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  • Author or Editor: J. Ryan Stewart x
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Infrared sensors were used to quantify canopy temperature and thus detect differences in incipient water stress between a cool-season grass [Kentucky bluegrass (KBG) (Poa pratensis)] and a warm-season grass [buffalograss (BG) (Buchloe dactyloides)]. The infrared sensors, connected to a datalogger, measured average hourly leaf–air temperatures (TL–TA) 1 m above eight replicate plots of Kentucky bluegrass and eight replicate plots of buffalograss. Air temperature and relative humidity from a nearby weather station were used to calculate the average hourly vapor pressure deficit (VPD). In late July, we ceased irrigating and measured TL–TA and soil water content while allowing the turf to dry down for 5 weeks. Soil water content was measured with a neutron probe. Both species exhibited a significant relationship between TL–TA and VPD. As the VPD increased, TL–TA decreased in both species (KBG r 2 = 0.73, BG r 2 = 0.71) on the 2nd day after an irrigation during well-watered conditions. An artifact was created on the first day after an irrigation as a result of excessive surface evaporation. KBG and BG were similar under well-watered conditions. KBG had a higher TL–TA after 4 to 5 days without irrigation. By contrast, BG did not have a higher TL–TA until 25 to 30 days without irrigation. Part of BG's drought avoidance was extraction of soil water down to 0.9 m vs. 0.45 m for KBG.

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Rhamnus caroliniana Walt. (carolina buckthorn or indian cherry) is an attractive small tree or shrub found in diverse habitats in the United States. Because the species occurs in both mesic and xeric soils, we questioned whether selections of carolina buckthorn could be marketed as new nursery crops resistant to both drought and flooding. Our first objective was to characterize how soil water affects growth and gas exchange of carolina buckthorn. We studied potted plants subjected to soil moistures that ranged from complete submersion of the root zone to severe drought (7% soil water by volume). The maximal photosynthetic rate occurred at 27% soil water content, and complete submersion killed plants. Our second objective was to compare responses of carolina buckthorn to those of the invasive common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica L.) when potted plants were treated with partial flooding of root zones and drought. Carolina buckthorn resisted deleterious effects of partial flooding. In contrast, leaves of common buckthorn became epinastic, and rates of photosynthesis were low (2.14 μmol CO2/m2/s) after 17 days of treatment. Mean photosynthesis of common buckthorn increased to 5.52 μmol CO2/m2/s, a rate similar to that of carolina buckthorn, after 55 days of treatment. Drought reduced net photosynthesis by 52% and 68%, respectively, for carolina buckthorn and common buckthorn relative to rates of plants in the control treatment. We conclude that carolina buckthorn is capable of maintaining carbon fixation and growth over a wide range of soil water contents, and unlike common buckthorn, is not dependent upon morphological, anatomical, or physiological adjustments to optimize growth and net photosynthesis in extremely wet soil. Use of carolina buckthorn as an ornamental is warranted if invasiveness and other potential problems with the species are not identified.

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Little is known about the reproductive biology of carolina buckthorn [Rhamnus caroliniana Walt. or Frangula caroliniana (Walt.) Gray], an attractive North American shrub or small tree that might merit increased use in managed landscapes. The fecundity and high germinability of seeds of the Eurasian common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica L.), however, have been characterized as factors contributing to its invasiveness. We compared seed germination of these species to ascertain how easily carolina buckthorn could be grown from seed in nurseries and to acquire data for predicting whether carolina buckthorn might be invasive if introduced into managed landscapes. Fruits of carolina buckthorn were collected from indigenous plants in central Missouri, southern Oklahoma, and southern Texas. Fruits of common buckthorn were collected from shrubs naturalized in central Iowa. Seeds of both species were stratified for up to 112 days in darkness at 4 °C; germination at 24 °C in the dark was then evaluated for 56 days. Quadratic functions best described how time of stratification influenced germination value and germination percentage of common buckthorn, whereas these measures of carolina buckthorn were best represented by exponential (value) or linear (percentage) functions. Stratification for 112 days maximized germination value and percentage for carolina buckthorn within the 56-day germination period, but shorter stratifications were sufficient to optimize germination of common buckthorn. While the overall mean germination of carolina buckthorn was 40%, results varied by provenance and ranged from 25% (Missouri) to 56% (Oklahoma). Mean germination of common buckthorn over times of stratification was 71%, and the overall mean daily germination of common buckthorn, 1.3, was 86% greater than that of carolina buckthorn, 0.7. We conclude that seeds of carolina buckthorn are more resistant to germination than seeds of common buckthorn. Our results suggest that plant propagators should cold-stratify seeds of carolina buckthorn for up to 112 days, and suggest that carolina buckthorn has a lower potential to be invasive than does common buckthorn.

