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Patrick J. Conner, Gunawati Gunawan and John R. Clark

Stenospermocarpic seedlessness from Vitis vinifera L. is being introgressed into muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia Michx.) germplasm through the use of a cross-fertile hybrid of the two species. Recently, a sequence-tagged site (STS) molecular marker, p3_VvAGL11, has been developed which enables detection of the dominant allele controlling stenospermocarpic seedlessness in V. vinifera. This marker was evaluated in six Euvitis Planch. × Muscadinia Planch. hybrid progenies to determine its association with seedlessness in this material. The presence of the 214-bp seedlessness-associated p3_VvAGL11 allele in seedling vines resulted in a nearly 3-fold reduction in mean seed fresh weight (MSFW) and significantly reduced mean seed weight per berry (MSWB), percent berry weight composed of seed (BWCS), and mean berry weight (MBW). When the lack of lignified seed was used as the determinant of seedlessness, the p3_VvAGL11 marker was able to correctly judge seedlessness in ≈85% of the progeny. Analysis of seedlessness in the progenies was hampered by poor vigor and fruiting ability of the hybrid seedlings. The p3_VvAGL11 marker shows potential to speed the introduction of the stenospermocarpic seedlessness into Muscadinia germplasm by identifying seedless progeny at the seedling stage.

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Juan Carlos Diaz-Perez, W. Keith Jenkins, Dharmalingam Pitchay and Gunawati Gunawan

There is limited information on the effect of organic fertilizers on seed germination and subsequent transplant growth. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of application rate of blood meal (BM) and feather meal (FM) fertilizers on germination of tomato seeds. Both organic fertilizers were applied as amendments to peat-based organic substrates at rates ranging from 0 to over 50 g·kg−1 N. Tomato ‘Brandywine’ seed were sown in trays. Seed germination was recorded daily until the germination percentage remained unchanged. Ammonia concentration in the substrates (Pro-Mix and Miracle-Gro) increased with increasing rate of substrate N concentration. Ammonia concentration also increased with increasing time after incorporation of BM and FM reaching maximum values (16 ppm) at day 9. Tomato seed germination was little affected at BM and FM rates lower than ≈3 g·kg−1 N (4% w/w for BM or FM), but declined above 3 g·kg−1 N reaching 0% germination rate at ≈14 g·kg−1 N for both BM and FM. Substrates pH was 5.9 in the absence of BM or FM and increased to about pH 7 with addition of low rates of BM (2.7 g·kg−1 N) and FM (2.6 g·kg−1 N). Substrate electrical conductivity (EC) increased with increasing substrate N concentration as supplied by BM and FM; FM, however, had a stronger effect on increasing EC compared with BM. In conclusion, BM and FM had inhibitory effects on tomato seed germination when applied at more than 3 g·kg−1 N (4% w/w for BM or FM). High ammonia concentration in the substrates for the first 2 weeks after incorporation of BM or FM likely caused, at least partially, inhibition of tomato seed germination. Thus, substrate mixed with BM or FM should be allowed to incubate for at least 2 weeks before planting tomato seed.

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Juan Carlos Díaz-Pérez, Jesús Bautista, Gunawati Gunawan, Anthony Bateman and Cliff Martin Riner

