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  • Author or Editor: Sukhbir Singh x
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Salinity stress is among the major abiotic stresses prevailing in arid and semiarid areas such as the southern high plains of the United States. In these areas, both declining quality of groundwater and cultivation practices have resulted in increased accumulation of salts in the root zone. The occurrence of excessive salts in the root zone is detrimental for plant growth and economic yield. Recently, biochar has received a great consideration as a soil amendment to mitigate the detrimental impacts of salinity stress. However, the effectiveness of biochar to mitigate the salinity stress depends on the feedstock type, pyrolysis temperature and time, soil type and properties, and plant species. Therefore, a pot experiment in a greenhouse was conducted to 1) examine the effects of salinity stress on physiology, shoot and root growth, and yield of eggplant (Solanum melongena L.), and 2) evaluate the potential of hardwood biochar and softwood biochar to mitigate the damaging effects of salinity stress on eggplant. The experiment was conducted in a split-plot design with three salinity levels of irrigation water [S0 (control, 0.04 dS·m−1), S1 (2 dS·m−1), and S2 (4 dS·m−1)] as main-plot factor and three biochar treatments [B0 (control, non-biochar), Bh (hardwood biochar), and Bs (softwood biochar)] as subplot factor with four replications. Results showed that stomatal conductance (g S) and photosynthesis rate decreased significantly, while leaf temperature and electrolyte leakage increased significantly with increase in irrigation water salinity levels. Root growth (root length density and root surface area density), shoot growth (plant height, stem diameter, and leaf area), and yield of eggplant declined with increase in levels of salinity stress. Biochar application helped to enhance g S and photosynthesis rate, and to decrease leaf temperature and electrolyte leakage in leaf tissues of plants. This resulted in better root growth, shoot growth, and fruit yield of eggplant in treatments amended with biochar than non-biochar (control) treatment. There was no significant difference in the effect of two types of biochars (hardwood and softwood biochar) on physiology, root growth, shoot growth, and yield of eggplant. Therefore, it can be concluded that softwood and hardwood biochars could be used to minimize the detrimental impacts of salinity stress in eggplant.

Open Access

Recent studies suggest that arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) have the potential to improve the growth and yield of eggplant (Solanum melongena L.) under soil-based organic production systems. However, the application of AMF in organic soilless vegetable production in a greenhouse has not been well studied, creating an important knowledge gap. Therefore, two greenhouse experiments [Experiment 1 (E1) and Experiment 2 (E2)] were conducted to investigate the effect of AMF (Glomus spp.) on the growth, gaseous exchange, and yield of eggplant fertilized with various liquid organic fertilizers (OFs) and inorganic fertilizers (IFs) in a soilless greenhouse production system. The experiment was conducted in a split-plot design with four replications in which liquid OFs [OF1 (5N–1P–1K), OF2 (0N–5P–5K and 3N–3P–3K), OF3 (3N–1P–1K), OF4 (5N–1P–2K), OF5 (3.7N–2.7P–3.7K), and OF6 (3N–3P–5K)], and IFs [IF1 (6N–4P–4K) and IF2 (4N–0P–1K and 1N–3P–5K)] were randomized as main plot factor, and AMF [inoculated and uninoculated (control)] as a subplot factor. Results indicate that AMF inoculation had no significant effect on the growth, gaseous exchange, and yield parameters of eggplant. Among different OFs, the eggplant fertilized with OF6 resulted in a 4.3% and 3% reduction of leaf area compared with top-performing IF1 treatment in E1 and E2, respectively. Further, the OF6 treatment resulted in a 12% and 15% reduction in total yield per plant compared with IF1 in E1 and E2, respectively. The differences in plant gaseous exchange parameters were also nonsignificant for eggplants fertilized with different OF and IF treatments in both E1 and E2. These results conclude that Glomus spp. were not associated with a significant increase in the yield of eggplant in the soilless production system. However, OFs were performing similar to IFs in terms of growth and yield, which could be due to a higher nutrient availability of these OFs, which are highly useful for the production of eggplant in greenhouse soilless production systems.

