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  • Author or Editor: Jayne Zajicek x
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Child obesity has become a national concern. Obesity in children ages 6-17 has more than doubled in the past 30 years. Only twenty percent of children today consume the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. This trend is even more pronounced in minority populations. Past studies have reported that horticulture based curriculum, including gardening, can improve children's attitudes toward eating fruits and vegetables. To investigate whether children of a minority population can benefit from gardening supplemented with nutritional curriculum, research was conducted with elementary schools in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Elementary school teachers participating in this research agreed to have school gardens and complete all activities in a nutritional curriculum provided to them through the Texas Extension Service. Children in the participating schools completed a pre- and post-test evaluating their attitudes and snack preferences toward fruits and vegetables and their knowledge before and after gardening supplemented with nutritional information. Statistically significant differences were detected between pre- and post-test scores for all three variables. After comparing pre-and post-test scores, it was concluded that gardening with supplemental instruction, had a positive effect on all three variables including students attitudes and snack preferences toward fruits and vegetables and their nutritional knowledge.

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Studies in human issues in horticulture have focused on how gardens affect the self-development typically in non-traditional or special populations. As the science of people–plant research expands, many populations are being investigated, including youth. As we study the effects of horticulture on self-development of youth, it is important to cross the boundaries between technical horticulture and disciplines such as psychology and education. Tools that have been used traditionally in these other disciplines have been adapted to study the effects of gardening on children. Two major areas of research will be reviewed, including: 1) The effects of gardening and school ground landscaping on the self-development, environmental attitudes and horticulture knowledge of mainstream school children, and 2) The evaluation of horticulture programs established for at-risk youth and juvenile offenders.

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A study was conducted to explore how surface materials, including pine bark mulch, bare soil, and turfgrass, affect water use of diverse cultivars (dwarf weeping, dwarf upright, standard weeping, and standard upright) of crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica L.). Daily water use was measured gravimetrically, and instantaneous rates of sap flow were measured using heat balance stem flow gauges. Plants of all cultivars surrounded by the mulched surface lost 0.63 to 1.25 kg·m-2·day-1 more water than plants on the soil surface and 0.83 to 1.09 kg·m-2·day-1 more than plants surrounded by turf. The surface temperature of the mulch was higher than that of the other surfaces, resulting in greater fluxes of longwave radiation from the surface. Because of the greater energy load, plants on the mulched surface had higher leaf temperatures and higher leaf-air vapor pressure deficits (VPD) throughout the day. Plants on the mulched area also had higher stomata1 conductances during most of the day compared with those on bare soil and turfgrass surfaces.

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Floral Design (HORT 203) is an increasingly popular course offered at Texas A&M Univ. HORT 203 is offered as a university core curriculum humanities elective and, thus, enrolls many nonhorticulture majors, averaging 95 students per semester. HORT 203 is taught in a large lecture room that does not always lend itself to teaching a hands-on, visual design course. To increase student understanding of the materials, traditional 35-mm slides and overhead transparencies are being replaced by visual computer technology. Colorful, scanned-in images of floral designs are created in Microsoft PowerPoint and incorporated into computer presentations and color transparencies that supplement each instructional presentation. In addition, the Internet is incorporated in the course by providing students with instructors' and lab assistants' e-mail addresses, individual lab section pages, slides for plant identification, reading assignments, as well as classroom lectures. The technologies used for HORT 203 enhance student understanding and ease of teaching while providing a visual alternative to traditional teaching methods. The technologies used for HORT 203 will be discussed and demonstrated including a tour of home-pages, lectures, and plant id lists.

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Castilleja indivisa grows hemiparasitically attached to the roots of various nearby plants. Studies were done using several host plants to determine the effects of the parasitic relationship on the growth of C. indivisa and the host plants. Transpiration rates, and leaf water potentials of C. indivisa, and various hosts, were also measured at various soil moisture levels. Carbon transfer between C. indivisa and each host was examined using a 14CO2 tracing technique.

