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Open access

Alexander G. Litvin, Christopher J. Currey, and Lester A. Wilson

Broad-spectrum high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps are the standard for greenhouse supplemental lighting. However, narrow-spectra light-emitting diodes (LEDs) offer potential benefits for enhancing growth, photosynthesis (P n), and secondary metabolites in culinary herbs. Our objective was to quantify the effect of supplemental light source and spectra on growth, gas exchange, aroma, and flavor of culinary herbs. Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Nufar’), dill (Anethum graveolens ‘Fernleaf’), and parsley (Petroselinum crispum ‘Giant of Italy’) were transplanted into hydroponic systems in a glass-glazed greenhouse. Plants were provided with a supplemental photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) density of 100 μmol·m−2·s–1 from an HPS lamp or LEDs with a low blue (B) to red (R) light ratio of 7:93 [low blue (LB)] or high B:R at 30:70 [high blue (HB)]. Compared with plants grown under HPS lamps, basil grown under LB and HB LED lighting was shorter, while only HB-grown parsley was shorter; height of dill was unaffected by light source. Basil and parsley shoot fresh weight was lower for HB-treated plants compared with HPS, though dill was unaffected by supplemental light source. Shoot dry mass of basil, dill, and parsley was unaffected by light source. Both LED treatments increased P n for basil and parsley compared with HPS-grown plants. Stomatal conductance (g S) was higher under LB and HB for basil compared with HPS in the morning and evening, but only HB-treated parsley was higher than HPS lighting in morning. Basil grown under LB, and parsley under both LEDs had lower chlorophyll fluorescence than those under HPS by the evening, but all three species had more chlorophyll b under LB light than HPS. Essential oil and phenolic accumulation were influenced by supplemental light treatment and responses varied among species. Lighting from LEDs resulted in a 2-fold increase in orientin and myristicin for basil and dill, respectively, while HB increased dillapiole concentration by 89% compared with HPS-grown dill. Notably, quercetin concentration was 2.8 times higher in dill grown under HB compared with HPS. Myrcene increased in all three species under either one (basil HB; dill LB) or both (parsley) LED lights compared with HPS. The increased content of aromatic and flavor compounds demonstrates the potential of supplemental lighting systems using specific wavelengths to add value; but the use of supplemental lighting requires an understanding of the additional stress on the photosynthetic mechanisms and the subsequent effect on biomass accumulation.

Free access

Alexander G. Litvin, Marc W. van Iersel, and Anish Malladi

Drought stress reduces stem elongation and cell expansion. Since gibberellins (GAs) play an important role in controlling cell elongation, the objective of this study was to determine if the reduction in growth under drought stress is associated with altered GA metabolism or signaling. We exposed ‘Moneymaker’ tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) to drought stress to observe the effects on growth. Irrigation was automated using a data logger, which maintained volumetric water contents (VWC) of 0.35 and 0.15 m3·m−3 for well-watered and drought-stressed conditions, respectively. To further investigate the effect of GAs on elongation, paclobutrazol (PAC), a GA biosynthesis inhibitor, was applied to reduce endogenous GA production. Drought stress and PAC treatment reduced plant height. Internode length, cell size, and shoot dry weight displayed an interaction between the VWC and PAC treatments. The transcript levels of SlGA20ox1, -2, -3, and -4, SlGA3ox2, and SlGA2ox2, -4, and -5, corresponding to enzymes in GA metabolism, and LeEXP1, and -2, encoding expansin enzymes related to cell wall loosening necessary for cell expansion, were analyzed. Downregulation of transcript accumulation due to drought stress was observed for SlGA20ox4, SlGA2ox5, and LeEXP1, but not for any of the other genes. PAC increased expression of SlGA20ox-3, and SlGA3ox2, potentially through feedback regulation. These findings suggest that drought stress effects on elongation are at least partly mediated by altered GA metabolism.

