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  • Author or Editor: Michael Stein x
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Seeds of sweet cherry (Prunus avium) possess a strong endodormancy response that traditionally requires months of stratification before germination can occur. Accelerating artificial dormancy release could be an important aspect of improving progress in a sweet cherry breeding program by increasing the first season growth period. In this study, seeds were exogenously treated with ethephon, 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC), kinetin, hydrogen peroxide, and acidified nitrite to attempt to induce germination with reduced stratification times. Findings showed that ethephon, ACC, and hydrogen peroxide all significantly increase early seed germination rates. Stratification time had the largest effect on increasing germinations, with significantly higher germination percentages accompanying increased stratification times that plateaued at 3 months of stratification. Stratification is vital for proper seedling development because plants grown from seeds with no stratification are significantly shorter and have reduced internode lengths compared with seeds with 4 weeks of stratification.

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Cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) and habanero pepper (Capsicum chinense Jacq.) growers have observed increased crop yield by placing bees in close proximity to these vegetable crops. However, adding managed bees typically may not be feasible for small-scale farmers or homeowners. Limited studies have demonstrated the potential of pollinator-attracting plants to be used as a lure to enhance the visitation of pollinators to adjacent food crops. This study evaluated the potential of adding pollinator-attracting plants in close proximity to cucumber and habanero plants to improve yields by either establishing permanent perennial companion plantings adjacent to the crops or interplanting annual companion plants within the row anew with each crop. The perennial treatment group consisted of Phyla nodiflora (L.) Greene, Borrichia frutescens (L.) DC., Salvia farinacea Benth. ‘Henry Duelberg’, and Eysenhardtia texana Scheele. The annual treatment group consisted of Cosmos bipinnatus Cav., Zinnia ×marylandica D.M. Spooner, Stimart, & T. Boyle, Borago officinalis L., and Ocimum basilicum L. Multiple cropping cycles were initiated using both spring and fall seasons, and yield was assessed for three successive cropping cycles. Fruit quality was unaffected by pollinator-attracting companion plantings; however total and marketable yields were impacted. Cucumber yields were significantly (P < 0.05) greater during fall harvests with annual companion plantings and with the second fall harvest in perennial companion plant plots. Perennial companion plots initially yielded less than control plots or annual companion plots due to the space allocated to the companion plantings and the fewer pollinators initially attracted to the plots compared with the annual companion plantings. When the perennial plots became more established, they resulted in similar yields as the annual companion planting plots. Although habanero yields were increased by annual companion plantings in spring and fall, cucumbers were unaffected by companion plantings in spring. This suggests a potential seasonality for the efficacy of some pollinator-attracting companion plantings for a given crop that could offer an opportunity to tailor companion plantings to attract specific pollinators at different times of the year.

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Plant trialing and marketing assistance programs have become popular in recent years with several state and some regional programs emerging. Successful implementation requires considerable labor, facilities, and monetary resources for evaluation of large numbers of taxa over several years to ensure that plants are well adapted to the region of interest. Research and development funds, dedicated facilities, and cooperator commitment to trialing programs can be limiting during the early years of the programs. Involvement in plant trialing programs allows students to be exposed to plot layout planning, statistical design, plant maintenance, data collection and analysis, and professional communication of trial results. Construction of facilities for conducting plant trials, growing plants for use in trials, trial installation, and maintenance of plants all provide practical hands-on horticultural training. Replicated plant trials provide the latest information on regionally adapted taxa for inclusion in classroom instruction and publications. Plant trialing programs benefit from labor assistance, development of dedicated facilities, and the opportunity to share equipment and supplies among teaching, trialing, and student research projects.

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The Coordinated Educational and Marketing Assistance Program identifies outstanding landscape plants for Texas and provides support for the nursery industry, thereby making superior plants available to Texans. CEMAP funding comes directly from industry and from consumers through the sale of plant tags bearing the Texas Superstar logo. Additionally, the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association and Texas Department of Agriculture is conducting a Texas Superstar publicity campaign. An estimated $10 million in new plant sales have been generated during the first 10 years of this program. Because plants are chosen based on their performance under minimal input conditions, Texas SuperStars greatly reduce their impact on the urban environment.

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