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Elsa Sánchez and Richard Craig

A variety of cooperative activities are part of the plant systematics course at The Pennsylvania State University: a learning fair hosted by the students enrolled in the course for elementary school students, applied laboratory examinations, and applied laboratory exercises. Each activity was constructed to engage students in the learning process as well as to aid in developing useful skills for future employment. A survey administered to students enrolled in the course from 2003 to 2005 revealed that most students “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they liked working in cooperative groups and learned from other group members. Student participation in the lecture portion of the course increased as cooperative activities were completed. Organization and planning were vital to using these activities, as were small groups and adequate incentives for completing activities.

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Elsa Sánchez and Richard Craig

Undergraduate students teach laboratory sessions in the plant systematics course at The Pennsylvania State University. To assess student-taught laboratory sessions, surveys were administered to student instructors and students enrolled in the course. Benefits to student instructors included increased technical knowledge, new perspectives on teaching methodologies, and acquiring a positive item to add to résumés. Student instructors also practiced leadership skills. Enrolled students generally assessed the laboratory sessions favorably. Organization and planning were vital to the success of this teaching method. This teaching method also required increased departmental funding relative to other courses.

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Elsa Sanchez and Richard Craig

The Plant Systematics course at Penn State University was reformatted in 1995 based on a three-dimensional model. It now includes several collaborative learning activities: a learning fair hosted by the enrolled students for elementary school students; applied laboratory exercises; and applied laboratory examinations. Each activity has a specific objective and was constructed to strengthen teaching effectiveness and to aid students in developing useful skills for future employment. A survey was administered to students enrolled in the course from 2003 through 2005 in part to assess the collaborative learning activities. Most students “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they liked working in collaborative groups and learned from other group members. Students preferred working in groups for laboratory examinations more than for the Asteraceae Fair and learned more from their peers while completing the laboratory exercises than in laboratory examinations. Student participation in the lecture portion of the course increased as collaborative learning activities were completed. Camaraderie with peers through group work may have created an atmosphere conducive to participation and/or involvement during lectures. Organization and planning were vital to the success of these activities, as were using small groups and providing adequate incentives for completing activities. These activities engaged students to become active participants in the teaching and learning process.

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Dru Bernthal*, Kathleen Kelley and Elsa Sánchez

A consumer-research study was conducted in Fall 2003 to determine professional chefs' preferences for edamame or vegetable soybean (Glycine max) cultivars, their estimated demand for edamame and their interest in acquiring edamame from local Pennsylvania growers. Twenty chefs in the Metro-Philadelphia area were provided with shelled (beans removed from the pod) and unshelled edamame of three cultivars, `Early Hakucho,' `Green Legend', and `Kenko,' and asked to create a recipe using edamame as an ingredient. Chefs were also asked to rate the edamame cultivars based on overall appeal and firmness and complete a follow-up survey on their preferences for the edamame provided, prior use and interest in locally grown edamame. Chefs preferred shelled `Green Legend' edamame, but many indicated that all cultivars were acceptable. The majority of chefs also noted that they were “very likely” to use edamame as an ingredient in a recipe again and 70% noted that they were interested in obtaining contact information for small-acreage growers in Pennsylvania who produce edamame. Results indicate that there is likely a demand for edamame amongst chefs in the Metro-Philadelphia area. Results from this study will be used to develop a marketing strategy for small-acreage growers.

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Dru Bernthal*, Elsa Sánchez and Kathleen Kelley

A field trial investigating the use of living mulches for weed management in edamame (Glycine max), also known as vegetable soybean, was conducted in 2003 at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center, Rock Springs, Pa. Edamame was direct seeded on 24-25 June 2003. Seven weeks later, the living mulch treatments were broadcast seeded. The living mulch species were white clover (Trifolium repens), buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) and a control with no living mulch (bare ground). Each living mulch plot was divided into a weeded and non-weeded subplot. Weed pressure was evaluated every 2 weeks from the time living mulches were sown. Data collected included the total number of weeds present, number of different species present, number of broadleaf and grass species and number of annual and perennial species. The total number of weeds in weeded and non-weeded subplots was lowest in the buckwheat and highest in the clover. Species diversity in weeded subplots was lowest for the control and highest in clover while species diversity in non-weeded subplots was lowest in buckwheat and highest in the control. Overall, most weeds present were broadleaf annuals including pigweeds (Amaranthus spp.), shepard's purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), common lambsquarters (Cheno-podium album) and common purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Based on this 1-year study, which will be repeated in 2004, the buckwheat treatment is likely the most effective in managing weeds in edamame field production for consideration by Pennsylvania growers.

