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Mohammed B. Tahboub, Soumaila Sanogo, Paul W. Bosland and Leigh Murray

Phytophthora blight, caused by Phytophthora capsici Leon., is a major plant disease that limits chile pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) production in New Mexico. Chile pepper producers in New Mexico report that Phytophthora blight symptoms appear to develop slower and its incidence is lower in hot than in nonhot chile pepper cultivars. There has been no previous systematic assessment of the relationship of chile pepper heat level to chile pepper response to P. capsici. Three hot (‘TAM-Jalapeño’, ‘Cayenne’, and ‘XX-Hot’) and two low-heat (‘NuMex Joe E. Parker’ and ‘New Mexico 6-4’) chile pepper cultivars were inoculated at the six- to eight-leaf stage with zoospores of P. capsici under greenhouse conditions. Additionally, detached mature green fruit from three hot (‘TAM-Jalapeño’, ‘Cayenne’, and ‘XX-Hot’) and one low-heat (‘AZ-20’) chile pepper cultivars were inoculated with mycelium plugs of P. capsici under laboratory conditions. When plant roots were inoculated, Phytophthora blight was slowest to develop on ‘TAM-Jalapeño’ in contrast to all other cultivars. All ‘TAM-Jalapeño’ plants showed wilting symptoms or were dead ≈22 days after inoculation compared with 18, 15, 14, and 11 days for ‘NuMex Joe E. Parker’, ‘New Mexico 6-4’, ‘XX-Hot’, and ‘Cayenne’, respectively. When fruit were inoculated, lesion length ratio was significantly higher for ‘TAM-Jalapeño’ fruit than for ‘Cayenne’, ‘XX-Hot’, and ‘AZ-20’ fruit. Similarly, lesion diameter ratio was higher for ‘TAM-Jalapeño’ fruit than for fruit of other cultivars. Furthermore, mycelial growth on lesion surfaces was more extensive on ‘TAM-Jalapeño’ fruit than on fruit of other cultivars. Results from this study indicate that there is little or no relationship between heat level and chile pepper root and fruit infection by P. capsici.

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Sabine R. Green, Geno A. Picchioni, Leigh W. Murray and Marisa M. Wall

Field-grown cut and dried flowers could provide a high-value crop selection for New Mexico. We conducted a 1-year field study to evaluate flower yield and quality characteristics of common globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa), ‘Strawberry Fields’ globe amaranth (Gomphrena haageana), cockscomb celosia (Celosia argentea var. cristata ‘Chief Mix’), and wheat celosia (Celosia spicata ‘Pink Candle’). Within-row spacing of 15 or 20 cm combined with two-row or three-row per bed plantings resulted in field planting densities ranging from 66,670 to 120,010 plants/ha of common globe amaranth and ‘Strawberry Fields’ globe amaranth, and 100,005 to 200,010 plants/ha of cockscomb and wheat celosia. All but cockscomb celosia produced four harvests that began 22 May and ended 18 Oct., depending on species. Both globe amaranth species had a 5- to 6-month harvest season, two to three midseason to late-season peak harvests, and over 1000 harvested stems totaling 1.4 to 1.8 kg dry weight per 1.5-m2 plot across the season. Both celosia species had a 4.5-month harvest season, one early summer peak harvest, and fewer than 300 harvested stems totaling 0.6 to 0.7 kg dry weight per plot for the year. Seasonally progressive increases in flowering stem length of both globe amaranth species and wheat celosia, and in flowering stem diameter of both globe amaranth species and cockscomb celosia, were observed. Flowering head size of both globe amaranth species and of wheat celosia varied little with harvest season, whereas the head diameter of cockscomb celosia increased with the season. Postharvest flower retention after mechanical impact was about 2% higher for common globe amaranth than it was for ‘Strawberry Fields’ globe amaranth, decreased by about 6% from early to later harvests for both celosia species, and was inversely related to the head size of both globe amaranth species and cockscomb celosia. Despite the wide range in planting density, the density effect was largely limited to cockscomb celosia. For that species, three-row planting (high density) increased the total number of spray flower (multiple head) stems, provided longer stems later into the season and wider heads midway into the season, and prolonged the production of spray stems (15-cm spacing only). Results demonstrate that these four species are excellent candidates as new specialty crops in semiarid conditions.