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Carolina buckthorn (Rhamnus caroliniana Walt.) is ornamental and could be promoted as a stress-resistant shrub for horticultural landscapes. Its status as a relative of invasive species, including common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica L.), raises concerns regarding the environmental consequences of planting Carolina buckthorn outside of its natural habitat. To assess the ease of propagating Carolina buckthorn from seed, and to gather data relevant to assessments of invasiveness, we compared seed-germination characteristics between the two species. Seeds of Carolina buckthorn were collected from native populations in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. Seeds of common buckthorn were collected from populations in Iowa. We stratified seeds of both species for up to 112 days at 4 °C. Germination at 20 °C then was evaluated for 56 days. Over stratification durations, 40% and 71% of seeds of Carolina buckthorn and common buckthorn germinated, respectively. Stratification for 112 days optimized germination value for Carolina buckthorn, but stratification for 42, 56, 84, and 112 days evoked similar germination percentages. Seeds of Carolina buckthorn from Oklahoma germinated at a higher percentage (56%) than did seeds from Missouri (25%). Neither germination value nor germination percentage of common buckthorn was influenced by stratification. We conclude that seeds of Carolina buckthorn are more recalcitrant than are seeds of common buckthorn. This suggests that Carolina buckthorn, particularly those from Missouri with low reproductive success, may be less invasive than their Eurasian kin. Horticulturists can optimize germination percentage of Carolina buckthorn by cold-stratifying seeds for as little as 42 days, but 112 days optimizes germination value.

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Some buckthorn species from other continents have proven invasive in North American landscapes. Carolina buckthorn (Rhamnus caroliniana Walt.) is an attractive, native species that would merit increased use in horticultural landscapes if concerns about its potential invasiveness are allayed. Invasiveness often is associated with efficient use of water and other resources. We tested for differences between Carolina buckthorn and common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica L.) in photosynthesis, aboveground dry matter accumulation, and water-use efficiency. Seedlings were grown in columns of field soil within insulated pots outdoors for 98 days. Net photosynthesis of Carolina buckthorn was 17% to 39% greater than that of common buckthorn through day 22. This difference between species was reversed through the end of the treatment period with a concomitant increase in leaf temperature of Carolina buckthorn. Final dry weight of aboveground tissues was similar for the two species, but a greater proportion of dry matter was partitioned to stems for common buckthorn compared to Carolina buckthorn. Although common buckthorn initially had higher water-use efficiency (110 mg·g-1 per day) than did Carolina buckthorn (60 mg·g-1 per day), the water-use efficiency of both species decreased to similar values for the remainder of the treatment period. We conclude that young plants of common buckthorn do not use water more efficiently than do young Carolina buckthorn under field conditions in central Iowa. Considering the possible species differences in the relationship between temperature and photosynthesis, comparative water-use efficiency should be tested further in other environments where Carolina buckthorn might be used for landscaping.