Vidalia onions (Allium cepa L.) are sweet, short-day, low pungency, yellow Granex-type bulbs that are popular in the United States because of their mild flavor. There are limited studies on sweet onion plant growth in response to organic fertilization rate. The objective of this report was to evaluate the effects of organic fertilizer rates on sweet onion plant growth, and leaf and bulb mineral nutrients. Experiments were carried out at the Horticulture Farm, Tifton Campus, University of Georgia, in the Winters of 2012–13 and 2013–14. There were five treatments [organic fertilizer 3–2–3 equivalent to 0, 60, 120, 180, and 240 kg·ha−1 nitrogen (N)]. During the season and at the mature plant stage, root, stem, and bulb biomass increased whereas the root-to-shoot ratio decreased with increasing fertilization rate up to 120 kg·ha−1 N. Foliar concentrations of N and Ca decreased whereas Cu concentration increased with increasing organic fertilization rate. Bulb Mg and Mn increased whereas P and Cu decreased with increasing organic fertilization rate. The accumulation of mineral nutrients by onion whole plants increased quadratically (N, P, K, and S) or linearly (Ca and Mg) with increasing fertilization rate. The N use efficiency decreased with increasing organic fertilization rate; the agronomic efficiency of N (AEN) decreased quadratically and the marginal yield decreased linearly with increasing fertilization rate. Chlorophyll indices (CI) were highest with 240 kg·ha−1 N and lowest with 0 kg·ha−1 N. In conclusion, onion plant growth increased with increasing organic fertilizer rate probably because of augmented soil N levels. Observation of nutrient deficiencies late in the season, even at high organic fertilization rates, indicates that preplant application of organic fertilizer was sufficient to cover plant nutritional needs only partially and that applications of N fertilizer later in the season may be necessary. High application rates of organic fertilizer (above those required by the crop) may have resulted in significant N leaching because it is unlikely that the crop used most of the N that was mineralized. Bulb concentrations of P, K, Ca, Mg, S, B, Fe, Cu, and Mn were higher compared with values reported in the literature for onions produced with inorganic fertilizers.

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Juan Carlos Díaz-Pérez, Jesús Bautista, Gunawati Gunawan, Anthony Bateman and Cliff Martin Riner

There is a growing interest in organic fertilizers because of increased demand for organic sweet onions and other vegetables. There are, however, limited studies on sweet onion bulb yield and quality in response to organic fertilization. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of organic fertilizer rate on sweet onion bulb yield and bulb quality before and after storage. Experiments were conducted at the Horticulture Farm, Tifton Campus, University of Georgia, in the Winters of 2012–13 and 2013–14. There were five organic fertilization treatments (organic fertilizer 3–2–3 equivalent to 0, 60, 120, 180, and 240 kg·ha−1 N). Total and marketable yields and individual bulb weight increased quadratically with increasing organic fertilization rate and responses failed to reach a plateau. The fraction of extra-large bulb increased with increasing organic fertilization rate. Incidence of onion bolting was maximal at 60 kg·ha−1 N and decreased with increasing organic fertilization rate. The percentage of bulb dry weight was highest in the unfertilized control and decreased with increasing organic fertilization rate. Organic fertilization rate had no consistent impact on bulb soluble solids content (SCC) and pungency (measured as pyruvate concentration) in the two seasons. Total antioxidant capacity (measured as gallic acid equivalents) values were among the lowest at 60 and 120 kg·ha−1 N. In conclusion, onion bulb yields increased with increasing organic fertilization rate, whereas incidences of bulb diseases responded differently to N rate. Botrytis rot was the main cause of postharvest bulb decay in all organic fertilization rates.

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Juan Carlos Díaz-Pérez, Kelly St. John, Mohammad Yamin Kabir, J. Alberto Alvarado-Chávez, Ania M. Cutiño-Jiménez, Jesús Bautista, Gunawati Gunawan and Savithri U. Nambeesan

Colored shade nets may affect plant growth and fruit yield of horticultural crops. The understanding of how colored shade nets influence plants, however, is far from complete. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of colored shade nets on bell pepper fruit yield, postharvest transpiration, color, chemical composition, and antioxidant capacity. The experiment was conducted in Tifton, GA, during the spring of 2015 and 2016. The experimental design was a randomized complete block with four replications and five colored shade net treatments (black, red, silver, and white nets, and an unshaded control). The nets were placed on the top of wooden rectangular structures (15 m wide × 6 m long × 5 m high), leaving the sides of the structures uncovered. Results showed that in both 2015 and 2016, marketable and total fruit number, yield, and individual fruit weight were reduced under the unshaded treatment. There were inconsistent differences in marketable and total fruit number, yield, and individual fruit weight among colored shade nets. Postharvest fruit transpiration and skin permeance were also reduced in unshaded conditions, and no differences were found among colored shade nets. Fruit color L* and b* values were highest, and a* value was lowest in unshaded conditions. Fruit soluble solids, total phenols, flavonoids, and antioxidant capacity [Cupric Reducing Antioxidant Capacity (CUPRAC) and Trolox Equivalent Antioxidant Capacity (TEAC)] responded differently among colored shade nets in the 2 years. Total phenols, flavonoids, and TEAC, however, were among the highest in unshaded conditions. In conclusion, results of the present study support previous findings that shade nets increase fruit yield and quality in bell pepper compared with fruit produced in unshaded conditions. Nevertheless, there were no consistent differences in fruit total and marketable yield and postharvest fruit transpiration and chemical composition of fruit produced under colored shade nets.

