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David W. Wolfe

Field studies conducted in 1993 on an Eel loam soil compared the growth and yield response of direct-seeded cabbage, cucumber, snap bean, and sweet corn, and transplanted cabbage, to a compacted soil layer (>2.5 MPa penetrometer resistance) at the 15 - 30 cm depth. Direct-seeded cabbage and snap bean were most severely affected by compaction, with 50% yield losses, and much smaller cabbage head size in compacted plots. Transplanted cabbage had a 30% lower yield in compacted compared to uncompactcd plots. Early vegetative growth of cucumber was less stunted by compaction compared to snap bean and cabbage, but compaction nevertheless resulted in a 50% reduction in total cucumber yield. Compaction delayed maturity and reduced early yield of cabbage, snap bean, and cucumber. Sweet corn yield was reduced by only 10% when grown on compacted soil, and there was no delay in maturity. Sweet corn responded more negatively to compaction in a 1992 field experiment,

Greenhouse studies found a reduction in total plant biomass at 21 days after planting of 30%, 14%, 1%. and 3% for snap bean, cabbage, cucumber, and sweet corn, respectively, in pots compacted at the 10 cm depth. Sweet corn had a significantly higher proportion of root biomass in the compacted zone compared to the other crops. For all species, the growth reductions could not be attributed to reductions in leaf turgor, photosynthetic rate per unit leaf area or leaf nutrient status.

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Jeffrey Melkonian and David W. Wolfe

Cucumber (Cucumis sativus L. cv. Marketmore 80) plants were exposed to a soil water deficit and subsequently rewatered. Maximum stress intensity was -1.5 MPa midday leaf water potential compared to -0.6 to -0.8 MPa in the well watered control, eight days after withholding water. Midday stomatal conductance {ks), leaf turgor potential and water potential decreased in the stress treatment compared to the control beginning at the first sampling, two days after withholding water. The decrease in all three was approximately linear with time over the stress. Decreased leaf elongation was observed at the second sampling, three days after the initial decline in ks and five days after withholding water. At similar relative water content {RWC), osmotic potentials of the stress and control treatments were the same throughout most of the stress. Further, there was no difference in osmotic potential, at the same RWC, between the stress and control treatments 12 - 16 hours after rewatering. Split-root experiments were also conducted to examine a possible role of a non-hydraulic signal from roots in drying soil in the regulation of ks and leaf elongation in cucumber. No conclusive evidence of a signal was found despite significant decreases in soil water potential of one-half of the root system of the stress plants. However, fluctuating vapor pressure gradients (vpg) may have obscured evidence of a signal.

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John L. Jifon and David W. Wolfe

The widely observed reduction in photosynthetic (Pn) capacity following long-term exposure to elevated CO2 is believed to result from an imbalance in source–sink status. We hypothesized that nitrogen fixation in root nodules would provide a strong sink for photosynthate and lead to a sustained positive photosynthetic response to elevated CO2. Bean plants (Phaseolus vulgaris L., cv Redkloud) were grown in poly chambers at one of four combinations of temperature (35/21 or 26/15°C day/night), and CO2 (350 or 700 ppm). Half the plants in each chamber were inoculated with Rhizobium and fertilized with a complete nutrient solution lacking nitrogen; control plants received a similar solution with nitrogen. Total nitrogenase activity (acetylene reduction assay; 8 weeks after planting) of excised whole root systems was stimulated (up to 4-fold) by elevated CO2, but this response was only significant for 26/15°C-grown plants. Inoculated plants also accumulated more biomass (10%) than control plants. Nodule abundance and size were significantly higher in high CO2-grown plants than ambient CO2 plants, but the Pn capacity of inoculated plants was only slightly greater than that of control plants. Averaged across other treatments, high CO2-grown plants accumulated more biomass (42%) and had higher Pn rates (50%) than ambient CO2 plants. Treatment effects on leaf carbohydrate levels and Pn acclimation to CO2 were not consistent. The results suggest that the higher total nodule activity was due to increased nodule number and size in proportion with increased plant size under high CO2, rather than an increase in nitrogenase activity per nodule. It is also evident that plants with symbiotic nitrogen fixation capability can benefit from elevated CO2, even with reduced input of inorganic nitrogen.

