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  • Author or Editor: Kathryn Fontenot x
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University-based horticulture departments and extension agents have explored the relationship between gardening programs and consumer knowledge and preferences. Studies have established positive correlations between garden participation and increased science scores and heightened environmental stewardship. The objective of this research was to determine if participation in “Lettuce Grow” garden workshops cohosted by the Louisiana State University Agriculture Center (LSU AgCenter) and Volunteers of America Greater Baton Rouge (VOA-GBR) had positive effects on child care providers’ garden knowledge and willingness to implement garden programming with children aged 5 years and younger. Participation led to a 67% increase (P ≤ 0.05) in horticulture knowledge for participants and resulted in 76.2% of the child care providers actively engaged in growing a garden with youth aged 5 years and under. Based on this experience, we highly recommend universities partner with local nonprofits to engage in deeper meaning, science-based garden extension projects.

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Agriculture is fundamental to meeting Americans’ basic needs—clothing, housing, and food. As the average farmer’s age increases, there is a need to develop programs to encourage youth to pursue careers in agriculture and become the next generation of farmers. This study developed and implemented a horticultural curriculum focusing on vegetable production at a summer camp setting. Targeted participants were aged 9 to 12 years. Pre- and posttests were given to both the treatment group (campers participating in the victory garden track) and the control group (campers participating in a Wetlands track). The pre- and posttest evaluated campers’ science-based knowledge and confidence. The study was replicated 16 times (weeks) over a 2-year study. Lesson topics included propagation, victory gardens, soil, recycling, plant parts, pollination, photosynthesis, and insects. Campers in the treatment group had improvement of general horticulture knowledge from pretest to posttest responses 18% improvement in 2010 and 11% improvement in 2011. Posttest scores of treatment campers were greater 20% in 2010 and 16% greater in 2011 (P ≤ 0.05) than control campers in both years of the study. Treatment campers were more confident (P ≤ 0.05) in explaining to others how to grow a plant and in their ability to grow more than one type of plant. Analysis of the 2nd year of data-indicated treatment campers were more likely (P ≤ 0.05) to feel confident in their ability to plant a seed that would later grow into a plant.

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Home gardeners living in areas with alkaline water sources do not have easy or economically affordable means of acidifying irrigation water for vegetable production. One solution for achieving optimal vegetable yields using alkaline irrigation water is to grow the vegetables in a modified medium. To date, no medium on the retail market suits such growing needs. Therefore, medium recipes with varied levels (0, 4, or 8 lb/yard3) and sources of calcium [dolomitic lime, calcium sulfate (CaSO4)] and magnesium [dolomitic lime, magnesium sulfate (MgSO4)] were tested using an alkaline irrigation on ‘Oakleaf’ lettuce (Lactuca sativa), ‘Earliana’ and ‘Salad Delight’ cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata), and ‘Snow Crown’ cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis) crops. Additionally, crops were grown in two environments, under a high tunnel and on a nursery yard. High tunnel and nursery yard sites were used to test media performances in the presence of, and eliminating, rainwater to simulate container-grown vegetables growing in both a home garden situation and a commercial greenhouse production situation. The base mix of all media treatments in the study was 80 bark : 20 peat and fertilized with 12 lb/yard3 slow-release fertilizer at a rate of 1.8 lb/yard3 nitrogen (N), 0.5 lb/yard3 phosphorus (P), and 1 lb/yard3 potassium (K). This initial fertilizer application was incorporated to each medium before filling containers. Four treatments were tested against a commercially available medium, industry standard (IS) treatment (a commercially available bagged medium), and a control medium [treatment C (no supplemental calcium or magnesium fertilizer)] by supplementing the base mix with the following fertilizer levels: 4 lb/yard3 each of CaSO4 and MgSO4 (treatment 1); 4 lb/yard3 dolomitic lime (treatment 2); 4 lb/yard3 each of dolomitic lime, CaSO4, and MgSO4 (treatment 3); 8 lb/yard3 dolomitic lime (treatment 4). Media treatments 1 through 4 outperformed the IS and C media treatments in nearly all crops. All crops grown on the nursery yard, and cabbage grown under the high tunnel, had greater yields when grown in medium treatment 3, compared with the IS and C media treatments (P ≤ 0.05). All crops grown in medium treatment 2 on the nursery yard produced greater yields than the IS and C media treatments (P ≤ 0.05).

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Forty-five cultivars of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) were field-grown using best management practices at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center (LSU AgCenter) Botanic Gardens in Baton Rouge during the Fall 2011 and Fall 2012 seasons. Recommended cultivars were selected for commercial production in Louisiana based on fresh weight and lettuce size (width and height). Nitrate (NO3 ) concentration was analyzed for each cultivar, as lettuces are known to accumulate and concentrate NO3 , and were then compared with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) oral reference dose (RfD—the EPA’s maximum acceptable oral dose of a toxic substance) of 1.6 mg NO3-nitrogen (N) per kilogram body weight per day. Recommended butterhead cultivars were Caliente and Harmony (21.6 and 13.9 ppm NO3 , respectively); recommended green-leaf cultivars were Salad Bowl and Tango (10.6 and 4.6 ppm NO3 , respectively); recommended red-leaf cultivars were Red Salad Bowl, Red Sails, and New Red Fire (15.2, 15.4, and 24.0 ppm NO3 , respectively). The only recommended romaine cultivar was Green Towers (11.2 ppm NO3 ), and recommended crisphead cultivars included Raider and Ithaca (17.6 and 14.9 ppm NO3 , respectively). Of the highest yielding cultivars, New Red Fire accumulated the greatest NO3 concentration: 24.0 ppm in both years 1 and 2. The NO3 concentration is less than the levels of concern for both men and women 20 to 74 years old, 3.9% of the RfD for men and 4.59% of the RfD for women.

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