The various hosts used in this experiment enhanced the growth of C. indivisa by 200-700% compared to non-parasitic controls. Transpiration rates of non-parasitic controls remained relatively low at all soil moisture levels while transpiration rates of parasitic C. indivisa increased rapidly as soil moisture increased, and generally exceeded that of its host at low to medium soil moisture levels. Leaf water potentials of non-parasitic controls were generally more negative than other treatments. Carbon exchange between C. indivisa and its hosts was insignificant and appears not to be a major nutritional factor.

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Sap flow rates of three Cercis spp. exposed to supraoptimal root-zone temperatures were characterized in a controlled environment chamber using a water bath to control temperatures. Flow rates of sap in the xylem were measured every 15 sec. and averaged over 15 min. intervals. Sap flow measurements were correlated to root-zone temperatures recorded during the same time intervals. Whole plant transpiration was measured gravimetrically. Root-zone temperatures were maintained at 22C for three consecutive 24-hr cycles and then increased to 45C for an additional three 24-hr periods. All plants, regardless of species, had reduced sap flow patterns when exposed to high root-zone temperatures. Plants maintained at a constant temperature of 22C showed no extreme fluctuations in sap flow rate. Stomatal conductance rates and leaf water potentials showed similar trends to whole plant transpiration.

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Castilleja indivisa (Indian Paintbrush normally grows hemiparasitically in association with various hosts. Research at Texas A&M University has shown that depending on which host plant is selected, growth rates are increased two to five times over Castilleja grown without a host.

Haustorial connections form between the roots of Castilleja and the roots of its host plant. Published papers show that water and nutrients are transferred from the host to the hemiparasite, although this has not been characterized on a quantative level.

Water relations of Castilleja and various hosts are being examined by psychrometry to determine the importance of water transfer in the relationship. Carbon transfer and partitioning is being examined using steady state 14CO2 labeling. Water relations, carbon transfer, and host specific growth enhancement will be discussed.

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Uniconizole has great potential for use in both the landscape and nursery industry for improved plant quality, more efficient maintenance techniques, and increased water conservation. A study was conducted to evaluate the effects of uniconizole and methods of application on growth, development, and water use of asiatic jasmine and vinca. Treatments consisted of 1.25 mg A.I., 2.5 mg A.I., or 5 mg A.I. applied in a 25 ml spray or 25 ml soil drench. Another study was conducted to determine if the growth regulation effects could be overcome by direct application of GA. GA3 and GA4+7 were applied at rates of 2.5 mg A.I., 12.5 mg A.I., or 25 mg A.I. in a 25 ml solution after growth reduction had occurred. The 5 mg A.I. uniconizole spray and drench treatments were most effective in reducing growth and whole plant transpiration for asiatic jasmine and vinca respectively. Transpiration per unit leaf area was not reduced for any treatment except for asiatic jasmine at the highest drench rate.

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Placing the horticulture student on a path of professional development as a society-ready graduate for the 21st century takes more than technical knowledge. New types of team-oriented organizations are being created that were not even imagined a few years ago. To help empower students to survive in these organizations, the course “Leadership Perspectives in Horticulture” was created. This interdisciplinary course serves as a model for leadership skill instruction by incorporating the component of leadership development into a technical horticulture course. The objectives of this course are to provide academic and historical perspectives in technical horticulture issues, develop skills in leadership, problem solving, and team building, complete a theoretical study of specific leadership models, and blend theoretical leadership models with horticulture issues by completing a problem solving experience. An overview of the course in addition to changes in leadership behavior of students will be discussed.

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The performance and satisfaction of students enrolled in a traditionally structured lecture/lab floral design course and a Web-based version of the same course were compared. Students were assigned randomly to course sections by available seating. Data collected included a demographic survey, design and course evaluations, and test grades. Significant differences were noted in class grades, with students in the traditionally taught course outperforming the Web-based students in both lecture and lab grades. Results from a survey instrument designed to determine whether students were suited to the distance learning environment (given only to the Web-based students) indicated a direct correlation between distance preparedness and course grades. A higher level of distance course preparedness correlated with a higher grade in the course. There was also a direct correlation between grades and whether the student was in the course with the delivery method they preferred. Students who were assigned to the course they preferred had significantly higher grades than students who did not. These results indicate that overall, a course such as floral design may be more effectively taught through traditional teaching techniques. However, certain students with adequate computer skills and a preference for Web-based courses may be successful in courses such as floral design.

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