. 46° N) and Fairbanks, AK (lat. 64° N). Whole plants were sampled every 2 h on three separate, 24-h harvest dates at each latitude. Plants were dried, ground, and analyzed for NO3-N. At the high-latitude location, TNC decreased linearly during the day (1000 to 2300 hr) on all three dates for spinach and one for lettuce. At the low-latitude location, TNC decreased linearly during the day (1000 to 1900 hr) on one date and increased linearly during the night (2000 to 0400 hr) on two dates for lettuce. The TNC (average 287 to 607 mg NO3-N/kg fresh weight for lettuce and 141 to 189 mg NO3-N/kg fresh weight for spinach) and magnitude of diurnal fluctuation (generally less than 25%) should not pose a human health risk regardless of when plants are harvested.

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Kristy Borrelli, Richard T. Koenig, Brad M. Jaeckel and Carol A. Miles

Season extension structures like high tunnels make it possible to produce cold-tolerant crops during winter months for both a longer cropping season and a winter market season. The effects of location and planting date on the fresh yield of several cultivars of Asian greens (Brassica rapa L.), lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.), and spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) were examined at Moscow, ID/Pullman, WA, and Vancouver, WA, a cold temperate climate and a mild marine climate, respectively. In Winter 2005–06, 20 cultivars were evaluated and in Winter 2006–07 a subset of 12 cultivars were evaluated. Location impacted yield, and higher yields overall were attained at Vancouver than at Moscow/Pullman, likely as a result of more consistent, warmer soil and air temperatures as well as increasing irradiance in February and March at Vancouver. Asian green cultivars had the highest overall yield resulting from faster growth compared with spinach and lettuce cultivars at both locations. Although most lettuce cultivars grew throughout the winter, further research is needed to identify the most suitable cultivars, seeding dates, and planting densities to optimize winter production of this crop and for Asian greens and spinach. Planting date influenced yields with the highest yields obtained for the third planting date for all trials except at Moscow/Pullman in the second year. Overall, this research suggests that it is possible to grow many cold-tolerant cultivars of Asian greens, spinach, and lettuce in a high tunnel during the winter months in both mild and cold temperate northern climates.

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Carol Miles, Russ Wallace, Annette Wszelaki, Jeffrey Martin, Jeremy Cowan, Tom Walters and Debra Inglis

Four potentially biodegradable mulch products (BioAgri, BioTelo, WeedGuardPlus, and SB-PLA-10) were evaluated during 2010 in three contrasting regions of the United States (Knoxville, TN; Lubbock, TX; and Mount Vernon, WA) and compared with black plastic mulch and a no-mulch control for durability, weed control, and impact on tomato yield in high tunnel and open field production systems. WeedGuardPlus, BioTelo, and BioAgri had the greatest number of rips, tears, and holes (RTH) and percent visually observed deterioration (PVD) at all three sites (P ≤ 0.05), and values were greater in the open field than high tunnels, likely as a result of high winds and greater solar radiation and rainfall. SB-PLA-10 showed essentially no deterioration at all three sites and was equivalent to black plastic in both high tunnels and the open field. Weed growth at the sites did not differ in high tunnels as compared with the open field (P > 0.05). Weed growth at Knoxville and Mount Vernon was greatest under SB-PLA-10 (P ≤ 0.02), likely as a result of the white, translucent nature of this test product. Tomato yield was greater in the high tunnels than open field at all three sites (P ≤ 0.03), except for total fruit weight at Knoxville (P ≤ 0.53). Total number of tomato fruit and total fruit weight were lowest for bare ground at both Knoxville (150 × 104 fruit/ha and 29 t·ha−1; P ≤ 0.04) and Mount Vernon (44 × 104 fruit/ha and 11 t·ha−1; P ≤ 0.008). At Knoxville, the other mulch treatments were statistically equivalent, whereas at Mount Vernon, BioAgri had among the highest yields (66 × 104 fruit/ha and 16 t·ha−1). There were no differences in tomato yield resulting from mulch type at Lubbock.

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Shuresh Ghimire, Arnold M. Saxton, Annette L. Wszelaki, Jenny C. Moore and Carol A. Miles

