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Hira Singh, Pradeep Kumar, Sushila Chaudhari and Menahem Edelstein

Grafting of vegetable seedlings is a unique horticultural technology practiced for many years in East Asia to overcome issues associated with intensive cultivation using limited arable land. This technology was introduced to Europe and other countries in the late 20th century along with improved grafting methods suitable for commercial production of grafted vegetable seedlings. Tomato grafting is becoming a well-developed practice worldwide with many horticultural advantages. The primary motivation for grafting tomato has been to prevent the damage caused by soilborne pathogens under intensive production system. However, recent reports suggest that grafting onto suitable rootstocks can also alleviate the adverse effects of abiotic stresses such as salinity, water, temperature, and heavy metals besides enhancing the efficiency of water and nutrient use of tomato plants. This review gives an overview of the scientific literatures on the various aspects of tomato grafting including important steps of grafting, grafting methods, scion–rootstock interaction, and rootstock-derived changes in vegetative growth, fruit yield, and quality in grafted plants under different growing conditions. This review also highlights the economic significance of grafted tomato cultivation and offers discussion on the future thrust and technical issues that need to be addressed for the effective adoption of grafting.

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Susan L. Barkley, Jonathan R. Schultheis, Sushila Chaudhari, Suzanne D. Johanningsmeier, Katherine M. Jennings, Van-Den Truong and David W. Monks

Studies were conducted in 2012 and 2013 to compare Evangeline to various sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) varieties (Bayou Belle, Beauregard, Bonita, Covington, NC05-198, and Orleans) for commercial production in North Carolina. In another study, microwaved and oven-baked ‘Evangeline’ and ‘Covington’ sweetpotato roots were subjected to analysis of chemical and physical properties [color, dry matter (DM), texture, and sugar] and to sensory evaluation for determining consumer acceptance. ‘NC05-198’ produced the highest no. 1 grade sweetpotato 600 bushels [bu (50 lb)] per acre and total marketable storage root yield was similar to ‘Bayou Belle’ and ‘Beauregard’ (841, 775, and 759 bu/acre, respectively). No. 1 and marketable root yields were similar between ‘Orleans’ and ‘Beauregard’. However, ‘Orleans’ produced more uniform roots than ‘Beauregard’, in which the latter had higher cull production. ‘Evangeline’ was comparable to no. 1 yield of ‘Bayou Belle’, ‘Orleans’, and ‘Covington’, which indicates the ability of this variety to produce acceptable yields in North Carolina conditions. ‘Covington’ had slightly higher DM than ‘Evangeline’, but instrumental texture analysis showed that these varieties did not differ significantly in firmness after cooking. However, microwaved roots were measurably firmer than oven-baked roots for both varieties. In this study, ‘Evangeline’ had higher levels of fructose and glucose, with similar levels of sucrose and maltose to ‘Covington’. Consumers (n = 100) indicated no difference between varieties in their “just about right” moisture level, texture, and flavor ratings, but showed a preference for Evangeline flesh color over Covington. Consumers in this study preferred oven-baked over microwaved sweetpotato (regardless of variety) and indicated that Evangeline is as acceptable as the standard variety Covington when grown in the North Carolina environment.

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Peter J. Dittmar, Jonathan R. Schultheis, Katherine M. Jennings, David W. Monks, Sushila Chaudhari, Stephen Meyers and Chen Jiang

The reason for internal necrosis occurrences in sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) storage roots is not well understood. This disorder begins internally in the storage roots as small light brown spots near the proximal end of the root that eventually can become more enlarged as brown/black regions in the cortex. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of ethephon and flooding on the development of internal necrosis in the sweetpotato cultivars Beauregard, Carolina Ruby, and Covington over storage durations from 9 to 150 days after harvest (DAH) when roots had been cured. Soil moisture treatments were no-flooding, and simulated flooding that was created by applying 10 inches of overhead irrigation during 2 weeks before harvest. Ethephon was applied at 0, 0.75, and 0.98 lb/acre 2 weeks before harvest. Overall, ‘Covington’ and ‘Carolina Ruby’ had greater internal necrosis incidence (22% to 65% and 32% to 51%, respectively) followed by ‘Beauregard’ (9% to 22%) during storage duration from 9 to 150 DAH at both soil moistures. No significant change was observed for either internal necrosis incidence or severity for ‘Beauregard’ and ‘Carolina Ruby’ over the storage duration of 9–150 DAH. However, there was an increase of internal necrosis incidence and severity 9–30 DAH in ‘Covington’, with incidence and severity remaining similar 30–150 DAH. Storage roots in treatments sprayed with 0.75 or 0.98 lb/acre ethephon had higher internal necrosis incidence and severity compared with the nontreated, regardless of cultivars at both soil moistures. This research confirms that sweetpotato cultivars differ in their susceptibility to internal necrosis (incidence and severity), ethephon applied to foliage can contribute to internal necrosis development in storage roots, and internal necrosis incidence reaches a maximum by 30 DAH in ‘Covington’ and 9 DAH in ‘Carolina Ruby’ and ‘Beauregard’.

