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Abstract

Greenhouse tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. cv. Tropic) subjected to 10 seconds of gentle water spraying each day were inhibited up to 40% in plant height, compared to unsprayed controls or plants wet each day with a water mist. Manual shaking of the stems for 10 seconds each day produced reduction in stem elongation similar to the spraying. Spraying or shaking also slightly reduced fresh weights and yields.

Open Access

Reduced atmospheric pressures may be used to minimize mass and engineering requirements for plant growth habitats used in some extraterrestrial applications. A chamber with high vacuum capability and thermal control at Kennedy Space Center was used to measure water loss of lettuce plants at reduced atmospheric pressures. A test stand with three, high-pressure sodium vapor lamps was used to determine short-term plant responses to reduced pressure. Initial experiments with lettuce showed that a pressure of 10 kPa (≈0.1 atm) resulted in a 6.1-fold increase in the rate of water loss compared to water loss at ambient pressure. However, due to low relative humidity, plants wilted after 30 minutes exposure to 10 kPa. A follow-up experiment in which relative humidity was controlled between 70% and 85%, demonstrated that water loss was directly proportional to the vapor pressure gradient, regardless of atmospheric pressure in the pressure range of 10 to 101 kPa. However, the response was curvilinear, suggesting effects on the pathway resistance. Results indicate that plant growth at atmospheric pressures of 5 to 10 kPa should be achievable. Further work will necessitate better relative humidity control and carbon dioxide control in order to separate vapor pressure deficit effects from diffusion effects.

Free access

Ethylene production by 10 or 20 m2 stands of wheat, soybean, lettuce, potato, and tomato was monitored throughout growth and development in an atmospherically closed plant chamber. Chamber ethylene levels varied among species and rose during periods of canopy expansion and rapid growth for all species. Following this, ethylene levels either declined during seed fill and maturation for wheat and soybean, or remained relatively constant for potato and tomato (during flowering and early fruit development). Lettuce plants were harvested during rapid growth and peak ethylene production. Chamber ethylene levels increased rapidly during tomato ripening, reaching concentrations about 10 times that measured during vegetative growth. The highest ethylene production rates during vegetative growth ranged from 1.6 to 2.5 nmol·m-2·d-1 during rapid growth of lettuce and wheat stands, or about 0.3 to 0.5 nmol·g-1 fresh weight per hour. Estimates of stand ethylene production during tomato ripening showed that rates reached 43 nmol·m-2·d-1 in one study and 93 nmol·m-2·d-1 in a second study with higher lighting, or about 50× that of the rate during vegetative growth of tomato. In a related test with potato, the photoperiod was extended from 12 to 24 hours (continuous light) at 58 days after planting (to increase tuber yield), but this change in the environment caused a sharp increase in ethylene production from the basal rate of 0.4 to 6.2 nmol·m-2·d-1. Following this, the photoperiod was changed back to 12 h at 61 days and ethylene levels decreased. The results suggest three separate categories of ethylene production were observed with whole stands of plants: 1) production during rapid vegetative growth, 2) production during climacteric fruit ripening, and 3) production from environmental stress.

Free access

Wheat (cv. Yecora Rojo) plants were grown in a closed chamber as part of NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System (CELSS) program. Plants were grown using a recirculating hydroponics with EC controlled at 0.12 S m-1 by automatic additions of a nutrient concentrate, and pH was controlled at 5.8 units with automatic additions of nitric acid. Daily CO2 exchange, water uptake, and nutrient uptake were monitored for the entire 20 m2 canopy throughout growth. Nutrient use efficiency (NUE) relative to water and CO2 uptake were determined, where NUE-W was defined as the amount of water taken up per unit of nutrient and NUE-C as the amount of carbon fixed per unit of nutrient. Water uptake remained relatively constant after canopy closure (25 DAP), where CO2 uptake peaked during rapid vegetative growth and then declined gradually with age and gain fill. Nutrient uptake also peaked during vegetative growth but declined sharply after anthesis. Water use efficiency (WUE) was high early in growth and then declined with age due to the decrease in CO2 exchange over time. In contrast NUE-C and NUE-W were low during vegetative growth and the increased nearly 10-fold during grain fill.

Free access

Radish (Raphanus sativus L. cv. Cherriette), lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. cv. Waldmann's Green), and spinach (Spinacea oleracea L. cv. Nordic IV) plants were grown under 660-nm red light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and were compared at equal photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) with either plants grown under cool-white fluorescent lamps (CWF) or red LEDs supplemented with 10% (30 μmol·m-2·s-1) blue light (400-500 nm) from blue fluorescent (BF) lamps. At 21 days after planting (DAP), leaf photosynthetic rates and stomatal conductance were greater for plants grown under CWF light than for those grown under red LEDs, with or without supplemental blue light. At harvest (21 DAP), total dry-weight accumulation was significantly lower for all species tested when grown under red LEDs alone than when grown under CWF light or red LEDs + 10% BF light. Moreover, total dry weight for radish and spinach was significantly lower under red LEDs + 10% BF than under CWF light, suggesting that addition of blue light to the red LEDs was still insufficient for achieving maximal growth for these crops.

