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Open access

Tricia Jenkins, Jeremy Cowan, Cary L. Rivard, and Eleni D. Pliakoni

Grafting tomatoes with vigorous rootstocks can be used to increase yield in high tunnels without significant soilborne disease pressure. However, evidence suggests that grafting with high-yielding rootstocks could compromise the accumulation of primary and secondary metabolites. ‘Tasti Lee’ is a hybrid tomato that is bred to have a superior fresh-eating quality and higher lycopene content. The objective of this experiment was to investigate the yield and fruit quality impacts of grafting ‘Tasti Lee’ with rootstocks with ranging vigor and typical yield performance in high tunnels. Nongrafted ‘Tasti-Lee’ and ‘Tasti-Lee’ scion grafted onto ‘Maxifort’, ‘DRO141TX’, ‘Fortamino’, ‘Estamino’, and ‘RST-04-106-T’ rootstocks were trialed in a high tunnel in Kansas for three consecutive growing seasons (2018–20). The trials were arranged in a randomized complete block design with four replications. Total yield, marketable yield, average fruit size, and distribution of fruit size classes were assessed. Red ripe tomato fruit were harvested to determine the soluble solids content, titratable acidity, lycopene content, vitamin C content, antioxidant capacity, and fruit firmness. ‘Maxifort’, ‘DRO141TX’, ‘Estamino’, and ‘Fortamino’ significantly increased marketable yield (kg/plant) by 31.5% to 47.0% more than nongrafted plants. In contrast, ‘RST-04-106-T’ did not lend any significant yield benefit. Regardless of the rootstock, grafting increased the marketable average fruit weight by 20 g. Grafting did not have significant effects on any of the fruit quality attributes assessed. However, the soluble solids content of fruit from plants grafted to ‘RST-04-106-T’ was 10% higher (P < 0.05) than that grafted to ‘Maxifort’, indicating that rootstock genotype can influence this quality trait. Our findings suggest that growers can graft the tomato ‘Tasti-Lee’ with select vigorous rootstocks to increase marketable yield without sacrificing fruit quality for high tunnel production.

Open access

Zachary N. Hoppenstedt, Jason J. Griffin, Eleni D. Pliakoni, and Cary L. Rivard

Sweetpotatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are nutritious, easily stored, and well adapted to a variety of organic farming operations. This widely consumed root crop is propagated through the use of cuttings, known as slips. Slips are commercially grown primarily in the southeastern United States, and growers in the central United States still have limited access to sweetpotato planting material. Production of organic slips in high tunnels (HTs) could be a profitable enterprise for growers in the central United States given the season extension afforded by controlled-environment agriculture, which could allow growers to diversify their operations and facilitate crop rotation. In trials conducted in 2016 and 2017 at two research stations in northeast and south central Kansas, a systems comparison was used to evaluate the yield and performance of organic sweetpotato slips grown in HT as compared with the open field (OF), with four to six replications at each location. Propagation beds planted with ‘Beauregard’ seed roots in 2016 and ‘Orleans’ in 2017 were established in HT and OF under similar cultural methods and planting schedules. Slips were harvested from both treatment groups and transplanted to field plots to investigate the impact of production system on transplant establishment and storage root production. Slip yield from HT was greater than OF at both locations in 2016 (P ≤ 0.001), but this trend was inconsistent in 2017. Slips grown in HT were on average 12% less compact (slip dry weight per centimeter length) with fewer nodes than their OF counterparts in 2016. Nonetheless, mean comparisons for vine length, stem diameter, and total marketable storage root yield were not significant between HT and OF treatments (1.7 and 2.1 lb/plant, respectively). Similarly, the number of marketable storage roots for HT and OF groups was comparable (3.4 and 3.8 storage roots/plant, respectively). Although more research is needed to evaluate the feasibility of slips grown in HT and to determine recommendations for seed root planting densities, results from this study suggest that HT organic sweetpotato slip production could be a viable alternative to OF production as it relates to slip performance. According to this study, HT production could be a useful mechanism for growing sweetpotato slips, which could provide regional growers more control over planting material. Furthermore, HT slip production could promote the adoption of an underused vegetable crop that can be grown throughout many parts of the United States.

