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  • Author or Editor: Qi Zhang x
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Drought is the most important abiotic stress in crop production including turfgrass management. Using drought tolerant plants can help minimize stress damage. In this study, 23 commercially available cultivars of creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) were evaluated for their responses to drought stress that was induced by polyethylene glycol (PEG) 6000 in a hydroponic system during the seed germination and seedling growth stage. In such a system, water potential was adjusted to 0.0 (the control), −0.3, and −0.6 MPa to mimic the drought condition. The absolute water content (AWC), shoot dry weight (SDW), root dry weight (RDW), longest root length (LRL), specific root length (SRL), and root-to-shoot dry weight ratio (RSR) in the plants grown for 4 weeks in the treatment were determined. Results showed that SDW and LRL were unaffected by drought; however, RDW and RSR increased, whereas SRL and AWC were reduced under drought. Among the 23 creeping bentgrass cultivars evaluated, Independence and Crystal Bluelinks had a higher turfgrass performance index (TPI), which represented the number of times a cultivar ranked in the top statistical group across all parameters. The results suggest that ‘Independence’ and ‘Crystal Bluelinks’ may be more adapted to drought than the other cultivars at the seedling stage.

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Fifteen tall, warm-season, native and ornamental grasses were subjected to a 3-year, low-input, and cold hardiness trial conducted from 2010 to 2013 in zone 4a at Fargo and Mandan, ND. Grasses tested were big bluestem [species (Andropogon gerardii)], ‘Pawnee’ big bluestem (A. gerardii), silver banner grass (Miscanthus sacchariflorus), giant miscanthus (Miscanthus ×giganteus), hardy pampas grass, (Saccharum ravennae), and the following maidengrass (Miscanthus sinensis) cultivars: Silver Feather, Narrow Leaf, Blondo, Autumn Light, Condensatus, Grosse Fontaine, Morning Light, Gracillimus, Strictus, and Zebrinus. In addition to survival, the grasses were also rated for spring vigor and fall quality (0–10 scale for both evaluations), fall leaf length, and fall flower height. The grasses received no management during the trial other than irrigation during the first season and weed control. The grasses were exposed to subsurface soil temperatures (at 6-inch depth) that reached as low as −8.6 °C at the Fargo location and −6 °C at the Mandan location. The study revealed that all big bluestem (species), ‘Pawnee’ big bluestem, and silver banner grass survived at both locations; silver banner grass scored the highest spring vigor ratings; silver banner grass and ‘Pawnee’ big bluestem scored the highest fall quality ratings; silver banner grass produced the longest fall leaf length; and ‘Pawnee’ big bluestem, big bluestem (species), and silver banner grass produced the tallest fall flowers.

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We investigated a practical method for immobilizing liquid spawn of oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) to prolong the storage time and provide convenient transportation of liquid spawn of edible mushrooms. The method was based on the mycelial pellets of liquid spawn adsorbed in carriers. Selected carriers were similar to cultivation substrates, and the best carrier was a mixture of cottonseed hull, corn core, and wheat bran with a ratio of 4.5:4.5:1 by weight. Immobilized spawn were prepared by mixing the pellets from liquid spawn with carriers using a ratio of 1:8 by weight. Within the first 15 days of storage at 20–25 °C, the immobilized spawn grew strongly, respiration intensity and cellulase activities rose rapidly, and the count and brightness of the isozyme bands of esterase, peroxidase, and polyphenol oxidase increased remarkably as well. From days 30 to 60, the cellulase activities fell and the brightness of the peroxidase and polyphenol oxidase bands gradually decreased, whereas the respiration intensity and the band count of esterase and peroxidase remained constant. After 60 days, the cultivated characteristics of the immobilized spawn were same as the fresh conventional solid cottonseed hull spawn. The results showed that immobilized spawn on the basis of the mycelial pellets of liquid spawn adsorbed in carrier can be used to extend the storage time and simplify transportation of liquid spawn of edible mushroom.

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The availability and cost of agricultural labor is constraining the specialty crop industry throughout the United States. Most soft fruits destined for the fresh market are fragile and are usually hand harvested to maintain optimal quality and postharvest longevity. However, because of labor shortages, machine harvest options are being explored out of necessity. A survey on machine harvest of blueberries (Vaccinium sp.) for fresh market was conducted in 2015 and 2016 in seven U.S. states and one Canadian province. Survey respondents totaled 223 blueberry producers of various production sizes and scope. A majority (61%) indicated that their berries were destined for fresh markets with 33% machine harvested for this purpose. Eighty percent said that they thought fruit quality was the limiting factor for machine-harvested blueberries destined for fresh markets. Many producers had used mechanized harvesters, but their experience varied greatly. Just less than half (47%) used mechanical harvesters for fewer than 5 years. Most respondents indicated that labor was a primary concern, as well as competing markets and weather. New technologies that reduce harvesting constraints, such as improvements to harvest machinery and packing lines, were of interest to most respondents. Forty-five percent stated they would be interested in using a modified harvest-aid platform with handheld shaking devices if it is viable (i.e., fruit quality and picking efficiency is maintained and the practice is cost effective). Overall, the survey showed that blueberry producers have great concerns with labor costs and availability and are open to exploring mechanization as a way to mitigate the need for hand-harvest labor.

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