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Genhua Niu, Denise S. Rodriguez and Mengmeng Gu

Use of reclaimed water to irrigate urban landscapes will likely increase because fresh water supply is diminishing and the population continues to grow in the semiarid southwestern United States. Salt tolerance of two native landscape woody ornamentals, Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) and Mexican redbud (Cercis canadensis var. mexicana), was investigated in a greenhouse experiment. Seedlings of the two species were grown in two substrates mixed with composted mulch and a commercial potting mix at two ratios and irrigated with saline solutions at three salinity levels: 1.6 (control, nutrient solution), 3.0, or 6.0 dS·m−1 electrical conductivity (EC). There was no interaction between substrate and EC of irrigation water. Foliar salt damages such as leaf drop, leaf curl, and edge burn were observed in Mexican redbud when the plants were irrigated with solutions at EC of 3.0 and 6.0 dS·m−1. No symptoms were observed on Texas mountain laurel plants, although plants irrigated at EC of 3.0 and 6.0 dS·m−1 were smaller compared with controls. Shoot growth and elongation of both species were reduced by the elevated salinity of irrigation water, and the reduction in Mexican redbud was greater than Texas mountain laurel. Leaf photosynthesis rate and leaf stomatal conductance were also reduced in Texas mountain laurel by the elevated salinity of irrigation water. Tissue Na+ and Cl concentrations were higher in Texas mountain laurel irrigated with water of elevated salinity.

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Haijie Dou, Genhua Niu and Mengmeng Gu

Green light penetrates deeper into the plant canopy because of its high transmittance and reflectance, and may potentially increase light interception and whole-canopy photosynthesis, whereas red and blue light is absorbed primarily by upper leaves. Moreover, green light induces shade avoidance responses and regulates secondary metabolism in plants. In this study, we investigated the effects of substituting partial red and/or blue light with green light on plant growth and development in basil (Ocimum basilicum) ‘Improved Genovese Compact’ (green) and ‘Red Rubin’ (purple) plants. There were four treatments: one combined red and blue (R&B) light treatment, R76B24 [the proportion of red (R) and blue (B) light was 76% and 24%, respectively]; and three green (G) light treatments—R44B24G32, R74B16G10, and R42B13G45—with green light proportions of 32%, 10%, and 45%, respectively. The experiment was conducted in a growth room and the photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) of all treatments was set at 220 μmol·m−2·s−1 with a 16-h photoperiod. Plants were subirrigated as needed using a nutrient solution with an electrical conductivity (EC) of 2.0 dS·m−1 and a pH of 6.0. The net photosynthetic rate (Pn) in lower leaves was unaffected by green light treatments in green basil plants, whereas in purple basil plants it increased by 59% and 45% under treatments R44B24G32 and R74B16G10, respectively, compared with the combined R&B light. In green basil plants, treatments R44B24G32 and R42B13G45 induced stem elongation, but green light treatments showed no effects on petiole elongation, leaf expansion, leaf thickness, or plant yield. In purple basil plants, treatments R44B24G32 and R42B13G45 induced stem elongation and decreased leaf thickness and plant yield, but only the R42B13G45 treatment induced petiole elongation, and green light treatments showed no effects on leaf expansion. Concentrations of anthocyanin, phenolics, and flavonoids, and antioxidant capacity in green basil leaves showed no differences between treatments R76B24 and R44B24G32, but decreased under treatments R74B16G10 and R42B13G45. Concentrations of phenolics and flavonoids, and antioxidant capacity in purple basil leaves showed no differences between treatments R76B24 and R74B16G10, but decreased under treatments R44B24G32 and R42B13G45. Combining plant yield, nutritional values, and the working environment for growers, a white light with low green light proportion (≈10%) is recommended for basil production in a controlled environment.

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Genhua Niu, Denise Rodriguez and Mengmeng Gu

Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) is a native shrub tolerating drought, heat, windy conditions, and alkaline or wet soils. However, its availability is somewhat low and little information is available on nutrient requirement and other culture information. Two greenhouse experiments were conducted to quantify the responses of Texas mountain laurel to different forms and rates of nitrogen (N) fertilizer. In Expt. 1, 1-year old seedlings were treated for 194 days with three NO3:NH4 ratios at 25:75, 50:50, and 75:25 and two rates of N at 100 and 200 mg·L−1 in a factorial design. There was no interaction between the N rate and form on any growth parameters. Nitrogen form did not significantly affect shoot dry weight, root dry weight, root–to-shoot ratio, or the total dry weight. There was no significant difference between N rate of 100 and 200 mg·L−1 on root dry weight, root-to-shoot ratio, or the total dry weight. The shoot dry weight of Texas mountain laurel fertilized with 100 mg·L−1 was higher compared with that of the plants fertilized at 200 mg·L−1. The reduced shoot dry weight at N of 200 mg·L−1 was the result of the higher substrate salinity. In Expt. 2, seedlings were fertilized with five N rates (50, 100, 150, 200, and 250 mg·L−1) for 203 days. Plants watered with 150, 200, and 250 mg·L−1 were taller than those fertilized with 50 mg·L−1. The shoot height of plants watered with 100 mg·L−1 was only significantly different from 50 mg·L−1. For rapid growth of Texas mountain laurel, a N rate range of ≈150 mg·L−1 was recommended supplied with a combination of NO3-N and NH4-N in the ratios of 0.3 to 3.0.