Open access

Kristine M. Lang, Ajay Nair, and Alexander G. Litvin

The use of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) grafting is gaining traction across the United States, but small-scale growers face the challenge of creating optimum postgrafting healing conditions. The practice of blocking light for a period of 2 to 4 days while maintaining high humidity is commonly recommended for healing grafted tomato transplants; however, research is exploring alternatives to this practice. The present study investigated a low-input healing method for grafted tomato transplants with a specific focus on light and the use of propagation heat mats to regulate substrate and healing chamber air temperatures during the 7-day healing process. We hypothesized that 4 days of light exclusion and the use of propagation heat mats would improve grafted tomato transplant survival and growth. ‘Cherokee Purple’ was used as the scion and ‘RST-04-106-T’ was used as the rootstock. The whole plot factor was heat [propagation mats set at 80 °F (heat) or no propagation mat (no heat)] and the subplot factor was light exclusion (0, 4, or 6 days of dark). The highest survival rate among treatments was 97% in 0 days of dark with no heat treatment; survival decreased to 84% in 4 and 6 days of dark with no heat treatments. The plant survival rate was 96% with 0 days of dark and heat treatment; however, the survival rates were 63% and 45% for the 4- and 6-day dark treatments, respectively. The scion stem diameter was largest for transplants grown in 0 days of dark, but there was no difference in stem diameter due to heat treatments. There were no differences among scion or rootstock biomasses due to heat or light treatments. These results demonstrate that propagation mats set at 80 °F to regulate the substrate temperature were detrimental to grafted transplant survival under extended periods of light exclusion. However, this finding creates the basis to explore lower levels of substrate temperature modification. Our work also indicates that light exclusion may not be necessary for healing grafted tomato plants regardless of root-zone temperature treatments. Future work should examine the interactions of various substrate and air temperatures under full light conditions and their effects on grafted tomato transplant survival and growth. This work contributes to the ongoing research of how to optimize low-input healing methods that may be readily adopted by small-scale tomato growers.

Free access

Nicholas J. Flax, Christopher J. Currey, Alexander G. Litvin, James A. Schrader, David Grewell, and William R. Graves

Various types of emerging bioplastic containers present a range of physical and chemical properties and can perform differently from one another in production environments. Container performance may be affected by substrate moisture content. We quantified the effects of bioplastic container type and substrate volumetric water content (VWC) on the aesthetic and mechanical strength properties of bioplastic containers and on plant growth. Seedlings of ‘Divine Cherry Red’ new guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri W. Bull) and ‘Pinot Premium Deep Red’ zonal geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum L.H. Bailey) were transplanted into five types of 11.4-cm–diameter containers, four types made from bioplastics and one type made from petroleum-based plastic and used as a control. Plants were watered to container capacity at transplant, allowed to dry down to VWC thresholds of 0.20 or 0.40 m3·m−3, and subsequently maintained at desired set points by using a precision irrigation system controlled by soil moisture sensors. Total volume of water applied per plant to new guinea impatiens was affected by VWC and not container type, whereas irrigation volume was affected by both for geranium. Growth index and shoot dry mass (SDM) of new guinea impatiens and geranium were affected by VWC. Container type affected growth index and SDM of geranium only. Water use efficiency (WUE) of both species was similar regardless of container type and VWC. Aesthetic quality varied based on VWC for only one container type, which was made from a blend that included soy-based bioplastic. Containers manufactured with polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) and dried distiller’s grains and solubles (DDGS) or polylactic acid (PLA), soy polymer with adipic anhydride (SP.A), and a proprietary bio-based filler (BR) derived from modified DDGS were stronger when maintained at a lower VWC, 0.20 m3·m−3. Our findings indicate that restricting irrigation to the minimum needed to achieve the desired crop growth is a viable strategy for sustaining aesthetic quality and strength of bioplastic containers manufactured with plant protein–based fillers such as SP.A and BR. Other bioplastic containers, such as those made of PLA–lignin biocomposite, show durability equal to that of petroleum-based plastic containers and maintain pristine appearance regardless of substrate VWC during production.