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Long used as a source of food, beverages, and fiber, Agave exhibits potential to be cultivated as a crop to produce alternative sweeteners, bioenergy, and a variety of other end uses. However, little is known regarding the productivity levels of Agave when grown in saline soils in semiarid regions. Hydroponic experiments were carried out to evaluate the effects of salinity on biomass accumulation and nutrient levels of young plants of Agave parryi, Agave utahensis ssp. kaibabensis, Agave utahensis ssp. utahensis, and Agave weberi. Salinity treatments (0.6, 3.0, 6.0, and 9.0 dS·m−1) were imposed in each experiment. Both subspecies of A. utahensis were sensitive to salt treatments. In the higher salinity treatments, A. utahensis ssp. utahensis exhibited high mortality; both subspecies had lower plant dry weights. Agave parryi was more tolerant, but experienced a decrease in plant dry weight in the 9.0 dS·m−1 treatment. The biomass of A. weberi was unaffected by any level of salinity. Calcium, Mg, S, and Mn levels decreased in both A. parryi and A. weberi at higher salinity levels. Potassium and P levels in A. parryi decreased in the higher salt treatments. Decreases in nutrients were not severe enough to cause any apparent nutrient deficiencies in A. parryi and A. weberi. Agave parryi and A. weberi tolerated salinity at higher levels than expected, and may show promise for cultivation in saline soils.

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Can Carolina buckthorn (Rhamnuscaroliniana) persist north of its native habitat without becoming invasive? Its distribution (USDA zones 5b to 9b) suggests that genotypes vary in cold hardiness, and invasiveness of other Rhamnus sp. has been linked to unusually early budbreak each spring. Therefore, we investigated depth of cold hardiness and vernal budbreak of Carolina buckthorns from multiple provenances and made comparisons to the invasive common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica). Budbreak was recorded in Ames, Iowa, from 9 Apr. to 10 May 2002. Buds of common buckthorn broke earlier than those of Carolina buckthorn, and mulching plants of Carolina buckthorn hastened budbreak. Stem samples were collected in October, January, and April from a plot in Ames, Iowa (USDA zone 5a), of Carolina buckthorns from three provenances (Missouri, Ohio, and Texas) and of naturalized common buckthorns. A similar schedule was followed during the next winter, when two plot locations [Ames, Iowa, and New Franklin, Mo. (USDA zone 5b)], were compared, but Carolina buckthorns from only Missouri and Texas were sampled. Carolina buckthorn and common buckthorn survived midwinter temperatures as low as –21 °C and –24 °C, respectively. Provenance differences were minimal; Carolina buckthorns from Missouri were more hardy than those from Ohio and Texas only in April of the first winter. We conclude that its cold hardiness will permit use of Carolina buckthorn beyond where it is distributed in the southeastern United States. Delayed budbreak of Carolina buckthorn relative to that of common buckthorn may underscore the potential for Carolina buckthorn in regions with harsh winters and may lessen its potential to be as invasive as common buckthorn.

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This study assessed the material and energy inputs required to produce a Petunia ×hybrida plant from initial propagation to delivery at a regional distribution center. Impacts were expressed in terms of their contribution to the carbon footprint or global warming potential (GWP) of a single finished plant in a ≈10-cm diameter container. Beyond this baseline assessment, the study investigated the secondary impacts (e.g., irrigation demand) associated with container type used. Life cycle assessment data were sourced from interviews, published literature, propriety data sources, direct metering at the greenhouse facility, and original findings from a series of university greenhouse experiments. Results show that a traditional plastic container accounts for ≈16% of overall CO2e emissions (0.544 kg) during petunia production. Although the container was a significant contributor to GWP, electrical consumption for supplemental lighting and irrigation during plug production proved to be the leading source of CO2e emissions (over 47%) in our model system. Differences in GWP when considering secondary impacts associated with the various biocontainers were minor, especially when compared with the other elements of production. Our results demonstrate that biocontainers could potentially be as or more sustainable than plastic pots once pot manufacturing and end-of-life data are considered. However, use of more efficient supplemental lighting sources may ultimately have the greatest impact on overall GWP for the production system assessed.