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Jan M. Kossowski and David W. Wolfe

Long- and short-term physiological responses of pak choi (Chinese cabbage, Brassica campestris cv. `Hypro') to elevated CO2 and light environments were evaluated in the series of growth chamber experiments. Plants were grown hydroponically (Nutrient Film Technique) at 25/18°C (day/night) temperature, a 16-h photoperiod, and at three CO2 levels (350, 700, 1400 ppm) and two light levels (200 and 400 μmol·m–2·s–1 PPFD). Relative to 350-ppm CO2 treatment, the final total plant dry mass in low light increased by 37% and 38% at 700 and 1400 ppm CO2, respectively. In high light the increase was 7% and 13% at 700 and 1400 ppm CO2, respectively. Light response curves showed a positive CO2 effect on light compensation point, a slight increase in quantum yield and increase in maximum Pn rates at elevated CO2. Carbon dioxide response curves (measured at saturating PPFD of 1600 μmol·m–2·s–1) showed no effect of growth light treatment on the CO2 compensation point, but a 20% to 30% higher maximum Pn rate at saturating CO2 in plants grown at the higher light level. Overall, the highest Pn rates and the highest plant dry mass at final harvest were found in plants grown at the 400 μmol·m–2·s–1 PPFD and 1400 ppm CO2. Relative beneficial CO2 effects, however, were the most pronounced in low light conditions.

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John L. Jifon and David W. Wolfe

Average global surface temperatures are predicted to rise due to increasing atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Attempts to predict plant response to CO2 must take into account possible temperature effects on phenology and reproductive sink capacity for carbohydrates. In this study, we investigated the effects of atmospheric CO2 partial pressure [35 Pa ambient CO2 (aCO2) vs. 70 Pa elevated CO2 (eCO2)] and temperature (26/15 vs. 35/21 °C day/night) on short- and long-term net CO2 assimilation (An) and growth of red kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). During early vegetative development [14-31 days after planting (DAP)], An, and relative growth rate (RGR) at eCO2 were significantly greater at the supra-optimum (35/21 °C) than at the optimum (26/15 °C) temperature. At 24 DAP, the CO2 stimulation of An by eCO2 was 49% and 89% at optimum and supra-optimum temperature, respectively, and growth enhancement was 48% and 72% relative to plants grown at aCO2. This high temperature-induced growth enhancement was accompanied by an up-regulation of An of eCO2-grown plants. In contrast, during later reproductive stages (31-68 DAP) the eCO2 stimulation of An was significantly less at the supra-optimum than at optimum temperature. This was associated with reduced seed set, greater leaf carbohydrate accumulation, and down-regulation of An at the higher temperature. At final harvest (68 DAP), the eCO2 stimulation of total dry weight was 31% and 14% at optimum and supra-optimum temperature respectively, and eCO2 stimulation of seed dry weight was 39% and -18% at optimum and supra-optimum temperature, respectively. These data indicate substantial shifts in the response to eCO2 during different phenological stages, and suggest that impaired reproductive development at high temperature could reduce the potential for CO2 stimulation of photosynthesis and productivity in bean and possibly other heat-sensitive species.

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Benyamin Lakitan, David W. Wolfe, and Richard W. Zobel

Greenhouse experiments were conducted in 1987 and 1988 to evaluate the effect of timing of a 4-day flooding stress on growth and yield of snap bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L. cv. Bush Blue Lake 274, BBL). Plant survival was reduced when flooding was imposed at postflowering growth stages, but most plants survived when flooded before flowering or when reproductive development was prevented by deflowering. Early yields of surviving plants were very low in all flooded treatments, regardless of timing, in both years. Total yield response to timing of flooding was linear in 1987, with lowest yields when flooding was imposed at later growth stages. The trend was not linear in 1988, but in both years the latest flooding treatment (36 days after planting) had few surviving plants and no measurable pod yield. Additional greenhouse experiments revealed that leaf conductance of BBL and another bean cultivar, Luna (LN), declined within the first day of flooding. This decline was concomitant with one in leaf water potential and photosynthesis (Pn) in BBL, but decline of these responses occurred 1 to 2 days later for LN. After 4 days of flooding, Pn fell to near 0 for BBL, and to 15% of the prestress value for LN. Pn of both cultivars had recovered to 18.5 μmol·m-2·s-1 10 days after termination of flooding. LN had a larger adventitious root biomass, higher percentage of adventitious roots, and a consistently lower leaf: root ratio than BBL during recovery.