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Elsa Sánchez, Kathleen Kelley and Lynn Butler

Eight edamame (Glycine max) cultivars were evaluated in the field in 2002, 2003, and 2004 to determine suitability for growing in central Pennsylvania. Data collection included plant populations (percent stand), marketable and unmarketable yields and edamame pod and bean quality indicators. Plant populations varied by year and cultivar and were generally below 80%. The effect of temperature on seedling emergence, and therefore plant populations, was evaluated for four edamame cultivars by using growth chambers programmed with varying day/night temperature regimes. Seedling emergence varied by cultivar and was generally below 80% with two exceptions. When grown in a 70/60 °F day/night temperature regime, `Butterbeans', and `Early Hakucho' exceeded 80% seedling emergence. In the field trial, plant populations affected marketable yields. Pod and bean quality were dependent on cultivar. Results indicated that `Butterbeans', `Early Hakucho', `Green Legend', `Shironomai', `Butterbaby', and `Lucky Lion' appear promising for growing in Pennsylvania based on pod and bean quality. However, the issue of poor seedling emergence and plant populations presents a major constraint to commercial production and needs to be studied further.

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Kathleen M. Kelley and Elsa S. Sánchez

Two separate consumer-marketing studies were conducted between 30 Oct. and 2 Dec. 2002 to determine consumer awareness and potential demand for edamame [Glycine max (L.) Merrill]. The first study consisted of a sensory evaluation that included 113 participants who tasted and rated three edamame cultivars based on firmness and overall appeal and then ranked the beans in order of preference at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus. To estimate demand, the participants answered questions regarding their likelihood to purchase edamame after the sensory evaluation. The second study, a telephone survey, was administered by a marketing firm to determine consumer awareness of edamame as well as their produce purchasing habits. Responses were collected from 401 consumers within the Metro-Philadelphia area. Consumer reaction to the sensory evaluation was positive, and after reading about the health benefits, a majority of consumers (92%) indicated they would likely purchase edamame and serve it in a meal whereas 89% gave this response after only sampling the edamame beans. When responses were compared among cultivars, overall liking for `Green Legend' (6.29; 1 = extremely dislike; 9 = like extremely) was significantly lower than for `Kenko' (6.84); however, neither cultivar was significantly different from `Early Hakucho' (6.62). Participants also rated `Kenko' as having a firmness that was `just about right'. Verbal comments from participants leaving the evaluation site included interest in purchasing edamame and inquiries as to where it could be purchased in the vicinity of the university. Telephone survey participants also expressed a willingness to purchase edamame and serve it in a meal after hearing about the potential health benefits (66%). Based on consumer responses to selected telephone survey questions, three distinct marketing segments were created. Potential purchasers (58% of participants), consisted of consumers who were more likely to consider the importance of the nutritional content of vegetables they purchased (73%), included the greatest percent of consumers who had purchased soy or soy-based products (70%), and were very likely (51%) and somewhat likely (46%) to eat edamame after learning about the health benefits. The second largest segment of participants characterized as unlikely edamame eaters (22% of participants) consisted of individuals who were very likely (20%) and somewhat likely (43%) to purchase vegetables they had never eaten before if evidence suggested that it might decrease the risk of cancer and/or other diseases. However, within this group, none of the participants were either very likely or somewhat likely to eat edamame after being told about the health benefits. The last group, characterized as requires convincing (20% of participants), consisted of individuals who were the least likely to base produce-purchasing decisions on the nutritional content of vegetables. After learning about health benefits specific to edamame, 8% of these participants were very likely and 48% were somewhat likely to eat edamame. Hence, separate marketing strategies may need to be developed to target these distinct segments based on interest in eating edamame, importance of nutritional information, and current vegetable purchasing habits.

