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  • Author or Editor: Jeffrey Martin x
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Four potentially biodegradable mulch products (BioAgri, BioTelo, WeedGuardPlus, and SB-PLA-10) were evaluated during 2010 in three contrasting regions of the United States (Knoxville, TN; Lubbock, TX; and Mount Vernon, WA) and compared with black plastic mulch and a no-mulch control for durability, weed control, and impact on tomato yield in high tunnel and open field production systems. WeedGuardPlus, BioTelo, and BioAgri had the greatest number of rips, tears, and holes (RTH) and percent visually observed deterioration (PVD) at all three sites (P ≤ 0.05), and values were greater in the open field than high tunnels, likely as a result of high winds and greater solar radiation and rainfall. SB-PLA-10 showed essentially no deterioration at all three sites and was equivalent to black plastic in both high tunnels and the open field. Weed growth at the sites did not differ in high tunnels as compared with the open field (P > 0.05). Weed growth at Knoxville and Mount Vernon was greatest under SB-PLA-10 (P ≤ 0.02), likely as a result of the white, translucent nature of this test product. Tomato yield was greater in the high tunnels than open field at all three sites (P ≤ 0.03), except for total fruit weight at Knoxville (P ≤ 0.53). Total number of tomato fruit and total fruit weight were lowest for bare ground at both Knoxville (150 × 104 fruit/ha and 29 t·ha−1; P ≤ 0.04) and Mount Vernon (44 × 104 fruit/ha and 11 t·ha−1; P ≤ 0.008). At Knoxville, the other mulch treatments were statistically equivalent, whereas at Mount Vernon, BioAgri had among the highest yields (66 × 104 fruit/ha and 16 t·ha−1). There were no differences in tomato yield resulting from mulch type at Lubbock.

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Field studies were conducted during 2010 and 2011 in Knoxville, TN; Lubbock, TX; and Mount Vernon, WA; to compare high tunnel and open-field organic production systems for season extension and adverse climate protection on lettuce (Lactuca sativa) yield and quality. The climates of these locations are diverse and can be typified as hot and humid (Knoxville), hot and dry (Lubbock), and cool and humid (Mount Vernon). In both years, 6-week-old lettuce seedlings of ‘New Red Fire’ and ‘Green Star’ (leafy type), ‘Adriana’ and ‘Ermosa’ (butterhead type), and ‘Coastal Star’ and ‘Jericho’ (romaine type) were transplanted in the late winter or early spring into subplots covered with black plastic and grown to maturity (43 to 65 days). Lettuce harvest in Knoxville occurred at 50 to 62 days after transplanting (DAT), with open-field lettuce harvested an average of 9 days earlier compared with high tunnel plots both years (P > 0.0001). The earlier than anticipated harvests in the open-field in Knoxville in 2010 were due to lettuce bolting. In Lubbock, high tunnel lettuce was harvested an average 16 days earlier in 2010 compared with open-field lettuce (P > 0.0001), while in 2011, high temperatures and bolting required that open-field lettuce be harvested 4 days earlier than lettuce grown in high tunnels. On average, lettuce cultivars at Mount Vernon matured and were harvested 56 to 61 DAT in 2010 and 54 to 64 DAT in 2011 with no significant differences between high tunnel and open-field production systems. Total and marketable yields at Mount Vernon and Lubbock averaged across cultivars were comparable in both high tunnel and open-field plots. At Knoxville, although total yields were significantly higher (P > 0.0062) in high tunnels than open-field plots, incidence of insect, disease, and physiological damage in high tunnel plots reduced lettuce quality and marketable yield (P > 0.0002). Lettuce head length:diameter ratio (LDR) averaged across cultivars was equal between high tunnel and the open field at all three locations. High tunnel production systems offer greater control of environments suitable for lettuce production, especially in climates like Knoxville and Lubbock where later-planted open-field systems may be more susceptible to temperature swings that may affect lettuce quality. These results suggest that although high tunnel culture alone may influence lettuce yield and quality, regional climates likely play a critical role in determining the impact of these two production systems on marketable lettuce yields.

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The hypersensitive response in resistant plants exposed to incompatible pathogens involves structural changes in the plant cell wall and plasma membrane. Cell wall changes may include pectin deesterification resulting in release of methanol. The time course of methanol production was characterized from `Early Calwonder 20R' pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) leaves infiltrated with the incompatible pathogen, Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria (Doidge) Dye race 1 (XCV). In the first time course experiment, leaves were infiltrated with either 108 colony-forming units/mL of XCV or water control. Leaf panels (1 × 5 cm) were excised after dissipation of water soaking, then incubated in vials at 24 °C. Headspace gas was analyzed at 6-hour intervals up to 24 hours. The rate of methanol production from resistant pepper leaves infiltrated with XCV was greatest during the first 12 hours after excision. In another experiment, leaf panels were harvested at 6-hour intervals up to 24 hours after inoculation and incubated for 12 hours at 24 °C to determine the relationship between the interval from inoculation to leaf excision and methanol production. The highest rate of methanol production was obtained when the interval between bacterial infiltration and leaf excision was 18 hours. The relationship between methanol release and changes in the degree of methylesterification (DOM) of cell wall pectin was determined in near isogenic lines of `Early Calwonder' pepper plants resistant (20R) and susceptible (10R) to XCV race 1. Cell walls were prepared from resistant and susceptible pepper leaves infiltrated with XCV or water. XCV-treated resistant leaves had 18% DOM and 9.7 nmol·g-1·h-1 of headspace methanol, and the susceptible leaves had 48% DOM with 0.2 nmol·g-1·h-1 methanol. Susceptible and resistant control leaves infiltrated with water had 55% and 54% DOM, respectively, with no detectable methanol production. Increased methanol production in resistant pepper leaves inoculated with XCV coincided with an increase in cell wall pH. Intercellular washing fluid of resistant pepper leaves had a significantly higher pH (6.9) compared to susceptible leaves (pH 5.1) and control leaves infiltrated with water (pH 5.1). Both 10R and 20R pepper leaves infiltrated with buffer at increasing pH's of 5.1, 6.9 or 8.7 had increased methanol production. Since deesterified pectin is more susceptible to degradation, demethylation may facilitate formation of pectic oligomers with defensive signalling activity.

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Like everything for the past 2 centuries, agriculture has depended increasingly on fossil fuel energy. Pressures to shift to renewable energy and changes in the fossil fuel industry are set to massively alter the energy landscape over the next 30 years. Two near-certainties are increased overall prices and/or decreased stability of energy supplies. The impacts of these upheavals on specialty crop production and consumption are unknowable in detail but the grand lines of what will likely change can be foreseen. This foresight can guide the research, extension, and teaching needed to successfully navigate a future very unlike the recent past. Major variables that will influence outcomes include energy use in fertilizer manufacture, in farm operations, and in haulage to centers of consumption. Taking six increasingly popular fruit and vegetable crops and the top two horticultural production states as examples, here we use simple proxies for the energy requirements (in gigajoules per ton of produce) of fertilizer, farm operations, and truck transport from Florida or California to New York to compare the relative sizes of these requirements. Trucking from California is the largest energy requirement in all cases, and three times larger than from Florida. As these energy requirements themselves are all fairly fixed, but in future will likely rise in price and/or be subject to interruptions and shortages, this pilot study points to two commonsense inferences: First, that fruit and vegetable production and consumption are set to reposition to more local/regional and seasonal patterns due to increasing expenses associated with fuel, and second, that coast-to-coast produce shipment by truck will become increasingly expensive and difficult.

Open Access