Open access

Tricia Jenkins, Chieri Kubota, Cary L. Rivard, and Eleni D. Pliakoni

Ethylene sensitivity of grafted and nongrafted tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) seedlings with three to four true leaves was examined. The concentration of exogenous ethylene that produced symptoms was between 1 and 10 µL⋅L–1 regardless of grafting. Symptoms of ethylene exposure included leaf epinasty, decreased maximal photochemical quantum yield of photosystem II (F v/F m), and increased plant height (nongrafted only). Grafted plants maintained higher F v/F m than nongrafted plants in response to higher ethylene concentrations. Ethylene-damaged plants showed comparable growth to the control plants 3 weeks after transplanting, but transplant quality was diminished as a result of ethylene exposure at high concentrations.

Full access

Kelly Gude, Cary L. Rivard, Sara E. Gragg, Kimberly Oxley, Petros Xanthopoulos, and Eleni D. Pliakoni

Specialty crop production in high tunnel systems has greatly expanded in the central United States. Strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) may be a viable high-value crop for high tunnel growers, but fall-planted production systems have a high opportunity cost in regard to winter production space. This study investigates the feasibility of spring-planted day-neutral strawberry cultivars in a high tunnel production system in Kansas. Furthermore, the goals of this report are to identify day-neutral cultivars that are successful in this production system and investigate the utility of evaporative cooling (EC), as they relate to fruit yield and marketability as well as incidence of gray mold (caused by Botrytis cinerea). High tunnel trials were conducted at the Kansas State University Olathe Horticulture Research and Extension Center during 2014 and 2015. Six commercially available cultivars were evaluated: Albion, Evie 2, Monterey, Portola, San Andreas, and Seascape in both years. Mature fruit (90% to 100% red) were harvested twice weekly for total and marketable (fruit with no defects) fruit yield. The results indicate that ‘Portola’ had the highest total fruit weight in both years at 0.60 and 0.51 kg/plant, respectively, and was significantly higher than ‘Monterey’, ‘Albion’, and ‘San Andreas’ in both years (P < 0.05). In 2014, ‘Portola’, ‘San Andreas’, and ‘Albion’ produced the largest total fruit average weight (grams/fruit) and were significantly larger than ‘Seascape’ and ‘Evie 2’ (P < 0.05). In 2015, ‘Portola’ had significantly larger fruit than all the other cultivars except San Andreas (P < 0.05). Marketability percent by weight ranged from 76.5% to 88.6% across both years and the highest marketability was observed with ‘Albion’ (89% and 83%) and ‘Monterey’ (85% and 84%) in 2014 and 2015, respectively. An examination of fruit production during the early, mid-, and late seasons was used to determine seasonal dynamics of each cultivar and the high tunnel system. The overall trend was that total fruit weight was highest during the midseason and total average fruit weight was largest in the early season. However, ‘San Andreas’ and ‘Seascape’ had similar levels of production between the early and midseason and had the lowest level of production in the midseason, particularly in the 2015 trial. In our trials, the use of EC did not affect fruit weight or gray mold incidence on strawberry fruit. Based on the crop productivity observed in our study, this production system has the potential to extend the season for strawberry growers in the central United States or provide a high-value rotational crop for existing high tunnel growers that does not require winter production space.

Open access

Kelly M. Gude, Eleni D. Pliakoni, Brianna Cunningham, Kanwal Ayub, Qing Kang, Channa B. Rajashekar, and Cary L. Rivard