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Although transplanted trees typically establish and grow without incident in frequently irrigated turfgrass, their performance in precisely irrigated turfgrass in an arid climate is not known. We investigated the effect of precision irrigation scheduling on growth and water relations of balled-and-burlapped littleleaf linden (Tilia cordata Mill. `Greenspire') planted in buffalograss (Buchloë dactyloides [Nutt.] Engelm. `Tatanka') and kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.). Over 2 years, trees in turfgrass were irrigated either by frequent replacement based on local reference evapotranspiration, or precision irrigated by estimating depletion of soil water to the point of incipient water stress for each turfgrass species. Predawn leaf water potential and stomatal conductance of trees were measured during first-year establishment, and predawn leaf water potential was measured during a mid-season water-deficit period during the second year. Trunk diameter growth and total tree leaf area were measured at the end of each year. Values of predawn leaf water potential and stomatal conductance of trees in precision-irrigated buffalograss were lower (–0.65 MPa, 25.3 mmol·m–2·s–1) than those of trees in the other treatments near the end of the first growing season. The longer interval between precision irrigations resulted in mild water stress, but was not manifested in growth differences among trees across treatments during the first season. During the water-deficit period of the second year, there was no evidence of stress among the trees regardless of treatment. At the end of the second season, total leaf area of trees grown in precision-irrigated kentucky bluegrass (1.10 ± 0.34 m2) was 46% of that of trees grown in buffalograss (2.39 ± 0.82 m2) that were irrigated frequently. Trunk diameter growth of trees in frequently irrigated kentucky bluegrass (1.91 ± 2.65 mm) was 29% of that of the trees grown in buffalograss (6.68 ± 1.68 mm), regardless of irrigation treatment, suggesting a competition effect from kentucky bluegrass. We conclude that frequent irrigation of balled-and-burlapped trees in turfgrass, particularly buffalograss, is more conducive to tree health during establishment than is maximizing the interval between turfgrass irrigation. Regardless of irrigation schedule, kentucky bluegrass appears to impact tree growth severely during establishment in an arid climate.

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Frequent episodes of water stress in managed landscapes have led the nursery industry to look for attractive woody species that perform well under extreme conditions of drought and flooding. We chose to evaluate three taxa with highly localized natural distributions in the United States, Calycanthus occidentalis (north–central California), Fraxinus anomala (northeastern Utah), and Pinckneya pubens (northeastern Florida), each of which may merit further use under cultivated conditions beyond their respective ranges. Although widespread cultivation of each taxon may not be possible as a result of limitations related to cold hardiness, we hypothesized that each species can tolerate extremes in soil moisture availability more so than their native habitats imply. Our objective was to characterize, under greenhouse conditions, how the quantity of soil water affects gas exchange of potted plants of each species. Plants were divided into five groups, each exposed to treatment conditions ranging from complete submersion to severe drought. Complete submersion killed plants of C. occidentalis and F. anomala, although in drought or severe drought conditions, C. occidentalis plants had lower net photosynthesis and less leaf area and plant dry weight than control plants. Net photosynthesis, leaf area, and plant dry weight of partially flooded plants, however, were not found to be significantly less than that of the control plants. Mean net photosynthetic levels and plant dry weights of severe drought, drought, and control F. anomala did not differ. While severe drought plants of P. pubens exhibited much lower levels of net photosynthesis, but not plant dry weights or leaf area, than the control plants, those exposed to drought, partial flood, and complete submersion were not found to differ in net photosynthesis levels from the control plants. Due to the sustained tolerance of F. anomala and P. pubens to a range of extreme soil moisture conditions, as exhibited by net photosynthetic responses, carbon accumulation, and survival, we conclude that use of these species in landscapes is warranted if invasiveness and other potential problems are not identified. Calycanthus occidentalis, however, appears unsuitable for cultivation in areas with organic soils greater than ≈66% and lower than ≈30% soil moisture content as a result of its high mortality in flooded conditions and poor physiological responses under dry conditions.

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