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Eric Simonne, Robert Boozer and Amarat Simonne

White sweet corn (Zea mays L.) is widely grown in the southeastern United States. Although `Silver Queen' has been a popular variety in that region for over 20 years, many other varieties are now available. Selecting a variety for commercial or home production is a complex decision because varieties vary considerably with regard to field performance, ear characteristics, and eating quality. Because limited information is available on overall evaluation of sweet corn varieties, the objectives of this study were to 1) evaluate field performance, ear characteristics and eating quality of selected white sweet corn varieties, 2) globally compare varieties using an overall rank-sum index (ORSI), and 3) determine if `Silver Queen' is still the best variety or if it benefits from name recognition. Significant differences among varieties were found for most of the attributes evaluated. When a variety needs to be selected on the basis of a single group of attributes, our results suggest that the best varieties for field performance, ear characteristics and eating quality were `Even Sweeter' and `Treasure', `Silver Queen' and `Rising Star', and `Silverado', respectively. When ranks for all attributes were pooled together, the ORSI for all varieties fell within the 40 to 60 median range for ORSI. These results suggest that while marked differences between varieties can be found for a selected attribute, overall all selected varieties showed similar potential for commercial production. Panel response on sweet corn variety names and the rate of correct blind identification of `Silver Queen' suggested that while it is still among the best varieties, `Silver Queen' did benefit from name recognition.

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Eric Simonne, Amarat Simonne, Nancy Green and Jim Pitts

Field performance, ear characteristics and sensory ratings were determined for `Even Sweeter,' `Fantasia', `Silver Queen', `Silverado', `Snow Belle', `Snow White', `Starshine', and `Treasure' sweet corn varieties. Yield (P = 0.60), ears per hectare (P = 0.77), and ear fill (P = 0.22) were not significantly affected by variety, whereas ear set height (P < 0.01), ear length (P < 0.01) and diameter (P < 0.01), tip cover (P < 0.01), eye appeal (P < 0.01), as well as sensory ratings of appearance (P < 0.01), sweetness (P < 0.01), and flavor (P < 0.01) after cooking were. None of the selected varieties was rated unacceptable. However, because mean separation tests at the 5% and 10% levels did not provide clear groupings and because all attributes have to be considered together in variety evaluation, a global performance index (GPI) was developed by adding the ranks of each variety for each attribute. GPI ranged between 28 for `Treasure' and 59 for `Snow White' on a 10 (best) to 80 (worse) scale. `Treasure', `Silver Queen', and `Even Sweeter' were above average. These varieties may be considered best performers for white sweet corn production in central Alabama.

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Chris Frank, Eric Simonne, Robert Nelson, Amarat Simonne and Bridget Behe

Most bell peppers produced and consumed in the United States are green in color. However, red, yellow, orange, brown, white, black, and purple bell pepper are also available. While bell pepper consumption has been increasing in the past 10 years, limited information is available on how color, retail price, and vitamin C influence consumer behavior. A conjoint analysis of 436 consumer responses showed that color (75%) and retail price (23%) were more important than vitamin C (3%) in shaping consumer purchase decision. Six consumer segments were identified. Segments II to V preferred green bell pepper, while segments I and VI favored the orange and brown color, respectively. Demographic variables were not good predictors of segment membership. However, previous purchases of bell pepper significantly affected the probability of membership in at least one segment. These results suggest that while green is the preferred color, a market exists for orange, red, and yellow peppers. Results on price sensitivity suggest that profits at the retail level are likely to increase by increasing the price of green peppers, and decresing that of the colored ones.

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Christopher A. Frank, Robert G. Nelson, Eric H. Simonne, Bridget K. Behe and Amarat H. Simonne

Most bell peppers (Capsicum annuum L.) produced and consumed are green. However, yellow, red, orange, white, black, and purple bell peppers are also available. While bell pepper consumption in the United States has been increasing in the past 10 years, limited information is available on how their color, retail price, and vitamin C content influence consumer preferences. A conjoint analysis of 435 consumer responses showed that, for the total sample, color was about three times more important than retail price in shaping consumers' purchase decisions, while vitamin C content was nearly irrelevant. Six distinct consumer segments were identified through cluster analysis. Four segments favored green peppers, while one segment favored yellow and one favored brown. Demographic variables generally were not good predictors of segment membership, but several behavioral variables, such as past bell pepper purchases, were significantly related to segment membership. While green is generally the preferred color, market segments exist for orange, red, yellow, and even brown peppers. Applications to marketing strategies suggested that price sensitivity could explain why green peppers were priced individually, but those of other colors were priced by weight, and that promotion of increased vitamin C content would be most effective if associated specifically with yellow and orange peppers.