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Mengmeng Gu, James Robbins, Curt Rom and Hyun-Sug Choi

It has been observed that paper birch (Betula papyrifera Marsh.) has significant leaf abscission under mild to severe water stress. One-year-old paper birch seedlings were exposed to water deficit, ethylene, or inhibitors of ethylene action under controlled conditions to study water-stress induced leaf abscission. Exposing well-watered and water-stressed paper birch to 20 ppm of ethylene for 96 hours resulted in more than 50% leaf abscission regardless of plant water status, while water stress alone did not cause leaf abscission. However, the application of 1 ppm ethylene did not cause leaf abscission. Exposure to 1 ppm 1-methylcyclopropene or treatment with 0.1 mM of silver thiosulfate did not affect predawn water potential, gas exchange, and chlorophyll fluorescence. The measured evolved ethylene did not significantly increase in water-stressed paper birch prior to leaf abscission. Based on these observations, ethylene would appear to play a minor role in water-stress induced leaf abscission in paper birch.

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Fu Cheng, Qingxi Chen, Mengmeng Gu and Donghui Peng

Information on the history, legislative background, and current five levels (national, provincial, county, municipal, and township level) of the agricultural extension system in China are presented herein. In addition to the five levels, there are also six administrative agencies involved: Ministry of Agriculture, State Forestry Administration, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Education, National Agriculture Leadership Working Group, and National Development and Reform Commission. An example (Zhongfang Township, City of Luoyuan, Fuzhou County, Fujian Province) is given to illustrate the intricate network of the agricultural extension system. Major problems of the Chinese extension system include a complex and inefficient extension network, disconnection between the extension service and stakeholders’ needs, and a “two-boss” dilemma for most extension agencies. However, some current success stories in Chinese agricultural extension may be applicable or provide useful tips to other countries including the United States.

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Amy N. Wright, James A. Robbins and Mengmeng Gu

An online survey was conducted to gain information about nursery management and production (NMP) course content and enrollment, attitudes regarding the use of multimedia resources in the classroom, and opinions about the use of virtual field trips to supplement or replace traditional field trips. Results reflected current organizational and curriculum changes within colleges of agriculture that have impacted traditional horticulture courses such as NMP and in many cases have resulted in the merging of NMP courses with other courses such as greenhouse or garden center management. The number of departments with “horticulture” in the department name was similar to the number of departments with “plant science” in the department name (and not “horticulture”). The five topics covered most frequently included container production, container substrates, fertility, field production, and pot-in-pot production. Most of the respondents indicated that the NMP course in their department included at least one field trip. The top criteria used for selecting field trip locations included type of nursery, distance, innovation, reputation, and the number of aspects that could be viewed. Accessibility and distance to nurseries were listed as primary limitations for providing comprehensive field trips. Most respondents currently use multimedia resources in courses other than NMP, and a majority of respondents indicated that multimedia resources such as DVDs or web-based videos would be valuable for supplementing instruction in NMP, particularly for aspects not observed during field trips.

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Mengmeng Gu, James A. Robbins and Curt R. Rom

One-year-old paper birch (Betula papyrifera Marsh.) seedlings were exposed to water deficit, ethylene, or inhibitors of ethylene action under greenhouse conditions to investigate ethylene's role in water-deficit stress-induced leaf abscission. Exposing well-watered and water-stressed paper birch to 20 ppm ethylene resulted in more than 50% leaf abscission after 96 h regardless of plant water status. However, application of a physiological level (1 ppm) of ethylene did not cause leaf abscission in either well-watered or water-stressed paper birch. Inhibitors of ethylene action (1ppm 1-methylcyclopropene or 0.1 mm silver thiosulfate) did not affect predawn water potential, gas exchange, or chlorophyll fluorescence. A significant increase in ethylene production was not detected in water-stressed paper birch before the onset of significant leaf abscission. Based on these observations, ethylene would appear to play a minor role in water-deficit stress-induced leaf abscission in paper birch.