Free access

Accumulation of glycinebetaine occurs in Chenopodiaceae members and is thought to assist in osmotic adjustment and protect cytoplasm from sodium toxicity. Red beet has an ability to tolerate high tissue sodium levels, which may result in increased glycinebetaine production. To test this hypothesis, two cultivars of red beet ['Scarlet Supreme' (SS) and `Ruby Queen' (RQ)] were grown under nonsaline (4.75 mM Na) and saline (54.75 mM Na) conditions in a recirculating hydroponic system for 42 days at elevated CO2 (1200 μmol•mol-1) in a growth chamber. Leaf glycinebetaine level, relative water content, and osmotic potential were measured at weekly intervals. Leaf glycinebetaine levels increased with plant age and reached a maximum of 67 μmol•g-1 dw under nonsaline and 101 μmol•g-1 dry weight (dw) under saline conditions at 42 days in SS; in RQ, the glycinebetaine levels reached a maximum of 91 μmol•g-1 dw under nonsaline and 121 μmol•g-1 dw under saline conditions by 26 days. The mean glycinebetaine levels were increased over two-thirds under saline conditions in both the cultivars. RQ accumulated significantly higher (37% more under nonsaline, and 46% more under salinity) glycinebetaine than SS. The turgid leaf osmotic potential of RQ was consistently higher than SS under nonsaline (2.23 MPa in RQ vs. 1.82 MPa in SS) and saline (2.48 MPa in RQ vs. 2.02 MPa in SS) conditions. The results indicate that higher glycinebetaine levels in the leaf could result in better osmotic adjustment, and glycinebetaine accumulation in red beet can vary among cultivars and is strongly affected by external salinity.

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The NASA Advanced Life Support (ALS) System for space habitation will likely operate under reduced atmospheric pressure (hypobaria). There are engineering, safety, and plant growth advantages in growing crops under low pressure. In closed production environments, such as ALS, excessive plant-generated ethylene may negatively impact plant growth. Growth of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) in the Low Pressure Plant Growth (LPPG) system was enhanced under low pressure (25kPa), due in part to decreased ethylene production. Under reduced pO2, ethylene production decreased under low as well as ambient conditions (He et al., 2003). During hypobaria, the expression of genes encoding ethylene biosynthesis enzymes, namely ACC synthase (ACS) and ACC oxidase (ACO), is not known. The primary objective of this research was to characterize the expression of ACS and ACO genes in response to hypobaria. Three-week-old Arabidopsis was used to determine the effects of hypobaria (25 kPa) and reduced O2 (12 kPa pO2) at the molecular level. Candidate gene expression was tested using quantitative real-time PCR at different times after treatment. Under low pressure, ACO1 expression is induced in the initial 12 hours of treatment, gradually decreasing with increased exposure. At 12 kPa pO2, ACO1 was induced under ambient conditions, suggesting that plants under low pressure may be more tolerant to hypoxic stress. The mechanism for enhanced growth of lettuce under hypobaric conditions will be studied further by analysis of the ACS and ACO gene families, and stress-responsive genes, namely late-embryogenesis abundant (LEA) proteins and dehydrins.

Free access

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have tremendous potential as supplemental or sole-source lighting systems for crop production both on and off earth. Their small size, durability, long operating lifetime, wavelength specificity, relatively cool emitting surfaces, and linear photon output with electrical input current make these solid-state light sources ideal for use in plant lighting designs. Because the output waveband of LEDs (single color, nonphosphor-coated) is much narrower than that of traditional sources of electric lighting used for plant growth, one challenge in designing an optimum plant lighting system is to determine wavelengths essential for specific crops. Work at NASA's Kennedy Space Center has focused on the proportion of blue light required for normal plant growth as well as the optimum wavelength of red and the red/far-red ratio. The addition of green wavelengths for improved plant growth as well as for visual monitoring of plant status has been addressed. Like with other light sources, spectral quality of LEDs can have dramatic effects on crop anatomy and morphology as well as nutrient uptake and pathogen development. Work at Purdue University has focused on geometry of light delivery to improve energy use efficiency of a crop lighting system. Additionally, foliar intumescence developing in the absence of ultraviolet light or other less understood stimuli could become a serious limitation for some crops lighted solely by narrow-band LEDs. Ways to prevent this condition are being investigated. Potential LED benefits to the controlled environment agriculture industry are numerous and more work needs to be done to position horticulture at the forefront of this promising technology.

Free access