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Youssef Rouphael, Mariateresa Cardarelli, Luigi Lucini, Elvira Rea, and Giuseppe Colla

A greenhouse experiment was conducted in Summer and Fall 2011 at the experimental farm of Tuscia University, central Italy, to study the effect of nutrient solution concentration (4, 20, 36, 52, or 68 mequiv·L−1) on biomass production, mineral composition, and concentrations of the major polyphenols in ‘Romolo’ artichoke and ‘Bianco Avorio’ cardoon grown in a floating system. Leaf dry biomass, leaf number, and macroelement concentrations (nitrogen, potassium, calcium, and magnesium) of artichoke and cardoon increased in response to an increase in the nutrient solution concentration, whereas an opposite trend was observed for the total polyphenols, phenolic acids (chlorogenic acid, cynarin, and caffeic acid), and the flavonoid luteolin. Artichoke and cardoon gave maximum biomass production and leaf number at 45 and 54 mequiv·L−1, respectively. Cardoon showed higher biomass and leaf number (average 1.13 kg·m−2 and 14.0 n./plant, respectively) than those observed in artichoke (average 1.07 kg·m−2 and 12.7 n./plant, respectively). The chlorogenic acid, cynarin, caffeic acid, and luteolin concentrations were higher by 204%, 462%, 580%, and 445% in cardoon leaf tissue than in that of artichoke. An improvement of leaf quality (total polyphenols, phenolic acids, and flavonoids) was obtained at the expense of leaf yield through the use of lower fertilizer concentrations in the nutrient solution.

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Guiseppe Colla, Youssef Roupahel, Mariateresa Cardarelli, and Elvira Rea

A greenhouse experiment was carried out to determine growth, yield, fruit quality, gas exchange and mineral composition of watermelon plants (Citrullus Lanatus L. `Tex'), either ungrafted or grafted onto two commercial rootstocks `Macis' [Lagenaria siceraria (Mol.) Standl.] and `Ercole' (Cucurbita maxima Duchesne × Cucurbita moschata Duchesne) and cultured in NFT. Plants were supplied with a nutrient solution having an electrical conductivity (EC) of 2.0 or 5.2 dS·m–1. The saline nutrient solution had the same basic composition, plus an additional of 29 mm of NaCl. Increased salinity in the nutrient solution decreased total yield. The reduction in total yield in saline treatments compared to control was due to a reduction in the fruit mean mass and not to the number of fruit per plant. Total fruit yield was 81% higher in grafted than in ungrafted plants. The lowest marketable yield recorded on ungrafted plants was associated with a reduction in both fruit mean mass and the number of fruits per plant in comparison to grafted plants. Salinity improved fruit quality in all grafting combinations by increasing dry matter (DM), glucose, fructose, sucrose, and total soluble solid (TSS) content. Nutritional qualities of grafted watermelons such as fruit DM, glucose, fructose, sucrose, and TSS content were similar in comparison to those of ungrafted plant. In all grafting combinations, negative correlations were recorded between Na+ and Cl in the leaf tissue and net assimilation of CO2 Grafting reduced concentrations of sodium, but not chloride, in leaves. However, the sensitivity to salinity was similar between grafted and ungrafted plants and the higher total yield from grafting plants was mainly due to grafting per se.

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Youssef Rouphael, Mariateresa Cardarelli, Giuseppe Colla, and Elvira Rea

Limited water supply in the Mediterranean region is a major problem in irrigated agriculture. Grafting may enhance drought resistance, plant water use efficiency, and plant growth. An experiment was conducted in two consecutive growing seasons to determine yield, plant growth, fruit quality, leaf gas exchange, water relations, macroelements content in fruits and leaves, and water use efficiency of mini-watermelon plants [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. and Nakai cv. Ingrid], either ungrafted or grafted onto the commercial rootstock ‘PS 1313’ (Cucurbita maxima Duchesne × Cucurbita moschata Duchesne), under open field conditions. Irrigation treatments were 1.0, 0.75, and 0.5 evapotranspiration rates. In both years (2006 and 2007), marketable yield decreased linearly in response to an increase in water stress. When averaged over year and irrigation rate, the total and marketable yields were higher by 115% and 61% in grafted than in ungrafted plants, respectively. The fruit quality parameters of grafted mini-watermelons such as fruit dry matter and total soluble solids content were similar in comparison with those of ungrafted plants, whereas titratable acidity, K, and Mg concentrations improved significantly. In both grafting combinations, yield water use efficiency (WUEy) increased under water stress conditions with higher WUE values recorded in grafted than ungrafted plants. The concentration of N, K, and Mg in leaves was higher by 7.4%, 25.6%, and 38.8%, respectively, in grafted than in ungrafted plants. The net assimilation of CO2, stomatal conductance, relative water content, leaf, and osmotic potential decreased under water stress conditions. The sensitivity to water stress was similar between grafted and ungrafted plants, and the higher marketable yield from grafted plants was mainly the result of an improvement in nutritional status and higher CO2 assimilation and water uptake from the soil.

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Mariateresa Cardarelli, Youssef Rouphael, Elvira Rea, Luigi Lucini, Marco Pellizzoni, and Giuseppe Colla

Three greenhouse experiments were carried out to compare the responses of Aloe arborescens and Aloe barbadensis with organic fertilization (standard or reduced fertilization level), arbuscular mycorrhiza [with AM (+AM) or without AM (–AM)], and salinity (1 or 80 mm NaCl) in terms of plant growth, leaf yield, mineral composition, and nutraceutical value. In all experiments, the yield of fresh leaves was significantly higher by 320%, 252%, and 72%, respectively, in A. barbadensis in comparison with A. arborescens. Doubling the fertilizer dose, plant growth parameters increased, but the bioactive compounds were negatively affected. The highest antioxidant activity was recorded with A. barbadensis using both fertilization regimes, whereas the highest values of anthraquinones aloin were observed in A. barbadensis using a reduced fertilization regime and when plants were inoculated with AM fungi. β-polysaccharide concentration was significantly higher in A. barbadensis in comparison with A. arborescens and was increased by 33% when plants were inoculated with AM fungi. In both Aloe species, increasing the salinity decreased the leaf fresh weight and total dry biomass but increased the aloin and β-polysaccharides content by 66% and 21%, respectively. The results suggest that cultural practices such as organic fertilization, inoculation with AM fungi, and irrigation with saline water can represent effective tools to achieve a more favorable phytochemical profile.