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Ayumi Suzuki and James D. Metzger

The effect of cool temperature treatments on flowering of Osteospermum ecklonis Norl. cv. Nairobi was evaluated. Plants vernalized at temperatures from 4 to 15 °C for 4 to 6 weeks exhibited increased flower numbers, more synchronized flower development among individual plants, and reduced forcing times. Part of the increased flower number observed in the vernalized plants could be attributed to a small increase in branch numbers from 2 to 3. However, a longer period of vernalization slowed flower development, and therefore increased overall production times. Vernalization also reduced stem growth, primarily through a reduction in the number of nodes produced by each branch.

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Gary R. Bachman and James D. Metzger

Interest in using alternative materials for potting substrate is increasing in response to availability and rising costs of peat and other conventional materials. Vermicompost (VC) is one such material. It is important to understand physical and chemical changes in potting substrate when amended with VC produced from different waste sources, pig (PVC) and beef cattle (BVC) manure in this study. Distribution of particles greater than 2 mm decreased, particles 0.5 to 1 mm increased, and particles less than 0.5 mm remained unchanged as PVC and BVC amendment increased. Dry bulk density and water-holding capacity increased with increasing PVC and BVC amendment. Porosity and air volume were inversely related to VC amendment, decreasing with increasing VC amendment. Saturated substrate extract sampling revealed nitrate nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron content as well as electrical conductivity increased with increasing PVC and BVC amendment.

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Lindsay C. Paul and James D. Metzger

Vermicomposting is a promising method of transforming unwanted and virtually unlimited supplies of organic wastes into usable substrates. In this process, the digestive tracts of certain earthworm species (e.g., Eisenia fetida) are used to stabilize organic wastes. The final product is an odorless peat-like substance, which has good structure, moisture-holding capacity, relatively large amounts of available nutrients, and microbial metabolites that may act as plant growth regulators. For these reasons, vermicompost has the potential to make a valuable contribution to soilless potting media. The objective of this study was to evaluate the transplant quality and field performance of vegetable transplants grown in vermicompost. Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.), eggplant (Solanum melongena L.), and pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) transplants were grown in a commercial soilless mix including 0%, 10%, or 20% (v/v) worm-worked cattle manure. Growth of vegetable transplants was positively affected by addition of vermicompost, perhaps by altering the nutritional balance of the medium. Transplant quality was improved in peppers and eggplants while tomato transplant quality was slightly reduced. There were no significant differences in field performance.

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Samuel Contreras, Mark A. Bennett, James D. Metzger and David Tay

Seed germinability and storability are important aspects of seed quality determined by the genotype and environment of seed development. Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) is produced commercially in most temperate and subtropical areas of the world. The objective of this study was to determine how photoperiod and light quality of the mother plant environment affects lettuce seed quality. Seeds of cv. Tango were produced in growth chambers under one of two treatments: a) short day (SD), consisting of 8 hours of fluorescent light (≈310 μmol·m−2·s−1) plus 16 hours of darkness daily, and b) long day (LD), consisting of 4 hours of incandescent light (≈21 μmol·m−2·s−1), 8 hours of fluorescent light, 4 hours of incandescent light, and 8 hours of darkness daily. The red to far-red ratio was ≈6.8 and 1.0 for the fluorescent and incandescent light, respectively. In both treatments, the temperature was 23 °C. The LD treatment produced significantly heavier seeds; however, germination at optimal conditions (20 °C-light) was similar for both treatments. Germinability (percentage and rates) at suboptimal conditions (30 °C, 20 °C with different external ABA concentrations, negative osmotic potentials, or dark) was higher for seeds produced under the LD treatment. On the other hand, seeds produced under the LD treatment presented better storability (evaluated by the accelerated aging test and standard germination after storage at 30 °C and 74% RH). The critical period for light environment effects was also studied. Seed weight patterns were determined early in seed development, during the first 6 days after flowering. Conversely, light environment effects on seed germinability and storability were determined at the end of seed development, after physiological maturity, which occurred by 11 days after flowering. These results show that lettuce seed germinability and storability may be modified by management of light conditions during seed production and provide useful information for seed producers, seed companies, and seed conservation institutions.