Open Access

Water shortage is one of the major challenges faced by the current agricultural systems worldwide, especially in arid and semi-arid regions. Deficit irrigation (DI), a water-saving strategy of applying less water than crop evapotranspiration (ETc) demands, has been extensively investigated in different crops, including water-intensive vegetables. The DI strategies such as regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) and partial root zone drying (PRD) generally increase water use efficiency (WUE) and have emerged as potential practices to save water for agricultural sustainability. However, in view of the sensitivity of shallow-rooted vegetable crops to water stress, DI is often associated with yield losses. A review of 134 DI reports of vegetable crops revealed significant reductions in yield under all DI levels in 52% of cases and yields statistically similar to those of full irrigation (100% ETc in most cases) under small water deficits in 44% of cases, thereby raising concerns about the sustainability of vegetable production under DI. Biochar, a carbon-rich co-product of pyrolysis of organic matter, is increasingly undergoing study as a soil amendment to mitigate drought stress and is being explored as an additional practice with DI to minimize the yield losses due to water deficits. This work reviews the effects of biochar application on growth, yield, physiology, and WUE of different vegetable crops under DI regimes to determine the potential of biochar and DI used in combination to sustain vegetable productivity in water-limited areas. Overall, the addition of biochar under DI has helped to compensate for yield losses of vegetables and further enhanced WUE. However, field studies investigating long-term soil–biochar interactions that strongly conclude the impact of biochar under moisture stress conditions are lacking.

Free access

Demand for locally produced, organically grown leafy greens is increasing throughout the United States. However, due to lack of efficient organic fertilizers (OFs) for soilless substrates, organic greenhouse production of leafy greens may be challenging. Therefore, a greenhouse study was conducted to analyze the effects of six liquid OFs on growth and development of lettuce in a soilless system. Two experiments were conducted using a randomized block design, and treatments included six fish- or plant-based OFs: OF1 (5N–1P–1K), OF2 (2N–5P–1K), OF3 (3N–1P–1K), OF4 (2N–2P–2K), OF5 (4N–1P–1K), and OF6 (3N–3P–2K); one inorganic fertilizer treatment (IF, 24N–8P–16K); and one unfertilized control treatment. Fertilizer solutions were prepared at 2 dS⋅m–1 and applied at 100 mL/plant. In Expt. 1, fresh biomass for IF-treated plants was 12% to 38% greater than OF treatments, whereas this difference ranged from 25% to 57% in Expt. 2. Similarly, leaf area values of IF-treated plants were 5% to 40% greater than OF treatments in Expt. 1, and the difference ranged from 28% to 90% in Expt. 2. A possible explanation could be greater availability of nutrients in the IF treatment compared with OF treatments. There was no significant difference among fertilized treatments for number of leaves and stem diameter. Based on the index-based ranking, fish-based (OF1) and fish- and plant-based (OF2 and OF6) performed well among different liquid OFs used in the study. Although the yield under OFs was less compared with that under IF, there is potential to reduce this yield gap by optimized fertility management of these fertilizers. Future research is needed to investigate the impact of optimized rate, timing, different placement, and additional nitrogen (N) sources of OFs on the soilless production of lettuce.