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Eric H. Simonne, Amarat H. Simonne, Larry W. Wells, Marvin E. Ruf and John T. Owen

While lettuce is one of the most widely consumed vegetables in the United States, production is mainly concentrated in the western states. This research investigated the feasibility of lettuce production in the Southeast (SE), where downy mildew, tip burn, bitterness, bolting, and postharvest handling are potential production problems. Lettuce varieties were evaluated on plastic mulch and drip irrigation under several growing conditions. Cultivar and location significantly (P < 0.01) affected yield and transplant survival rate. Following these tests, 'Salinas 88 Supreme', 'Legacy', 'Bullseye', 'Epic' (crisphead); 'Nancy', 'Nevada', 'Ostinata' (butterhead); 'Parris Islands', 'Augustus' (Romaine); and 'Red Salad Bowl', 'Red Prize', and 'Slobolt' (loose leaf) are considered best-performing lettuce varieties for Alabama. These results, along with bitterness evaluation, support the potential for lettuce production in the SE.

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Amarat H. Simonne, Eric H. Simonne, Ronald R. Eitenmiller, John Owen and Larry Wells

The main limiting factor to lettuce production in the Southeast is bitterness. Bitterness in lettuce is associated with sesquiterpene lactones, a bitter principles of the latex of wild lettuce species Lactuca virosa or L. sativa. These wild species are used as parents in the development of virus-resistant cultivars. This study evaluated bitterness of 18 commercial cultivars of lettuce grown following recommended production practices at two locations. Lettuce was hand harvested, refrigerated, washed, and cut into bite-size pieces. Samples were served one by one to a group of 15 panelists, trained with caffeine solutions of increasing bitterness scores (BS; 0% = 0, 0.05% = 2, 0.08% = 5, 0.15% = 10, and 0.20% = 15). A BS of less than seven was acceptable. BS was significantly (P < 0.02) different among varieties. Varieties with lowest BS were `Epic', `Salinas 88 Supreme', `Nevada', `Red Prize', and `Legacy'. For these varieties, mean, most frequent, and highest BS were less than seven. This study suggests that it is possible to grow nonbitter lettuce in the Southeast.

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Richard V. Tyson, Eric H. Simonne, Danielle D. Treadwell, James M. White and Amarat Simonne

Integrating hydroponic and aquaculture systems (aquaponics) requires balanced pH for plants, fish, and nitrifying bacteria. Nitrification prevents accumulation of fish waste ammonia by converting it to NO3 -N. The difference in optimum pH for hydroponic cucumber (Cucumis sativa) (5.5 to 6.0) and nitrification (7.5 to 9.0) requires reconciliation to improve systems integration and sustainability. The purpose of this investigation was to: 1) determine the ammonia biofiltration rate of a perlite trickling biofilter/root growth medium in an aquaponic system, 2) predict the relative contribution of nitrifiers and plants to ammonia biofiltration, and 3) establish the reconciling pH for ammonia biofiltration and cucumber yield in recirculating aquaponics. The biofiltration rate of total ammonia nitrogen (TAN) removal was 19, 31, and 80 g·m−3·d−1 for aquaponic systems [cucumber, tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), and nitrifying bacteria (Nitrosomonas sp. + Nitrobacter sp.)] with operating pH at 6.0, 7.0, and 8.0, respectively. With the existing aquaponic design (four plants/20 L perlite biofilter/100 L tank water), the aquaponic biofilter (with plants and nitrifiers) was three times more effective at removing TAN compared with plant uptake alone at pH 6.0. Most probable number of Nitrosomonas sp. bacteria cells sampled from biofilter cores indicated that the aquaculture control (pH 7.0) had a significantly higher (0.01% level) bacteria cell number compared with treatments containing plants in the biofilter (pH 6.0, 7.0, or 8.0). However, the highest TAN removal was with aquaponic production at pH 8.0. Thus, operating pH was more important than nitrifying bacteria population in determining the rate of ammonia biofiltration. Early marketable cucumber fruit yield decreased linearly from 1.5 to 0.7 kg/plant as pH increased from 6.0 to 8.0, but total marketable yield was not different. The reconciling pH for this system was pH 8.0, except during production for early-season cucumber market windows in which pH 7.0 would be recommended.