Biodegradable mulches (BDMs) provide a unique advantage to growers in that they can be tilled into the soil after use, eliminating disposal costs that include time, labor, and equipment needs. Biodegradation of BDMs in the soil can be assessed by the presence of visible mulch fragments; although this is not a direct measure of biodegradation, it provides an initial estimation of mulch biodegradation. We carried out three field experiments to develop a protocol for quantifying BDM fragments in the soil after soil incorporation of mulch. Expt. 1 was done at Mount Vernon, WA, and Knoxville, TN, using five BDMs in four replications, including a polyethylene (PE) mulch reference treatment (three replications and at Mount Vernon only), and a ʽCinnamon Girl’ pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) test crop. At the end of the growing season, mulches were tilled into the soil to a depth of 6 inches and within 16 days, five soil samples were collected with a golf hole cutter (4 inches diameter and 6 inches deep). Fifty-nine percent of the PE mulch fragments were recovered from the reference treatment. Among the remaining treatments, there was a high plot-to-plot variation as to the percent of the BDM recovered (3% to 95% at Mount Vernon, 2% to 88% at Knoxville). To exclude the possibility of mulch degradation impacting mulch recovery, in Expts. 2 and 3 (at Mount Vernon only), one BDM was laid, then tilled into the soil and sampled using the same sampling core as in Expt. 1, but all in 1 day. In Expt. 2, 15 soil samples were collected per plot, which recovered 70% of the mulch, and in Expt. 3, the entire plot was sampled by collecting 128 soil samples per plot, which recovered 62% of the mulch. In summary, sampling with a relatively large core recovered less than 70% of tilled-in mulch, there was high variability between plots within each treatment because of uneven distribution of the mulch fragments in the plot, and even 50 samples per plot did not provide an accurate estimate of the amount of mulch remaining in the field. Thus, soil sampling with a large core was ineffective, and new sampling methods are needed to assess the amount of BDM remaining in the field after soil incorporation.

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Travis Robert Alexander, Carolyn F. Ross, Emily A. Walsh and Carol A. Miles

Machine harvest of ‘Brown Snout’ specialty cider apple (Malus ×domestica) has been shown to provide yield and juice quality characteristics similar to that of hand harvest. In this 2-year study, the sensory perception (color, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, taste, and aftertaste) of ciders produced from machine-harvested and hand-harvested fruit that were ambient stored (56 °F) 0–4 weeks postharvest were compared using a trained panel and electronic tongue (e-tongue). For nearly all sensory attributes evaluated, the trained panelists scored the 2014 machine-harvested samples higher than the 2014 hand-harvested samples. Some of the key sensory differences included a darker color, a more astringent and heated mouthfeel, and a more sour taste of the machine-harvested samples than the hand-harvested samples. Trained panelists perceived no differences due to the harvest method among the 2015 samples for any of the sensory attributes evaluated. The e-tongue demonstrated good discrimination (index value = 95) of 2014 samples, but poor discrimination (index value = −0.5) of 2015 samples, mirroring the year-to-year variation experienced by the trained panelists. Overall, the e-tongue demonstrated a response to metallic and sour that was more associated with the machine-harvested samples and a response to sweet and umami that was more associated with the hand-harvested samples. These results demonstrate that cider made from machine-harvested fruit can have a different sensory profile than cider made from hand-harvested fruit. A consumer tasting panel should be conducted next to provide an indication of market response to the differing sensory profiles, qualifying the impact of harvest method. Results also indicate that ambient storage (56 °F) of fruit up to 4 weeks may not impact cider sensory attributes; however, cider apple growers should avoid ambient storage of machine-harvested fruit given the significant yield losses demonstrated in previous studies. Variation in cider quality due to year of harvest was most likely a result of differences in the hand-harvest technique between the 2 years, specifically more fruit bruising in 2014 than in 2015, demonstrating the importance of harvesting fully mature fruit with a standard protocol so as to supply a consistent raw material to cider producers. The e-tongue produced variable results compared with trained panelists and more development is needed before it can be incorporated into cider sensory evaluation protocol.

Open access

Whitney J. Garton, Mark Mazzola, Travis R. Alexander and Carol A. Miles

Anthracnose canker, caused by Neofabraea malicorticis, threatens the sustainability of cider apple (Malus ×domestica) production in the maritime climate of western Washington. In the short-term, the disease reduces overall orchard productivity and in the long-term it reduces an orchard’s economic life span. The disease is difficult to manage using cultural practices, and information on fungicide efficacy is limited and contradictory. To address this situation, a 2-year study was conducted to evaluate efficacy of zinc (4.49 lb/acre), basic copper sulfate (2.49 lb/acre), captan (2.94 lb/acre), thiophanate-methyl (0.69 lb/acre), pyraclostrobin plus boscalid (0.38 lb/acre), and combinations of these fungicides to manage anthracnose canker infection in young cider apple trees cultivated in a maritime climate. Trees used in the first year of the study (2016) were found to be infected by anthracnose canker on receipt, so the first year was a measure of disease control and the second year (2017) was a measure of disease prevention. In 2016, when fungicide treatments were applied every 3 weeks from March through October, none of the treatments evaluated inhibited the development of new infections or the expansion of existing cankers (77% increase in canker size on average for all treatments). In 2017, when fungicide treatments were applied every 3 weeks from February through April, two to three new cankers were observed 3 weeks after final treatment application for all treatments. Results from this study demonstrate that the current fungicides recommended for control of anthracnose canker are not reliably effective in the orchard environment of northwest Washington. Future studies should assess the fungicides evaluated in this study applied in rotation with additional systemic fungicides.

