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  • Author or Editor: Daniel I. Leskovar x
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Irrigation methods, rates, timing, and frequency may influence the physical and chemical properties of the growing media thereby affecting root initiation, elongation, branching, development and dry matter partitioning between roots and shoots.

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Pepper cv. `Jupiter' plants were field-grown from containerized transplants produced with either overhead (SPl) or sub-flotation (SP2) irrigation, or from direct seeding, in 3 years. Shoot and root growth were measured at frequent intervals. At planting, SPl transplants had larger basal root length and numbers than SP2 transplants. At the end of the growth period, basal, lateral, and taproot dry weights accounted for 81, 15, and 4% of the total for transplants, and 25, 57, and 18% of the total for direct-seeded plants. The coordination of growth (linear logarithm relationship) between root and shoot, changed after fruit set only in transplants. Over all seasons, transplants exhibited significantly higher yields than direct-seeded pepper plants.

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ABA and drought stress were evaluated on growth morphology and dry weight of pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) seedlings subjected to continuous watering (CV) or alternate watering (AW) subflotation irrigation. When ABA (10-4 m) was sprayed on to leaves 28, 32, or 37 days after seeding (DAS), leaf growth was limited relative to the controls. Root dry weight, basal root count, and diameter decreased in AW compared with CW-treated seedlings. ABA did not influence root growth of the transplants or subsequent total fruit yield. When ABA was applied to leaves at 20,23, or 29 DAS, there was a transient inhibition of leaf weight increase, but root growth was unaffected. Exogenous ABA may have a practical application as a substitute for drought stress to control transplant growth in the nursery. Chemical name used: abscisic acid (ABA).

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Transplants produced with overhead or subirrigation and plants from direct seeding using primed or nontreated `Jupiter' bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) seeds were evaluated for growth and yield in the field for 3 years. Early in development, overhead-irrigated (01) transplants had more basal root elongation than subirrigated (SI) transplants; however, root growth differences caused by irrigation systems in the greenhouse were minimized during late ontogeny in the field. Basal, lateral, and taproot dry weights accounted for 81%, 15%, and 4% of the total for transplants and 25%, 57%, and 18% of the total for direct-seeded plants. Direct-seeded plants maintained a more-balanced root, stem, leaf, and fruit dry matter partitioning than transplants, which allocated more dry weight (per unit of root growth) to stems, leaves, and fruits. Over all seasons, transplants exhibited significantly higher and earlier yields than direct-seeded pepper plants, and total yields were similar between SI and OI transplants and between primed and nontreated seeds.

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Shoot and root growth changes in response to handling and storage time in `Sunny' tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) transplants were investigated. Transplants, 45 days old, were stored either in trays (nonpulled) or packed in boxes (pulled) for 0, 2, 4, 6, or 8 days at 5 and 15C. Also, 35-day-old nonpulled and pulled transplants were kept in darkness at 20/28C for 0, 1, 2, or 3 days. At SC, pulled transplants had longer and heavier stems, a higher shoot: root ratio, higher ethylene evolution, and lower root dry weight than nonpulled transplants. At 15C, pulled transplants had more shoot growth than nonpulled transplants. Nonpulled, initially 35-day-old transplants had heavier shoots and roots and higher (7.0 t·ha-1) yields of extra-large fruit than pulled transplants (4.1 t·ha-1), but there were no differences in the total yields of marketable fruits.