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Martha A. Mutschler, David W. Wolfe, Edward D. Cobb, and Kenneth S. Yourstone

Fruit of tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) hybrids heterozygous for the alc ripening mutation stored on average 60% (3.6 days) longer at 20C than that of their normal-ripening parents. There were no detrimental effects of the alc heterozygous condition on fruit color, firmness, or size. The background into which alc was introduced also affected fruit quality and shelf life. These results indicate hybrids heterozygous for the alc ripening mutant can produce commercially acceptable fruit with significantly longer shelf life than their normal-ripening parents.

Free access

David W. Wolfe, Daniel T. Topoleski, Norman A. Gundersheim, and Betsy A. Ingall

A 3-year field study conducted on an Eel silt loam soil (Aquic Udifluvent) compared cabbage (Brussica oleracea L. capitata group), cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.), snap bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.), and sweet corn (Zea mays L.) for their growth and yield response to an artificially compacted soil layer beginning at about the 10-cm depth. Slower growing cabbage seedlings in compacted plots were more subject to flea beetle damage than the uncompacted controls. Prolonged flooding after heavy rainfall events in compacted areas had a more adverse effect on cabbage and snap bean than on cucumber or sweet corn. Sweet corn showed almost no growth reduction in one of the three years (1993) when relatively high fertilizer rates were applied and leaf nitrogen deficiencies in compacted plots were prevented. Maturity of cabbage, snap bean, and cucumber was delayed, and the average reduction in total marketable yield in (direct-seeded) compacted plots was 73%, 49%, 41%, and 34% for cabbage, snap bean, cucumber and sweet corn, respectively. Yield reduction in transplanted cabbage (evaluated in 1993 only) was 29%. In a controlled environment greenhouse experiment using the same soil type and similar compaction treatment as the field study, compaction caused a reduction in total biomass production of 30% and 14% in snap bean and cabbage, respectively, while cucumber and sweet corn showed no significant response. The growth reductions of snap bean and cabbage in the greenhouse could not be attributed to compaction effects on soil water status, leaf turgor, nutrient deficiency, or net CO, assimilation rate of individual leaves. Root growth of sweet corn was least restricted by the compacted soil layer. The contrast between our field and greenhouse results indicates that the magnitude of yield response to compaction in the field was often associated with species sensitivity to secondary effects of compaction, such as prolonged flooding after rainfall events, reduced nutrient availability or uptake, and prolonged or more severe pest pressure.

Open access

David W. Wolfe, Louis D. Albright, and Jonathan Wyland


Several polyethylene and fabric row cover materials, and clear and black polyethylene mulch, were evaluated in a 2-year field study. For cucumbers [Cucumis sativus (L.)], visible wilting and slowed growth rates of young transplants exposed to cold nights were minimized when grown under row covers that maintained high humidities and higher air and soil temperatures than in the exposed controls. Early cucumber yields were increased 2- to 6-fold by the use of covers. In contrast, tomatoes [Lycopersicon esculentum (Mill.)] showed no significant early yield increases, but a 63% reduction in early yield in 1985 under a perforated clear polyethylene cover. The frequency and duration of daytime air temperatures exceeding 35C had a negative impact on tomato fruit size, quality, and percentage marketable. For cucumber, the relationship between cumulative degree days (during the covered interval) and biomass, early, and total yields was linear (r 2 between 0.70 and 0.82) with positive slope. Tomato yields could not be accurately predicted using this approach, but correlations were improved (for the 1985 data set) by using modified degree-day formulas incorporating a negative high-temperature factor.