Open access

Travis R. Alexander, Thomas S. Collins and Carol A. Miles

‘Brown Snout’ cider apple (Malus ×domestica) is desired by cider makers for its relatively high levels of phenolics, and over-the-row machine harvesting of ‘Brown Snout’ has been demonstrated to provide similar yield to hand harvest at a significantly lower cost. The purpose of this study was to determine if there is a measurable impact of harvest method on the phenolic profile of ‘Brown Snout’ juice and cider to better inform equipment adoption recommendations. Using a redox titration assay, the titratable tannin content (± SE) of juice (0.19% ± 0.01%) and cider (0.19% ± 0.01%) were found not to differ due to harvest method. Using a protein precipitation assay, juice from machine-harvested fruit was found to have lower levels of total tannins [231 ± 36 mg·L−1 catechin equivalents (CE)] than juice from hand-harvested fruit (420 ± 14 mg·L−1 CE). However, the total tannins of cider did not differ due to harvest method, the overall average for machine and hand harvest was 203 ± 22 mg·L−1 CE. The total phenolics of juice and cider did not differ due to harvest method (1415 ± 98 mg·L−1 CE and 1431 ± 73 mg·L−1 CE, respectively). Discriminant analysis based on an average of 33 tentatively identified phenolic compounds, as measured by ultra-high performance liquid chromatography coupled with quadrupole time of flight mass spectrometry, showed no separation due to harvest method in juice or cider. In conclusion, over-the-row machine harvesting of ‘Brown Snout’ resulted in a final product of similar quality at reduced labor costs, and thus shows potential for increasing the commercial sustainability of cider apple operations.

Open access

Carol A. Miles, Thomas S. Collins, Yao Mu and Travis Robert Alexander

Two studies were performed in Mount Vernon, WA, to identify bulb fennel (Foeniculum ×vulgare) cultivars and seeding practices best suited for the region. The first study evaluated 13 cultivars (Bronze, Finale, Florence, Genesi, Idillio, Orazio, Orion, Perfection, Preludio, Solaris, Tauro, Tenace, and Zefa Fino) over the course of 2 years; during the second year, the additional main factor of the seeding date was included. The second study evaluated three bulb fennel cultivars (Finale, Tauro, and Zefa Fino), four seeding dates (17 May, 31 May, 14 June, and 28 June 2018), and two planting methods (direct and transplant). Results of the two studies demonstrated that ‘Finale’, ‘Orazio’, ‘Preludio’, ‘Solaris’, and ‘Tenace’ had the greatest bulb production rate and yield and good bulb quality that met marketability standards. ‘Genesi’, ‘Orion’, and ‘Perfection’ had good bulb production during only 1 of the 2 years, whereas ‘Bronze’, ‘Florence’, ‘Idillio’, and ‘Zefa Fino’ had very low bulb productivity both years due to bolting. ‘Perfection’ and ‘Tauro’ exhibited internal cracking both years (incidence rates of 9.5% and 12.8%, respectively). The first harvest was 94 to 112 days after seeding during the first study. Direct seeded bulb fennel required 32 fewer days to harvest than transplanted bulb fennel during the second study. The average bulb circumference was 28.1 cm, with little variation between studies. Bulb tenderness for both studies was 617 g-force, on average, and the soluble solids concentration of bulbs in both studies was 4.9%. Ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry based on 38 tentatively identified compounds demonstrated no difference in the phenolic content of bulb fennel due to the cultivar. In conclusion, bulb fennel cultivars well-suited for production in northwest Washington were identified and direct seeding was demonstrated to be a better planting method than transplanting.

Free access

Jeremy S. Cowan, Arnold M. Saxton, Hang Liu, Karen K. Leonas, Debra Inglis and Carol A. Miles