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Excess transpiration relative to water uptake often causes water stress in transplanted vegetable seedlings. Abscisic acid (ABA) can limit transpirational water loss by inducing stomatal closure and inhibiting leaf expansion. We examined the concentration effect of exogenous ABA on growth and physiology of muskmelon (Cucumis melo L.) seedlings during water stress and rehydration. Plants were treated with seven concentrations of ABA (0, 0.24, 0.47, 0.95, 1.89, 3.78, and 7.57 mm) and subjected to 4-day water withholding. Application of ABA improved the maintenance of leaf water potential and relative water content, while reducing electrolyte leakage. These effects were linear or exponential to ABA concentration and maximized at 7.57 mm. Gas-exchange measurements provided evidence that such stress control is attributed to ABA-induced stomatal closure. First, net CO2 assimilation rate and stomatal conductance initially decreased with increasing ABA concentration by up to 95% and 70%, respectively. A follow-up study (≤1.89 mm ABA) confirmed this result with or without water stress and further revealed a close positive correlation between intercellular CO2 concentration and net CO2 assimilation rate 1 day after treatment (r 2 > 0.83). In contrast, ABA did not affect leaf elongation, indicating that stress alleviation was not mediated by leaf area adjustment. After 18 days of post-stress daily irrigation, dry matter accumulation showed a quadratic concentration-response, increasing up to 1.89 mm by 38% and 44% in shoot and roots, respectively, followed by 16% to 18% decreases at >1.89 mm ABA. These results suggest that excess levels of ABA delay post-stress growth, despite the positive effect on the maintenance of water status and membrane integrity. Another negative side effect was chlorosis, which accelerated linearly with increasing ABA concentration, although it was reversible upon re-watering. The optimal application rate of ABA should minimize these negative effects, while keeping plant water stress to an acceptable level.

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Areas with mild climate conditions are suitable for growing winter spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.). Successful production depends on choosing slow-bolting cultivars resistant to major diseases in each area. Field experiments with a total of 18 cultivars were conducted during 8 years in the Winter Garden region of Texas, an area known for its high white rust (Albugo occidentalis G.W. Wils) inoculum. Spinach cultivars differed widely in their resistance to both white rust and bolting, and the incidence of both traits was more severe as the season progressed. White rust infection increased linearly with average monthly minimal air temperature. Cultivars Fidalgo, Springfield, and Springer were slow bolting and are suitable for areas with no white rust incidence, while cvs. ASR-318, DMC 66-09, Fall Green, Samish, and San Juan were more white rust resistant.

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Soil organic matter degradation and water limitation caused by intense farming activities are some of the major threats affecting agricultural production. Accordingly, the concepts of sustainable agricultural systems with optimized irrigation and improved soil quality can be adapted to address these issues. During this 2-year field study, two management factors—humic substances (HS) as organic inputs (HS vs. control) and deficit irrigation as the irrigation method (50% vs. 100% based on evapotranspiration)—were evaluated based on triploid watermelon (Citrullus lanatus cv. Fascination) yield and soil property changes. HS application increased watermelon early yield by 38.6% and total yield by 11.8% compared with the control; the early yield mainly increased under deficit irrigation. Compared with full irrigation, deficit irrigation increased water use efficiency (WUE) without significantly affecting total yield. In addition, HS application significantly increased the soil organic carbon (SOC) content, which was found to be positively correlated with crop WUE. These results indicate that soil organic inputs with HS and deficit irrigation are valuable strategies to establish sustainable systems for watermelon production, which will not only increase yield and WUE but also significantly improve soil quality and save irrigation water.

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Containerized `Lavi' muskmelon [Cucumis melo L. (Reticulatus Group)] transplants were grown in a nursery with two irrigation systems: overhead irrigation (OI) and flotation irrigation (FI). Initially, root development was monitored during a 36-day nursery period. Thereafter, seedling root growth was monitored either in transparent containers inside a growth chamber, or through minirhizotrons placed in the field. During the nursery period, OI promoted increased early basal root growth, whereas FI promoted greater basal root elongation between 25 and 36 days after seeding (DAS). At 36 DAS leaf area, shoot fresh weight (FW) and dry weight (DW), and shoot to root ratio were greater for OI than for FI transplants, while root length and FWs and DWs were nearly the same. Total root elongation in the growth chamber was greater for FI than for OI transplants between 4 and 14 days after transplanting. Similarly, the minirhizotron measurements in the field showed a greater root length density in the uppermost layer of the soil profile for FI than for OI transplants. Overall, muskmelon transplants had greater root development initially when subjected to overhead compared to flotation irrigation in the nursery. However, during late development FI transplants appeared to have a greater capacity to regenerate roots, thus providing an adaptive mechanism to enhance postplanting root development and to withstand transplant shock in field conditions. At harvest, root length density and yield were closely similar for the plants in the two transplant irrigation treatments.

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