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Juan C. Díaz-Pérez, Dan MacLean, Smiljana Goreta, Sarah Workman, Erick Smith, Harwinder Singh Sidhu, Gunawati Gunawan, Anthony Bateman, Jesús Bautista, William Lovett, Maja Jukić Špika, Gvozden Dumičić and Mira Radunić

Pomegranate (Punica granatum L.) is a nonclimacteric fruit sold fresh as whole fruit or arils (fleshy seeds). It is also used for the production of juice, wine, and syrup. Pomegranate is popular due to its numerous health benefits. In the United States, it is grown primarily in California and other semi-arid regions, with Wonderful being the most widely grown cultivar. However, preliminary research has shown that ‘Wonderful’ produces low yields in Georgia, thus indicating the need to identify cultivars better suited for warm and humid conditions, such as those of the southeastern United States. The objective of this study was to determine the physical and chemical quality attributes of pomegranate cultivars grown in Georgia. Pomegranate fruit from 40 cultivars were harvested during 2012 to 2017. Individual fruit weight varied from 124 g for ‘Utah Sweet’ to 631 g for ‘C1’. The total fruit weight percentage accounted for by fresh aril weight (aril fraction) ranged from 22% for ‘C8’ to 70% for ‘JC’. Individual aril weight ranged from 174 mg for ‘Utah Sweet’ to 638 mg for ‘Cloud’. Across cultivars, individual fruit weight increased linearly with the increasing number of arils. Aril color varied from white to deep red. The arils L* value ranged from 15.7 (dark arils) for ‘Crown Jewel’ to 46.1 (light arils) for ‘Utah Sweet’. The a* values ranged from 0.6 (white arils) for ‘Cloud’ to 20.5 (red arils) for ‘Crab’. The b* values ranged from 8.7 for ‘DJ Forry’ (from a store) to 62.5 for ‘R9’. The Chroma* values ranged from 13.4 for ‘Cloud’ to 24.3 for ‘Crab’. The hue° values ranged from 29.7 for ‘Wonderful’ (from a store) to 87.1 for ‘Cloud’. Rind color was related to the color of the arils; high a* values in the rind and arils were associated with the red color. The fruit juice content ranged from 174 mL·kg−1 fruit for ‘Utah Sweet’ to 638 mL·kg−1 fruit for ‘Cloud’. Cultivars varied from tart to sweet. The fruit soluble solids concentration (SSC) ranged from 10.8% for ‘Sin Pepe’ to 16.4% for ‘Crown Jewel’. Fruit titratable acid (TA) ranged from 0.27% for ‘Sin Pepe’ to 6.20% for ‘Utah Sweet’. The juice maturity index measured as the SSC/TA ratio ranged from 1.9 for ‘Utah Sweet’ to 39.5 for ‘Sin Pepe’. The juice total phenols (measured as gallic acid equivalents) ranged from 463 mg·L−1 for ‘JC’ to 2468 mg·L−1 for ‘Wonderful’ (Georgia). Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity values of juice ranged from 10,001 µM for ‘King’ to 59,821 µM for ‘I11’. Cupric reducing antioxidant capacity values in juice ranged from 7471 µM for ‘Azadi’ to 20,576 µM for ‘Wonderful’ (Georgia). Juice total anthocyanins varied from 1.7 mg·L−1 for ‘R19’ to 50.0 mg·L−1 for ‘Wonderful’ (Georgia). Pomegranate cultivars showed large variability in physical and chemical attributes. Such pomegranate variability represents opportunities for breeding, for the retail market, and for the development of different products by the food industry.