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William B. Thompson, Jonathan R. Schultheis, Sushila Chaudhari, David W. Monks, Katherine M. Jennings and Garry L. Grabow

Studies were conducted in North Carolina to determine the effect of holding durations (HDs) [0, 1, 3, 5, and 7 days before planting (DBP)] of ‘Covington’ sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) transplants on plant stand and storage root numbers and yield in production fields. In a second field study, the effect of preplant irrigation (PI) treatments (PI and nonirrigation) were evaluated along with the transplant HD on plant stand, storage root numbers, and yield. Transplants held for 7 DBP did not survive as well as the other treatments (lower plant stands) and had lower no. 1, marketable, and total storage root numbers and yields than other holding treatments. HD of 1 or 3 DBP resulted in higher plant stands, and no. 1, marketable, and total numbers of storage roots and yields than holding for 0, 5, or 7 DBP. This study affirms the importance of soil moisture at and shortly after planting for transplant survival and yield. Holding transplants for 1–3 DBP can improve stand establishment and yields when dry conditions occur either before or soon after planting. However, holding transplants for 7 DBP can result in reduced plant stands and yields when stress/dry conditions occur soon after planting.

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William B. Thompson, Jonathan R. Schultheis, Sushila Chaudhari, David W. Monks, Katherine M. Jennings and Garry L. Grabow

A research gap exists on the effects of irrigation, transplant (nonrooted stem cuttings) size, and planting depth on sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) plant survival and storage root yield. Field studies were conducted in 2012 and 2013 to determine the effects of preplant irrigation, planting depth, and transplant size on sweetpotato plant stand, storage root number, and yield. Treatments included four transplant sizes (3.7, 6.3, 8.5, and 10.7 inches), two planting depths (2 and 6 inches), and preplant irrigation or nonirrigation. Overall, plant stand, storage root number, and yield were greater when transplants of size ≥6.3 inches were planted 6 inches deep as compared with transplants planted 2 inches deep. The use of preplant irrigation had an overall positive impact on plant stand, storage root number, and yield under dry soil conditions. When moisture was readily available, neither plant stand nor storage root numbers were affected by the application of irrigation as observed in 2013. However, sweetpotato yields were greater during both years when preplant irrigation was used. Irrigation during the root initiation phase of plant establishment or extended periods of no rainfall would be beneficial for improving plant stands and yields.

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Susan L. Barkley, Sushila Chaudhari, Jonathan R. Schultheis, Katherine M. Jennings, Stephen G. Bullen and David W. Monks

There is a research gap with respect to documenting the effects of sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) seed root density and size on transplant yield and quality. Field studies were conducted in 2012 and 2014 to determine the effect of sweetpotato seed root (canner size) density [12, 24, 37, 49, 61, 73, and 85 bushels [bu (50 lb)] per 1000 ft2] on ‘Covington’ and ‘Evangeline’ slip production in propagation beds. Another field study was conducted in 2012 and 2013; treatments included canner, no. 1, and jumbo-size ‘Covington’ roots at 49 bu/1000 ft2, to determine the effect of seed root size on slip production. As seed root density increased in the propagation bed, transplant production increased with no change in slip quality as measured by node counts and slip length except for stem diameter. In 2012, the best marketable slip yield was obtained at root densities of 73 and 85 bu/1000 ft2. In 2014, marketable slip production of ‘Evangeline’ increased as seed root density increased at a greater rate than ‘Covington’. In 2014, the best seed root density for marketable slip production was 49 to 85 bu/1000 ft2 for ‘Covington’ and 85 bu/1000 ft2 for ‘Evangeline’. In 2012, potential slip revenues increased with an increase in seed root density up to 73 bu/1000 ft2. In 2014, revenue trend was similar for ‘Covington’ as 2012; however, for ‘Evangeline’, revenue was greatest at 85 bu/1000 ft2. Seed root size had no effect on marketable slip production when using a once-over harvest system. Results suggest growers would use a seed root density from 49 to 85 bu/1000 ft2 depending on variety, and any size roots for production of optimum marketable slips. Selection of optimum seed root density also depends on grower needs; e.g., high seed root density strategy will have a higher risk due to the upfront, higher seed costs, but potentially have higher profits at harvest time. Lower seed root density strategy would be a lower initial risk with a lower seed cost, but also potentially have lower net revenues.