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Jason M. Lilley and Elsa S. Sánchez

Plasticulture systems, the use of polyethylene mulch on raised beds with drip irrigation, are commonly used for the production of many cucurbit (Cucurbitaceae) crops. Although the use of plasticulture systems has many benefits, disadvantages include plastic disposal issues and costs and the intensive tillage required for installation. Strip tillage systems have been shown to decrease soil erosion, increase soil moisture retention, and increase soil microbial communities. Spunbonded polyethylene rowcover use has been shown to decrease early season striped cucumber beetle (Acalymma vittatum) and spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata ) populations and the incidence of bacterial wilt (Erwinia tracheiphila) while increasing yields. Plasticulture and strip tillage systems were compared with and without rowcovers at The Pennsylvania State University’s Russell E. Larson Research and Education Center in Rock Springs, PA. Two separate organically managed experiments were conducted, one being on ‘Lioness’ summer squash (SS; Cucurbita pepo), the other on ‘Athena’ muskmelon (MM; Cucumis melo). Both two-season experiments occurred during the 2013 and 2014 growing seasons. Yields, soil nitrate levels, soil and air temperatures, striped cucumber beetle populations, and incidence of bacterial wilt were measured. Plants grown in the strip tillage system generally had lower yields than in the plasticulture system in both years. Yield reductions observed in the strip tillage system in both years of the muskmelon experiment and in the first year of the summer squash experiment were beyond acceptable levels. The need for specialized tillage equipment, delayed planting, and high weed pressure were all obstacles to the successful use of strip tillage in these experiments. Rowcovers resulted in larger plants; however, yields were comparable to not using rowcovers within the strip tillage and plasticulture systems. There was low incidence of bacterial wilt in both years of the experiments despite observed striped cucumber beetle populations above the set threshold throughout all experiments.

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Elsa S. Sánchez and Heather D. Karsten

Organic growers have indicated a need for help with the challenge of nutrient management. To address this challenge, an intensive training program for agricultural educators was convened to study this issue. Through the program, existing soil and compost analysis recommendations were modified to make them more relevant for organic growers; computer-based whole farm nutrient planning tools were evaluated using situations common to organic farms; and educational materials on using organic nutrient sources were developed for grower audiences. Educational workshops, presentations, and farm visits reached 714 growers and publications reached over 2575 people. Survey respondents of the intensive training program rated their ability to help organic growers with nutrient management as 3.50 before and 5.50 (7-point scale, with 7 = excellent) after the sessions. About 1 year later, all survey respondents rated their ability to help growers using organic nutrient sources as excellent or above average. Grower knowledge of using organic nutrient sources improved to 5.92 from 3.92 as a result of a workshop and to 5.62 from 3.89 (7-point scale, with 7 = excellent) after a 1-day class developed by intensive training participants. Methodology used allowed for expansion of individual and collective knowledge of a complicated topic and development of high impact, relevant, and effective educational programming for clientele.

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Elsa Sánchez, Kathleen Kelley and Lynn Butler

Eight edamame [Glycine max (L.) Merrill] cultivars were evaluated in the field in 2002, 2003, and 2004 to determine their suitability for growing in central Pennsylvania. Each cultivar was direct seeded and data collected included plant populations (percentage of stand) and marketable yields. Plant populations ranged from less than 1% to 81% and, with one exception in 2002, were below 80%. Eighty percent plant populations or higher are considered optimal. Based on sub-optimal plant populations, none of the edamame cultivars evaluated in the field were determined to be suitable for direct seeding in central Pennsylvania. The effect of temperature on seedling emergence, and therefore, plant populations was then studied. Four of the edamame cultivars used in the field trial were evaluated in growth chambers programmed with varying day/night temperature regimes. Seedling emergence varied by cultivar and was generally below 80% with two exceptions. When grown in a 21.1 °C day/15.6 °C night temperature regime, `Butterbeans' and `Early Hakucho' exceeded 80% seedling emergence. These methods could be used to produce transplants; however, the economic feasibility of doing so should first be evaluated. In the field trial, conclusions on marketable yields were unattainable because soybean plants are known to compensate in yield for plants missing in sub-optimal plant populations. Plant compensation and sub-optimal plant populations rendered yield comparisons between cultivars questionable. The issue of sub-optimal seedling emergence and plant population needs to be studied further before suitability of growing these edamame cultivars in central Pennsylvania can be determined.