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Daniel Leskovar and Yahia Othman

Effective nutrition and irrigation are important nursery strategies to produce high-quality seedlings able to withstand heat and drought stress in the field. The objectives of this study were 2-fold, first to identify the influence of two nitrogen (N) levels (75 and 150 mg·L−1) and two fertigation (FR) methods, overhead (OH) and flotation (FL) of artichoke (Cynara cardunculus cv. Green Globe Improved) transplants on root/shoot growth and leaf physiology during the nursery period. A repeated greenhouse experiment was conducted and morphophysiological measurements were determined at 4 and 7 weeks after seeding (WAS). The second objective was to determine the impact of the nursery treatments (FR method and N level) on the subsequent crop growth and yield under three field irrigation methods [surface drip, subsurface drip, and overhead-linear system (OH-L)]. Field measurements were conducted at 50 and 150 days after field transplanting (DAT) during Fall–Winter 2015. Transplants fertilized with 75 mg·L−1 N (low N) had improved root components as compared to those with 150 mg·L−1 N (high N), especially at 4 WAS. The low N transplants had higher root surface area, root length, root branching, thinner root diameter, and less shoot area than the high N transplants. Wilting for low N transplants was 13.5% less than that for high N at 5 DAT, with a total yield similar or slightly higher than those of high N. Although growth of OH and FL transplants was statistically similar at transplanting, those irrigated with OH (greenhouse) had a 10% higher yield than FL irrigated transplants, regardless of the field irrigation method evaluated. Overall, low N level (75 mg·L−1 N) applied with OH irrigation in the nursery positively improved the transplant root system and transplant quality of artichoke seedlings.

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Daniel I. Leskovar

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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Daniel I. Leskovar

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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Daniel I. Leskovar and Daniel J. Cantliffe

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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Daniel I. Leskovar and Daniel J. Cantliffe

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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Daniel I. Leskovar and Daniel J. Cantliffe

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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Smiljana Goreta and Daniel I. Leskovar

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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Shinsuke Agehara and Daniel I. Leskovar

Height control is important to produce compact vegetable transplants that are suitable for shipping and transplanting. Although abscisic acid (ABA) inhibits stem elongation, it can also induce other growth modifications. To optimize its application timing for effective height control, we examined age-dependent sensitivity of various growth variables to ABA in diploid ‘Summer Flavor 800’ and triploid ‘Summer Sweet 5244’ watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum & Nakai]. Seedlings were sprayed once with 1.9 mm ABA at 25, 18, or 11 days before transplanting (DBT) or twice with 0.95 mm ABA at 25 and 18 DBT. The application rate was 0.55 mg ABA per plant with a spray volume of 0.61 L·m−2 (1.1 mL/plant). Only the single-spray treatment at 25 DBT (cotyledon stage) suppressed plant height by inhibiting petiole elongation. This effect was similar in both cultivars with 13% to 14% reductions at the transplanting stage compared with the untreated control. Undesirable growth modifications were also induced by ABA. In both cultivars, all ABA treatments caused 16% to 23% shoot biomass reductions mainly by inhibiting leaf expansion. Additionally, ABA treatments reduced stem diameter and root biomass in ‘Summer Flavor 800’. The double-spray treatment had similar growth-modulating effects as the single-spray treatments, except that it induced cotyledon abscission in ‘Summer Flavor 800’. These results suggest that although ABA applied at the cotyledon stage can reduce watermelon transplant height, the benefit is limited because of overall growth reductions, which can occur regardless of application timing. On the other hand, in triploid ‘Summer Sweet 5244’, moderate shoot growth delay by ABA may be of value as a growth-holding strategy when transplanting is delayed because of inclement weather at the time of field establishment. Importantly, field evaluations demonstrated that the growth modulation by ABA is only transient with no negative impact on marketable yield and fruit quality.

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Shinsuke Agehara and Daniel I. Leskovar

Vegetable transplants grown in commercial high-density trays can quickly outgrow the optimal size for shipping and transplanting, limiting transplant performance, and marketing flexibility for commercial nurseries. Abscisic acid (ABA) and uniconazole can suppress shoot growth by inducing stress-adaptive responses and inhibiting gibberellin synthesis, respectively. We evaluated the effectiveness of the two growth regulators in prolonging marketability of ‘Florida 91’ and ‘Mariana’ tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) transplants at commercial nursery greenhouses in Texas and Florida. Spray treatments in the Texas experiment were 0 and 3.8 mm ABA at 7, 5, 3, or 1 days before maturity (DBM), and those in the Florida experiment were no spray control, 3.8 mm ABA at 7, 5, 3, or 1 DBM, and 34 μm uniconazole at 4 DBM. Both ABA and uniconazole showed minimal cultivar-specific effects. Different growth modifications were induced by ABA and uniconazole. First, suppression of stem elongation by ABA was reversible by 7 days after maturity (DAM), whereas that by uniconazole lasted for 20 days or until 16 DAM with up to 15% suppression in stem elongation. Second, only ABA inhibited leaf expansion and shoot dry matter accumulation. The primary growth-modulating effect of uniconazole was limited to height control, which is beneficial for producing compact transplants, rather than as a growth holding strategy. By contrast, the overall growth suppression by ABA is desirable for prolonging transplant marketability. Importantly, the magnitude of this growth suppression was moderate (up to 22% shoot biomass reduction at 8 DAM) and transient, followed by a rapid recovery. Furthermore, ABA caused relatively smaller inhibition in root growth, allowing sufficient root development and increasing the root-to-shoot ratio at 0 to 8 DAM. The growth suppression by ABA was maximal when it was applied at 7 to 5 DBM, indicating the age-dependent sensitivity of tomato seedlings to exogenous ABA. Although leaf chlorosis was induced by ABA in a similar age-dependent manner, it was transient and reversible by 7 DAM. These results suggest that ABA application 7 to 5 DBM is an effective growth holding strategy for tomato transplants.