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Dominic P. Petrella, James D. Metzger, Joshua J. Blakeslee, Edward J. Nangle and David S. Gardner

Anthocyanins are plant pigments that are in demand for medicinal and industrial uses. However, anthocyanin production is limited due to the harvest potential of the species currently used as anthocyanin sources. Rough bluegrass (Poa trivialis L.) is a perennial turfgrass known for accumulating anthocyanins, and may have the potential to serve as a source of anthocyanins through artificial light treatments. The objectives of this research were to determine optimal light conditions that favor anthocyanin synthesis in rough bluegrass, and to determine the suitability of rough bluegrass as a source of anthocyanins. When exposed to high-intensity white light, rough bluegrass increased anthocyanin content by 100-fold on average, and anthocyanin contents greater than 0.2% of dry tissue weight were observed in some samples. Blue light, at intensities between 150 and 250 μmol·m−2·s−1, was the only wavelength that increased anthocyanin content. However, when red light was applied with blue light at 30% or 50% of the total light intensity, anthocyanin content was increased compared with blue light alone. Further experiments demonstrated that these results may be potentially due to a combination of photosynthetic and photoreceptor-mediated regulation. Rough bluegrass is an attractive anthocyanin production system, since leaf tissue can be harvested while preserving meristematic tissues that allow new leaves to rapidly grow; thereby allowing multiple harvests in a single growing season and greater anthocyanin yields.

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Caitlin E. Splawski, Emilie E. Regnier, S. Kent Harrison, Mark A. Bennett and James D. Metzger

Field studies were conducted in 2011 and 2012 to compare mulch treatments of shredded newspaper, a combination of shredded newspaper plus turfgrass clippings (NP + grass), hardwood bark chips, black polyethylene plastic, and bare soil on weeds, insects, soil moisture, and soil temperature in pumpkins. Newspaper mulch or black plastic reduced total weed biomass ≥90%, and woodchip or NP + grass mulch each reduced total weed biomass 78% compared with bare soil under high rainfall conditions in 2011. In 2012, under low rainfall, all mulches reduced weed biomass 97% or more compared with bare soil. In both years, all mulches resulted in higher squash bug infestations than bare soil. The woodchip, newspaper, and NP + grass mulches retained higher soil moistures than bare soil or black plastic over the course of each growing season, and the woodchip and NP + grass mulches caused greatest fluctuations in soil temperature. Pumpkin yields were abnormally low in 2011 and did not differ among treatments. In 2012, all mulches produced greater total marketable pumpkin fruit weights compared with bare soil, but only black plastic, newspaper, and NP + grass mulches resulted in greater total numbers of marketable pumpkins. Overall results indicate that shredded newspaper or NP + grass mulches may be useful for organic and/or small-scale urban crop producers as sustainable alternatives to black plastic mulch; however, their weed suppression efficacy may require higher application rates with increasing moisture conditions, and they may require greater squash bug control measures than under bare soil conditions.

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Aneta K. Studzinska, David S. Gardner, James D. Metzger, David Shetlar, Robert Harriman and T. Karl Danneberger

Turf grown in shade exhibits increased stem elongation. Dwarfism could improve turfgrass quality by reducing elongation. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of GA2-oxidase (GA2ox) overexpression on creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera L.) performance under restricted light conditions and low mowing heights. Greenhouse studies were conducted at The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, from 1 Sept. to 31 Oct. in both 2008 and 2009. Two experimental lines, Ax6548 and Ax6549, transformed with CP4 EPSPS and PcGA2ox gene; and a nontransformed control (NTC) was subjected to four light environments: full sun, reduced red to far red light ratio (R:FR), neutral shade [reduced photosynthetic photon flux (PPF)], and canopy shade (reduced PPF and R:FR). Turf was evaluated every 10 days for color and percent coverage. GA2ox overexpression resulted in darker green color in both transgenic lines under all light treatments as compared with NTC plants. No differences in overall turfgrass coverage were noted in full sun conditions among the lines. A significant decrease in turf coverage occurred for all shade treatments regardless of line. However, Ax6549 decreased the least. Overall data indicated that GA2ox overexpression can improve quality of turfgrass under reduced light conditions.