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Mengmeng Gu, Curt R. Rom and James A. Robbins

Four birch taxa, Betulaalleghaniensis, B. davurica, B. nigra `Heritage', and B. papyrifera, were grown in a greenhouse and exposed to water deficit stress for 35 days. Daily water was withheld from the plants until the combined weight of each container and the plant was reduced to 40% of the control. Supplemental water was supplied to each container to maintain 40% of the initial combined weight. Predawn water potential, gas exchange, and abscised leaf area were measured daily during the first week and at 3-day intervals after the first week. Predawn water potential dropped to lowest value before the containers were rehydrated and remained low throughout the treatment period. Net CO2 assimilation (A), stomatal conductance (gs) and evapotranspiration (Et) of all taxa decreased significantly during the first week of water deficits. Changes in A and Et varied among taxa after the first week of water deficits. Water use efficiency (WUE = A/Et) of four birch taxa decreased to significant lower values than control in the first week that water was withheld, and then increased to significantly higher values than control. Gas exchange data were fit into 2- or 3-segmented linear model. The type and shape of the models, and the joint of each segment gave an indication of how the gas exchange responded to the long-term water deficit stress. At the end of the water deficit treatment, B. papyrifera had abscised most of its leaves and maintained a high A, while B. alleghaniensis maintained more leaves on the tree, but had a relatively low A.

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Mengmeng Gu, James A. Robbins, Curt R. Rom and Jason McAfee

Japanese beetle (Popilla japonica Newman) has caused severe damage on a wide range of horticultural crops since its first introduction to the Eastern United States from Japan in 1916. Leaves are skeletonized by adult beetles feeding in masses, which makes this insect damage easy to identify. In Arkansas, Japanese beetle was first trapped in Washington County in 1997 and has reached epidemic proportions in the most recent three years. Leaf skelotonization and feeding preference on eighteen birch accessions by Japanese beetle were recorded in 2003 and 2004. There was a wide range from no feeding (0% leaf skelotonization) to high feeding preference (89% leaf skelotonization). Betula utilis var. jacquemontii and B. papyrifera `Renaissance Upright' had highest preference. Betula pendula `Laciniata' had no feeding damage from Japanese beetle.

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Haijie Dou, Genhua Niu, Mengmeng Gu and Joseph G. Masabni

Consumption of basil (Ocimum basilicum) has been increasing worldwide in recent years because of its unique aromatic flavor and relatively high concentration of phenolics. To achieve a stable and reliable supply of basil, more growers are turning to indoor controlled-environment production with artificial lighting due to its high environmental controllability and sustainability. However, electricity cost for lighting is a major limiting factor to the commercial application of indoor vertical farming, and little information is available on the minimum light requirement to produce uniform and high-quality sweet basil. To determine the optimal daily light integral (DLI) for sweet basil production in indoor vertical farming, this study investigated the effects of five DLIs, namely, 9.3, 11.5, 12.9, 16.5, and 17.8 mol·m−2·d−1 on basil growth and quality. ‘Improved Genovese Compact’ sweet basil was treated with five DLIs provided by white fluorescent lamps (FLs) for 21 d after germination, and gas exchange rate, growth, yield, and nutritional quality of basil plants were measured to evaluate the effects of the different DLIs on basil growth and quality. Results indicated that basil plants grown under higher DLIs of 12.9, 16.5, or 17.8 mol·m−2·d−1 had higher net photosynthesis, transpiration, and stomatal conductance (g S), compared with those under lower DLIs of 9.3 and 11.5 mol·m−2·d−1. High DLIs resulted in lower chlorophyll (Chl) a+b concentration per leaf fresh weight (FW), higher Chl a/b ratios, and larger and thicker leaves of basil plants. The shoot FW under DLIs of 12.9, 16.5, and 17.8 mol·m−2·d−1 was 54.2%, 78.6%, and 77.9%, respectively, higher than that at a DLI of 9.3 mol·m−2·d−1. In addition, higher DLIs led to higher soluble sugar percent and dry matter percent than lower DLIs. The amounts of total anthocyanin, phenolics, and flavonoids per plant of sweet basil were also positively correlated to DLIs, and antioxidant capacity at a DLI of 17.8 mol·m−2·d−1 was 73% higher than that at a DLI of 9.3 mol·m−2·d−1. Combining the results of growth, yield, and nutritional quality of sweet basil, we suggest a DLI of 12.9 mol·m−2·d−1 for sweet basil commercial production in indoor vertical farming to minimize the energy cost while maintaining a high yield and nutritional quality.