Open Access

Peat is one of the most commonly used substrates in soilless cultivation. However, peat mining produces a negative carbon footprint, which raises the need for alternative sustainable substrate media. To address this, we studied the impact of peat replacement with a combination of various biochars and cotton burr compost on the growth and yield of cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.), and nutrient concentration of media, plant leaf, and fruit in greenhouse conditions. Two experiments were conducted from Nov 2020 through Jan 2021 (Trial 1) and from Feb to Apr 2021 (Trial 2). The treatments were control (peat, vermiculite, and perlite at 2:1:1) and in the control peat was either fully replaced (hardwood biochar+compost, softwood biochar+compost, and hemp biochar+compost) or partially replaced up to 50% (v/v) (hardwood biochar+compost, softwood biochar+compost, and hemp biochar+compost). The control media was more acidic with lowest electrical conductivity than the other treatments. The leaf chlorophyll content and the photosynthetic assimilation rate varied among the treatments in both trials. The final dry shoot biomass was lowest in peat-dominated control treatment suggesting biochar-compost in the substrate media contributed in increased dry biomass of the cucumber plant. The total number of fruits per plant and total yield per plant was significantly increased in all the treatments with the highest in hardwood biochar+compost, compared with the control. The nutrient concentration of media, leaf, and fruit indicates that biochar-compost enhances the nutritional status of the media, which supplies essential nutrients to the plant leaf and fruit while growing in different substrate compositions. Our results suggest that the replacement of peat with full or partial proportions of biochar-compost can produce similar and, in some cases, even better growth, yield, and physiology in potted cucumber than in the unamended control treatment.

Open Access

Water scarcity is increasing in the world, which is limiting crop production, especially in water-limited areas such as Southern High Plains of the United States. There is a need to adopt the irrigation management practices that can help to conserve water and sustain crop production in such water-limited areas. A 2-year field study was conducted during the summers of 2019 and 2020 to evaluate the effect of deficit irrigation levels and cultivars on root distribution pattern, soil water depletion, and water use efficiency (WUE) of cucumber (Cucumis sativus). The experiment was conducted in a split-plot design with four irrigation levels [100%, 80%, 60%, and 40% crop evapotranspiration (ETc)] as main plot factor and two cultivars (Poinsett 76 and Marketmore 76) as subplot factor with three replications. Results showed that root length density (RLD) was unaffected by the irrigation levels in 2019. In 2020, the RLD was comparable between 100% and 80% ETc, and it was significantly higher in 100% ETc than both 60% Eand 40% ETc. Root surface area density (RSAD) was not significantly different between 100% and 80% ETc, and it was significantly lower in both 60% and 40% ETc than 100% ETc in both years. Soil water depletion was the highest in 40% ETc followed by 60% and 80% ETc, and it was least in 100% ETc in both years. Evapotranspiration (ET) was the highest in 100% ETc followed by 80%, 60%, and 40% ETc. The WUE was not statistically different among the irrigation treatments. However, numerically, WUE was observed in the following order: 80% ETc > 100% ETc > 60% ETc > 40% ETc. The RLD, RSAD, soil water depletion, and ET were not significantly different between ‘Poinsett 76’ and ‘Marketmore 76’. However, fruit yield was significantly higher in ‘Poinsett 76’ than ‘Marketmore 76’, which resulted in higher WUE in Poinsett 76. It can be concluded that 80% ETc and Poinsett 76 cultivar can be adopted for higher crop water productivity and successful cucumber production in SHP.

Open Access

Colored shading nets have been increasingly studied in semi-arid crop production systems, primarily because of their ability to reduce solar radiation with the attendant reductions in air, plant, and soil temperatures. However, there is a paucity of research concerning the impact of colored shading nets on various crops grown under semi-arid environments, particularly the sweet pepper (Capsicum annum) production system. This study aimed to investigate the effects of three colored shading net treatments (i.e., white, green, and black shading nets with 50% shading intensity and control with unshaded conditions) on the growth and instantaneous water use efficiency (WUE) of sweet pepper. The results showed that all colored shading nets exhibited significantly lower daytime air temperatures and light intensity (22 to 28 °C and 9992 lx, respectively) compared with the control (32 to 37 °C and 24,973 lx, respectively). There were significant differences in sweet pepper growth performance among treatments, including plant height, shoot dry weight, leaf area, leaf chlorophyll content, and vitamin C in ripened fruit. The enhanced photosynthetic rates were observed in sweet pepper plants under the colored shading nets compared with control plants. WUE increased among the colored shading net treatments in the following order: control ≤ white < black < green. Overall, the application of green and black shading nets to sweet pepper production systems under semi-arid environments significantly enhanced plant growth responses and WUE.

Open Access