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Desire Djidonou, Amarat H. Simonne, Karen E. Koch, Jeffrey K. Brecht and Xin Zhao

In this study, the effects of grafting with interspecific hybrid rootstocks on field-grown tomato fruit quality were evaluated over a 2-year period. Fruit quality attributes from determinate ‘Florida 47’ tomato plants grafted onto either ‘Beaufort’ or ‘Multifort’ rootstocks were compared with those from non- and self-grafted controls. Grafted plants had higher fruit yields than non- and self-grafted plants, and increased production of marketable fruit by ≈41%. The increased yield was accompanied by few major differences in nutritional quality attributes measured for these fruit. Although grafting with the interspecific rootstocks led to consistently small, but significant increases of fruit moisture (≈0.6%), flavor attributes such as total titratable acidity (TTA) and the ratio of soluble solids content (SSC) to TTA were not significantly altered. Among the antioxidants evaluated, ascorbic acid concentration was reduced by 22% in fruit from grafted plants, but significant effects were not evident for either total phenolics or antioxidant capacity as assayed by oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC). Levels of carotenoids (lycopene, β-carotene, and lutein) were similar in fruit from grafted plants with hybrid rootstocks compared with non- and self-grafted controls. Overall, the seasonal differences outweighed the grafting effects on fruit quality attributes. This study showed that grafting with interspecific hybrid rootstocks could be an effective horticultural technique for enhancing fruit yield of tomato plants. Despite the modest reduction in ascorbic acid content associated with the use of these rootstocks, grafting did not cause major negative impacts on fruit composition or nutritional quality of fresh-market tomatoes.

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Amarat H. Simonne, Eric H. Simonne, Ronald R. Eitenmiller, Nancy R. Green, Joe A. Little, John T. Owen, Marvin E. Ruf and Jim A. Pitts

Vitamin C (VC) levels (mg/l00 g FW) were determined in 10 varieties of colored bell pepper grown under different field conditions. VC was determined by the microfluorometric method. `Orobelle' (169 mg), `King Arthur' (143 mg), `Valencia' (141 mg), and `Chocolate Bell' (134 mg) had significantly higher VC levels than `Dove' (109 mg), `Ivory' (106 mg), `Blue Jay' (93 mg), `Canary' (90 mg), and `Black Bird' (65 mg). The largest variability (53 mg) in VC levels were observed for varieties that had the highest VC content. Mean VC levels were 143a, 143a, 141a, 136a, 108ab, 93bc, and 63c for the yellow, red, orange, brown, white, purple, and black colors, respectively. Since the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for VC is 60 mg per day, these results suggested that a 100-g serving of fresh bell pepper or less would supply 100% RDA of VC. Therefore, after selecting a color, growers still have the freedom to grow a variety that performs well in their area to produce peppers of high VC contents.

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David C. Diehl, Nicole L. Sloan, Christine M. Bruhn, Amarat H. Simonne, Jeffrey K. Brecht and Elizabeth J. Mitcham

As part of a larger project to show how fresh fruits and vegetables with enhanced flavor can be successfully handled to improve consumer satisfaction without compromising food safety, key informant interviews were conducted with fruit industry leaders dealing with melons (Cucumis melo and Citrullus lanatus), peaches and nectarines (Prunus persica), pears (Pyrus communis), tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum), strawberries (Fragaria ×ananassa), and blueberries (Vaccinium sp.). The interview was designed to collect information on industry attitudes and practices related to postharvest handling of more mature fruit, harvest timing, preconditioning, cold chain management, and shipping and handling procedures throughout the supply chain. The current analysis focuses on two key questions from the interviews: 1) To what extent do industry experts believe that better fruit handling and shipping procedures contribute to better taste quality in fruit? 2) To what extent do industry experts believe that better fruit quality will lead to more consumer purchasing? In response to the first question, the majority of respondents (70%) agreed that postharvest handling affects fruit flavor with the most cited themes related to agreement being gentle handling, cold chain management, and harvest timing. Of the respondents who expressed disagreement most acknowledged the importance of postharvest handling, but felt other factors were also important, mainly the variety grown, the shelf life requirements, and the growing conditions. For the second question, 95% of respondents agreed that increased taste quality of fruit would mean increased purchasing and consumption. The primary theme related to agreement was that consumers would repeat purchase after positive eating experiences. Other important factors were the price point of fruit, retail display, product identity, and fruit appearance. With increasing consumer attention to fruit quality and a generally accepted belief among industry representatives that fruit flavor and quality drives consumer demand, there is an opportunity to shift industry practices toward postharvest handing that is conducive to consistently delivering better-tasting fruit to consumers.