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Fairuz A. Buajaila, Pinki Devi and Carol A. Miles

Many small-scale vegetable growers in the United States who graft their own vegetable transplants use healing chambers inside a greenhouse to heal their grafted plants. Under these conditions, light and relative humidity (RH) can fluctuate during the healing process, and growers need more research-based information regarding the impact of these factors on the survival of grafted transplants. To address this need, this study investigated the effect of different targeted levels of light (0%, 25%, and 50%) and RH (50% and 100%) (six combinations) in a small-scale healing chamber within a greenhouse, where the healing chamber was opened for increasing periods of time for 8 days, at which time plants were fully exposed to greenhouse conditions. The survival and growth of self-grafted eggplant (Solanum melongena), pepper (Capsicum annuum), and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) were measured up to 25 days post grafting. Percent light in the closed healing chambers was similar for the 50% and 100% RH levels of each light treatment. When the healing chambers were closed, compared with the greenhouse, there was 0.1% light in the 0% light treatments, 25% light on average in the 25% light treatments, and 43% light on average in the 50% light treatments. On days 2 to 5 after grafting, when chambers were opened up to 1 hour, average RH in the healing chambers was 96% to 98% for the 100% RH treatments, and was 42% to 49% for the 50% RH treatments. On days 6 and 7, when chambers were opened for 3 to 8 hours, RH was 79% to 82% for the 100% RH treatments, and was 39% to 46% for the 50% RH treatments. Survival of grafted plants following healing was greatest when the healing chamber treatment was 100% RH and 50% or 25% light (95% and 90% survival, respectively), and plant survival with these two treatments did not significantly decline from 11 to 21 days after grafting, indicating plants were fully healed and acclimated when they were removed from the healing chambers on day 8. At 22 to 25 days following grafting, plants healed with 100% RH and 50% or 25% light had greater plant height, number of leaves per plant, and stem diameter than plants healed in the other light and RH combinations. SPAD reading and nitrate-nitrogen of fresh petiole sap were unaffected by any of the healing treatments tested in this experiment, or by crop type. Tomato and pepper had 14% greater survival rates on average than eggplant at all measurement dates, while tomato tended to have greater plant growth, followed by eggplant and pepper. Additional research is needed to improve survival of grafted eggplant.