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Mario Valenzuela-Vázquez, Geno A. Picchioni, Leigh W. Murray and Wayne A. Mackay

The raceme of Lupinus havardii Wats. (Big Bend bluebonnet) is a new greenhouse specialty cut flower, but postharvest life is limited by ethylene sensitivity. The authors studied the effects of 160 nL·L−1 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) with 0 to 6 days exposure to a 50-μm vase solution of ethephon [(2-chloroethyl) phosphonic acid, CEPA] on raceme postharvest quality indices and mature flower cell membrane permeability. With no CEPA, 1-MCP delayed postharvest losses in fresh weight and mature flower retention, and extended vase life longevity (VLL) by 1 to 4 days relative to a non-1-MCP control. With 2 days or more of CEPA, 1-MCP deferred raceme fresh weight loss and the abscission of both mature and newly opened flowers from 3 days to 5 days. There was a relatively strong protective effect of 1-MCP on raceme fresh weight, flower retention, and newly opening flowers in the presence of CEPA compared with the absence of CEPA. The greatest raceme VLL (7.2 days) was obtained for 1-MCP-treated racemes that did not receive CEPA in the vase. Although VLL was reduced by CEPA, VLL was consistently greater (by ≈2 days) after 1-MCP treatment relative to no 1-MCP treatment and irrespective of CEPA's duration. As expected, electrolyte leakage increased with individual flower development and between 1 day and 6 days in the vase. Unexpectedly, however, the 5-day postharvest increase in leakage was intensified by 1-MCP treatment if the racemes were exposed to 1 hour of CEPA in the vase solution. Electrical conductivity measurements suggested that, in the latter treatment (+1-MCP, +CEPA), increased levels of diffusible electrolytes that had yet to be exported to the expanding apical meristem (delayed raceme development) contributed to the higher leakage. Results also demonstrate good potential for quality maintenance of L. havardii racemes by using 1-MCP, and that in addition to flower retention, raceme fresh weight and flower opening should be considered in developing VLL criteria for this new specialty crop.

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May Elfar Altamimi, Rhonda R. Janke, Kimberly A. Williams, Nathan O. Nelson and Leigh W. Murray

Greenhouse experiments were conducted to determine the response of Brassica oleracea L., pac choi to fertilizer rates and sources and to establish optimal soluble nitrogen (N) application rates and nitrate meter sufficiency ranges. Conventional soluble fertilizer was formulated from inorganic salts with a 4:1 NO3-N:NH4-N ratio. Phosphorus (P) was held at 1.72 mm and potassium (K) at 0.83 mm for all treatment levels. The organic soluble fertilizer, fish hydrolyzate (2N–1.72P–0.83K), was diluted to provide the same N levels as with conventional treatments. Both fertilizers were applied at N rates of 0, 32, 75, 150, 225, 300, and 450 mg·L−1. Seedlings were transplanted and fertilizer application began at 18 days. Plants were harvested at 7 weeks (5 weeks post-transplanting) after receiving 15 fertilizer applications during production. Samples of the most recently matured leaves were harvested weekly and analyzed for petiole sap NO3-N and leaf blade total N concentration. Leaf count, leaf length, and chlorophyll content were also measured weekly. Fresh and dry weights were determined on whole shoots and roots. Optimum yield was achieved at the 150-mg·L−1 fertility rate with both conventional and organic fertilizers. Field and high tunnel experiments were conducted to validate the sufficiency ranges obtained from the greenhouse studies. Sufficiency levels of NO3-N for pac choi petiole sap during Weeks 2 to 3 of production were 800 to 1500 mg·L−1 and then dropped to 600 to 1000 mg·L−1 during Weeks 4 through harvest for both conventional and organic fertilizers sources. Total N in leaf tissue was less responsive to fertilizer rate effects than petiole sap NO3-N. Chlorophyll content was not useful in evaluating pac choi N status. These guidelines will provide farmers with information for leaf petiole sap NO3-N to guide in-season N applications.

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Sharon J.B. Knewtson, M.B. Kirkham, Rhonda R. Janke, Leigh W. Murray and Edward E. Carey

The sustainability of soil quality under high tunnels will influence management of high tunnels currently in use and grower decisions regarding design and management of new high tunnels to be constructed. Soil quality was quantified using measures of soil pH, salinity, total carbon, and particulate organic matter (POM) carbon in a silt loam soil that had been in vegetable production under high tunnels at the research station in Olathe, KS, for eight years. Soil under high tunnels was compared with that in adjacent fields in both a conventional and an organic management system. The eight-year presence of high tunnels under the conventional management system resulted in increased soil pH and salinity but did not affect soil carbon. In the organic management system, high tunnels did not affect soil pH, increased soil salinity, and influenced soil carbon (C) pools with an increase in POM carbon. The increases in soil salinity were not enough to be detrimental to crops. These results indicate that soil quality was not adversely affected by eight years under stationary high tunnels managed with conventionally or organically produced vegetable crops.