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Michael F. Polozola II, Daniel E. Wells, J. Raymond Kessler, Wheeler G. Foshee, Amy N. Wright and Bryan S. Wilkins

An experiment was conducted to determine the effects of banded phosphorus (P) applications at differing rates in irrigated and nonirrigated pecan (Carya illinoinensis) plots on P movement within the soil, P uptake and movement within pecan trees, and the yield and quality of nuts. On 20 Mar. 2015, P applications of 0 kg·ha−1 (0×), 19.6 kg·ha−1 (1×), 39.2 kg·ha−1 (2×), and 78.5 kg·ha−1 (4×) were administered to bands of triple superphosphate to randomly selected trees in nonirrigated and irrigated plots of a ‘Desirable’ orchard bordered by ‘Elliot’ trees. When P was applied at the 2× and 4× rates, the total soil test P decreased linearly by 35% and 54%, respectively, in nonirrigated plots and by 41% and 59%, respectively, in irrigated plots over the course of the experiment. There was no change in soil test P over time at the 0× rate for either irrigation regimen; however, at the 1× rate, soil test P decreased 44% in the irrigated plot but did not change in the nonirrigated plot. The largest linear decrease of the soil test P from the start of the experiment to the end of the experiment occurred in the top 0 to 7.6 cm. In contrast, soil test P at a depth of 15.2 to 22.9 cm decreased linearly by 23% in the nonirrigated plot, but it did not decrease over time in the irrigated plot. Increasing the P application rate increased foliar P quadratically in the nonirrigated plot, but only the 4× application rate increased foliar P compared with the 0× control. In the irrigated plot, foliar P concentrations decreased linearly from 2015 to 2017, and foliar P concentrations were not influenced by the P application rate. No differences in pecan yield or quality were observed in either irrigated or nonirrigated plots. Overall, P banding may not be the most sustainable way to increase foliar concentrations of P quickly or to maintain concentrations of the nutrient in the long term.

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Desmond G. Mortley, Conrad K. Bonsi, Walter A. Hill, Carlton E. Morris, Carol S. Williams, Ceyla F. Davis, John W. Williams, Lanfang H. Levine, Barbara V. Petersen and Raymond M. Wheeler

Because sweetpotato [Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.] stem cuttings regenerate very easily and quickly, a study of their early growth and development in microgravity could be useful to an understanding of morphological changes that might occur under such conditions for crops that are propagated vegetatively. An experiment was conducted aboard a U.S. Space Shuttle to investigate the impact of microgravity on root growth, distribution of amyloplasts in the root cells, and on the concentration of soluble sugars and starch in the stems of sweetpotatoes. Twelve stem cuttings of ‘Whatley/Loretan’ sweetpotato (5 cm long) with three to four nodes were grown in each of two plant growth units filled with a nutrient agarose medium impregnated with a half-strength Hoagland solution. One plant growth unit was flown on Space Shuttle Columbia for 5 days, whereas the other remained on the ground as a control. The cuttings were received within 2 h postflight and, along with ground controls, processed in ≈45 min. Adventitious roots were counted, measured, and fixed for electron microscopy and stems frozen for starch and sugar assays. Air samples were collected from the headspace of each plant growth unit for postflight determination of carbon dioxide, oxygen, and ethylene levels. All stem cuttings produced adventitious roots and growth was quite vigorous in both ground-based and flight samples and, except for a slight browning of some root tips in the flight samples, all stem cuttings appeared normal. The roots on the flight cuttings tended to grow in random directions. Also, stem cuttings grown in microgravity had more roots and greater total root length than ground-based controls. Amyloplasts in root cap cells of ground-based controls were evenly sedimented toward one end compared with a more random distribution in the flight samples. The concentration of soluble sugars, glucose, fructose, and sucrose and total starch concentration were all substantially greater in the stems of flight samples than those found in the ground-based samples. Carbon dioxide levels were 50% greater and oxygen marginally lower in the flight plants, whereas ethylene levels were similar and averaged less than 10 nL·L−1. Despite the greater accumulation of carbohydrates in the stems, and greater root growth in the flight cuttings, overall results showed minimal differences in cell development between space flight and ground-based tissues. This suggests that the space flight environment did not adversely impact sweetpotato metabolism and that vegetative cuttings should be an acceptable approach for propagating sweetpotato plants for space applications.