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Zhi-Liang Zheng, Jyan-Chyun Jang, James D. Metzger and Zhenbiao Yang

Plant architecture is a major consideration during the commercial production of chrysanthemum (Dendranthema grandiflora Tzvelev). We have addressed this problem through a biotechnological approach: genetic engineering of chrysanthemum cv. Iridon plants that ectopically expressed a tobacco phytochrome B1 gene under the control of the CaMV 35S promoter. The transgenic plants were shorter, greener in leaves, and had larger branch angles than wild-type (WT) plants. Transgenic plants also phenocopied WT plants grown under light condition depleted of far-red wavelengths. Furthermore, the reduction of growth by the expressed PHY-B1 transgene did not directly involve gibberellins. The commercial application of this biotechnology could provide an economic alternative to the use of chemical growth regulators, and thus reduce the production cost.

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Samuel Contreras, Mark A. Bennett, James D. Metzger, David Tay and Haim Nerson

Thermoinhibition and photosensitivity are two characteristics of lettuce seed that frequently affect its stand. The main objective of this study was to evaluate the hypothesis that lettuce seed germinability and longevity are affected by the red to far-red light ratio (R:FR) under which seeds maturate. ‘Tango’ lettuce seeds were produced in growth chambers under one of two treatments: 1) red-rich light (R treatment) and 2) far-red-rich light (FR treatment). For both treatments, the percentage of normal seedlings germinated at 20 °C–light was ≈100%. When germinated under the light, seeds from the R treatment exhibited a higher germination percentage and a faster germination (under a broader range of temperatures) than seeds from the FR treatment. When germinated in the dark, seeds from the R treatment germinated 100% between 12 and 23 °C and over 50% at 30 °C, whereas seeds from the FR treatment germinated less than 35% between 12 and 23 °C and less than 5% at 30 °C. Seeds from the R treatment had lower abscisic acid (ABA) content and were better able to germinate when exposed to external ABA concentrations than seeds from the FR treatment. Seed longevity as assessed by the accelerated aging test was higher in seeds from the FR treatment, indicating that red-rich light was detrimental to longevity. In another experiment, lettuce seeds that developed under similar conditions were harvested at approximately the moment of maximum dry weight accumulation and desiccated in dark, far-red, red, or fluorescent + incandescent light. Seeds desiccated under red light exhibited higher dark germination than the other treatments; however, no differences were observed in thermoinhibition or longevity. These results suggest that lettuce seed produced in an environment with a high R:FR light ratio will exhibit reduced thermoinhibition and photosensitivity as compared with production in a lower R:FR light environment.

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Edward J. Nangle, David S. Gardner, James D. Metzger, John R. Street and T. Karl Danneberger

Decreased light quantity or quality affects the growth of turfgrass plants. Shade causes thinning of turfgrass stands and loss in surface quality. Plant changes include increased chlorophyll levels, lower soluble sugars, and loss of canopy cover. The objective of this research was to investigate if applications of foliar nitrogen and trinexapac-ethyl [4-(cyclopropyl-α-hydroxy-methylene)-3,5-dioxo-cyclohexane carboxylic acid ethyl ester] (TE) would result in beneficial biochemical changes in creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera L. cv. Penncross) grown in different shaded environments. Foliar applications of three nitrogen treatments, (NH2)2CO, Ca(NO3)2, or (NH4)2SO4, were made weekly at 0.43 g N/m2. Growth regulator treatments consisted of an untreated control or TE applied biweekly at an a.i. rate of 0.057 kg·ha−1. Plots were established in full sun (FS), neutral shade (NS), and deciduous shade (DS). Chlorophyll content, soluble carbohydrates, flavonoids, clipping yield, and color were measured. Nitrogen treatments caused some variation in levels of soluble carbohydrates in shaded conditions. Chlorophyll (Chl) levels varied between TE treatments, with increased levels of chlorophyll b (Chl b) found in TE-treated plots under FS. Application of TE resulted in higher flavonoid concentrations in leaf tissue in shaded conditions. Repeated applications of (NH2)2CO significantly improved color (P = 0.05). Turfgrass managers maintaining creeping bentgrass in shade may benefit from applications of TE and (NH2)2CO.