The implementation of high tunnels has shown to increase marketability and/or yield of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and lettuce (Lactuca sativa) crops compared with open-field systems. These structures provide the opportunity to alter light intensity and spectral quality by using specific polyethylene (poly) films and/or shadecloth, which may affect microclimate and subsequent crop productivity. However, little is known about how specific high tunnel coverings affect these parameters. The overall goal of this study was to evaluate the impact of various high tunnel coverings on the microclimate and crop productivity of tomato and lettuce. The coverings included standard, ultraviolet (UV)-stabilized poly film (standard); diffuse poly (diffuse); full-spectrum clear poly (clear); UV-A/B blocking poly (block); standard + 55% shadecloth (shade); and removal of standard poly 2 weeks before initial harvest to simulate a movable tunnel (movable). Microclimate parameters that were observed included canopy and soil temperatures, canopy growing degree-days (GDD), and photosynthetic active radiation (PAR), and crop productivity included yield and net photosynthetic rate. Hybrid red ‘BHN 589’ tomatoes were grown during the summer, and red ‘New Red Fire’ and green ‘Two Star’ leaf lettuce were grown in both spring and fall in 2017 and 2018. Increased temperature, GDD, and PAR were observed during the spring and summer compared with the fall. The soil temperatures during the summer increased more under the clear covering compared with the others. For tomato, the shade produced lower total fruit yield and net photosynthetic rate (Pn) compared with the other treatments, which were similar (P < 0.001 and <0.001, respectively). The greatest yield was 7.39 kg/plant, which was produced under the clear covering. For red leaf lettuce grown in the spring, the plants under the clear, standard, and diffuse coverings had significantly greater yield than the movable and shade coverings (P < 0.001). The coverings had less effect on the yield during the fall lettuce trials, which may have been attributed to the decrease in PAR and environmental temperatures. The findings of this study suggest that high tunnel coverings affect both microclimate and yield of lettuce and tomato.

Open access

Konstantinos G. Batziakas, Shehbaz Singh, Kanwal Ayub, Qing Kang, Jeffrey K. Brecht, Cary L. Rivard, and Eleni D. Pliakoni

Postharvest losses of fresh produce constitute the biggest portion of the total food losses occurring in food chains globally. The main driver behind the postharvest losses of fresh fruits and vegetables is temperature abuse occurring mainly during transportation and storage. This is a particular problem for small-acreage producers, who frequently have limited access to postharvest handling resources like optimum refrigeration conditions. Passive modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is a relatively inexpensive intervention that does not require specialized equipment and has demonstrated some potential for maintaining the quality and extending the shelf life of fresh produce stored in nonoptimum temperatures. Our objective was to determine the effect of passive MAP on the quality and storage life of spinach (Spinacia oleracea cv. Corvair) when stored in nonoptimum temperatures. Mature spinach leaves (≈320 g) were packaged in passive MAP bags, developed using the BreatheWay technology, and non-MAP produce bags and subsequently stored at 13 or 21 °C. Spinach physical and nutritional quality was evaluated throughout its storage life in terms of overall quality, water loss, leaf tenderness, surface color, chlorophyll content, electrolyte leakage, chlorophyll fluorescence, antioxidant capacity, total phenolic content, and vitamin C content. Spinach that was stored in MAP bags reached headspace equilibrium at ≈6% Ο2 and 11% CΟ2 at 13 °C and ≈4% Ο2 and 8% CΟ2 at 21 °C after 2 days of storage for both temperatures. The spinach stored in passive MAP at 13 or 21 °C demonstrated significantly higher overall quality during storage and 2 and 1 day longer storage life, respectively, when compared with the control. The spinach in passive MAP demonstrated a slower rate of yellowing and water loss during storage. The limiting factor for the spinach stored in MAP was decay due to condensation at 13 °C and yellowing at 21 °C. There were no statistical differences in the examined nutritional quality parameters between the spinach stored in MAP and produce bags. This study shows that passive MAP can be a valuable tool for reducing the food losses occurring in small-acreage fruit and vegetable operations that have limited access to cooling and refrigerated storage.

Open access

Konstantinos G. Batziakas, Tricia Jenkins, Helena Stanley, Brianna M. Cunningham, Qing Kang, Cary L. Rivard, and Eleni D. Pliakoni

The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of high-tunnel production on preharvest losses and harvest quality of two tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) cultivars. Our results indicate that using high tunnels for tomato production can reduce the preharvest food losses for this crop compared with open-field production, as indicated by increased productivity and percent marketability during the span of three production seasons. The tomato harvest quality did not differ in terms of physical attributes. However, open-field–grown tomatoes demonstrated a significantly greater antioxidant capacity when compared with the high-tunnel–grown tomatoes.