The functionality of biodegradable mulch can be evaluated in agricultural field settings by visually assessing mulch intactness over time (a measure of deterioration), but it is unclear if mulch deterioration is indicative of mulch degradation as measured by mechanical properties (like breaking force and elongation). This 3-year study (2010–12) examined mulch percent visual deterioration (PVD) during the summer growing season in open-field and high tunnel production systems, and compared these to mulch mechanical properties at mulch installation (12–30 May), midseason (22 July–9 Aug.), and season end (6–25 Oct.), to determine if the field-based measures reliably predict degradation as revealed by changes in mulch mechanical properties. Four different types of biodegradable mulches [two plastic film mulches marketed as biodegradable (BioAgri and BioTelo); one fully biodegradable paper mulch (WeedGuardPlus); and, one experimental spunbonded plastic mulch designed to biodegrade (SBPLA)] were evaluated against a standard nonbiodegradable polyethylene (PE) mulch where tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L. cv. Celebrity) was planted as the model crop. Each year for the 3 years, PVD increased earlier for WeedGuardPlus than the other mulches in both the high tunnel and open field, and WeedGuardPlus had the greatest PVD in both high tunnels and the open field (6% and 48%, respectively). Mechanical strength of WeedGuardPlus also declined by the end of the season both in the high tunnel (up to 46% reduction) and in the open field (up to 81% reduction). PVD of BioAgri and BioTelo reached a maximum of 3% in the high tunnel and 28% in the open field by the end of the season. Mechanical strength of BioAgri and BioTelo did not change over the course of the season in either the open field or high tunnel, even though the ability of these mulches to elongate or stretch declined 89% in the open field and 82% in the high tunnel. SBPLA and PE mulches did not show a change in PVD or mechanical properties in either the high tunnel or the open field. Overall, PVD was three to six times greater by midseason in the open field than in the high tunnels. Although there were significant relationships between visual assessments and various mechanical properties for each mulch except SBPLA, the relationships differed for each mulch when evaluated separately and had coefficients of determination (R 2) below 30%. Furthermore, PVD overestimated mechanical deterioration of BioAgri and BioTelo. Results of this study indicate that mulch visual assessments may reflect general trends in changes in certain mechanical properties of the mulch; however, visual assessment and mechanical properties provide different information on deterioration. Each should be used as needed, but not as a substitute for each other.

Full access

Shuresh Ghimire, Annette L. Wszelaki, Jenny C. Moore, Debra Ann Inglis and Carol Miles

The use of plastic biodegradable mulch (BDM) in many vegetable crops such as tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.), broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. var. italica), and pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) has been proven to be of equal benefit as polyethylene (PE) mulch. However, there are limited research findings on the performance of BDM with a large fruited crop such as pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo L.) where the fruit can rest directly on the mulch for an extended period. To investigate whether heavy fruit might cause the mulch to degrade more quickly than expected, thereby, influencing weed control, fruit yield, and fruit quality including mulch adhesion on fruit, we carried out a field experiment in 2015 and 2016 at two locations in the United States with distinctive climates, Mount Vernon, WA and Knoxville, TN. Three plastic mulches marketed as biodegradable (BioAgri, Organix, and Naturecycle), one fully biodegradable paper mulch (WeedGuardPlus), and one experimental plastic BDM consisting of polylactic acid and polyhydroxyalkanoates (Exp. PLA/PHA) were evaluated against PE mulch and bare ground where ‘Cinnamon Girl’ pie pumpkin was the test crop. There was significant weed pressure in the bare ground plots at both locations over both years, indicating viable weed seed banks at the field sites. Even so, weed pressure was minimal across mulch treatments at both locations over both years because the mulches remained sufficiently intact during the growing season. The exceptions were Naturecycle in 2015 at both locations because of the splitting of the mulch and consequently higher percent soil exposure (PSE), and the penetration of all the plastic mulches at Knoxville by nutsedge (Cyperus sp. L.); nutsedge did not penetrate WeedGuardPlus. At Mount Vernon, overall pumpkin yield across both years averaged 18.1 t·ha−1, and pumpkin yield was the greatest with PE, Exp. PLA/PHA, BioAgri, and Naturecycle (19.9–22.8 t·ha−1), intermediate with Organix and WeedGuardPlus (15.3–18.4 t·ha−1), and the lowest for bare ground (8.7 t·ha−1). At Knoxville, overall pumpkin yield across both years averaged 17.7 t·ha−1, and pumpkin yield did not differ because of treatment (15.3–20.4 t·ha−1). The differences in yield between treatments at Mount Vernon were likely because of differences in the soil temperature. At 10 cm depth, the average soil temperature was 1 °C lower for bare ground and WeedGuardPlus as compared with PE mulch and plastic BDMs (20.8 °C). In contrast, soil temperatures were generally higher (25.2 to 28.3 °C) for all treatments at Knoxville and more favorable to crop yield compared with Mount Vernon. Forty-two percent to 59% of pumpkin fruit had mulch adhesion at harvest at Mount Vernon, whereas only 3% to 12% of fruit had mulch adhesion at Knoxville. This difference was because of the location of fruit set—at Mount Vernon, most of the fruit set was on the mulch whereas at Knoxville, vine growth was more extensive and fruit set was mostly in row alleys. Fruit quality differences among treatments were minimal during storage across both locations and years except for total soluble solids (TSS) in 2016, which was lower for bare ground and WeedGuardPlus compared with all the plastic mulches. Taken overall, these results indicate that pie pumpkin grown with BDM has fruit yield and quality comparable to PE mulch; however, adhesion of some BDMs on fruit could affect marketable yield. Furthermore, paper mulch appears to prevent nutsedge penetration.