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  • Author or Editor: Sandra A. Balch x
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As the public becomes more aware of environmental concerns, there has been a renewed interest in composting. Municipalities are promoting composting as a way to save diminishing landfill space. Although there are many successful composting programs, many would-be composters are thwarted by a lack of expertise, information, and follow-up support. Brochures, videos, and slide presentations present visual information, but hands-on instruction and active involvement in on-going programs has increased the likelihood of success. Integrating composting into established programs, such as community gardens, institutional programs, education curriculum, and demonstration sites, has proven an effective method of conveying composting information to the public.

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Oenothera biennis, common evening primrose, is grown commercially for its seed, which contains high levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid with pharmaceutical and dietary importance. Other native species of Oenothera are being evaluated for the presence of GLA in their seed and their potential as a commercial source of GLA. Native evening primrose species have shown slow emergence and low germination percentages. Studies were conducted to determine the effects of chilling, scarification, and priming on germination of seed for six species of native evening primrose. Overall, seed germination was improved by seed treatments. However, responses to the various treatments differed among species.

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The objective of this study was to assess the feasibility of utilizing composted municipal yard waste as a component of potting media, which is predominantly composed of peatmoss, a nonrenewable and increasingly expensive medium. Green Comet broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. Italica group) was grown in five ratios (1:0, 1:2, 1:3, and 0:1) of composted yard waste: commercial soilless potting medium. Plant heights were recorded weekly. At the end of 6 weeks, measurements were taken on plant height, fresh weight, dry weight, and root: shoot ratios. Media leachate was tested for pH and soluble salt levels. Germination tests were run using the same potting mix ratios. Percent germination and seedling survivability were recorded. Results show that yard waste compost can be used as a component of potting media, although seed germination and seedling growth are inhibited at high compost levels.

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Oenothera biennis, common evening primrose, produces seeds that have a high oil content containing gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid of medicinal, and dietary importance. These plants are commonly found in sandy or gravelly soils and have the ability to tolerate hot, dry conditions. Plants containing economically important oils such as GLA are potential crops for arid environments with minimal irrigation. Many native species of evening primrose have not yet been evaluated for oil content. In this project, a systematic survey of native Onagraceae species was conducted in the Texas Panhandle and the Texas South Plains. Six species of Oenothera and two species of Calylophus were found. Locations were recorded with a Global Positioning System (GPS) to facilitate relocation and collection. Distribution maps were made for each species. The occurrence of species varied greatly from north to south, with the exception of one species that occurred throughout the area surveyed. Seeds were collected from each species and from various locations within the range of each species. Germination percentages were determined for each species and had a wide variation. Evaluation of the oil content of this native germplasm could possibly lead to development of new commercial sources of GLA.

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Geographically referenced information is an important aspect in the collection of wild plant species. It provides detailed information about the collection site as well as a method of relocating plant populations. In one project, native plants were collected and analyzed for the presence of gamma-linolenic acid, a valuable fatty acid used in medicinal products. In a second project, native wild-flowers were collected and evaluated for potential use as drought-tolerant ornamental landscape plants. All native plants were initially tagged in the spring while in bloom. Each collection site was revisited later for seed collection. Due to a lack of landmarks in the collection area, a GeoExplorer Global Positioning System (GPS) unit was used to capture coordinate data of latitude, longitude, and altitude. This was added to the passport file of each collection site. Differential correction was used to increase accuracy of GPS data to within a range of 10 m. ARC/INFO software was used to assemble, store, and display collection data in map form. This method has been used to document over 300 accessions and identify areas with a high frequency of plants possessing desired characteristics.

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Native wildflowers provide a rich germplasm resource for continued plant improvement. Over the past 10 years, native accessions of Salvia farinacea var. farinacea Benth. have been collected and introduced into an ornamental breeding program. Texas Tech University announces the release of a new mealy blue sage cultivar named ‘Raider Azure’. ‘Raider Azure’ is intended for use as a drought-tolerant native ornamental for demanding landscapes. It has been trialed for use as a perennial bedding plant where it has displayed attractive violet–blue flowers and a vigorous growth habit, which is common in this species. The extended bloom period for mealy blue sage suggests the cultivar ‘Raider Azure’ is well suited for full sun bedding displays in a variety of locations.

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