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T. Casey Barickman, Dean A. Kopsell and Carl E. Sams

One important regulator that coordinates response to environmental stress is the hormone abscisic acid (ABA), which is synthesized from xanthophyll pigments. Despite the fact that there is strong evidence of increases in ABA concentrations under various environmental stresses, information concerning the effects of exogenous ABA applications on leaf pigments and fruit carotenoids in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is lacking. This study investigated the impacts of root tissue ABA applications on tomato leaf and fruit pigmentation concentrations of ‘MicroTina’ and ‘MicroGold’ tomato plants. Tomato plants were treated with increasing concentrations of ABA in the nutrient solution. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine dose–response effects of ABA treatment in solution culture for maximum leaf pigmentation and fruit carotenoids in two distinct genotypes of dwarf tomato. Because ABA is a product of the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway, we hypothesized that applications of ABA treatments would have a positive impact on leaf chlorophylls and carotenoids. Applications of ABA treatments may also have a positive impact on tomato fruit carotenoids. The results indicated that ‘MicroTina’ plants treated with ABA (0.5, 5.0, and 10.0 mg·L−1) had a significant increase in β-carotene [BC (P ≤ 0.001)], lutein [LUT (P ≤ 0.001)], zeaxanthin [ZEA (P ≤ 0.05)], and neoxanthin [NEO (P ≤ 0.001)] in the leaf tissue. In ‘MicroGold’ tomato plants, carotenoids responded similarly. For example, there were significant increases in BC (P ≤ 0.01), LUT (P ≤ 0.001), ZEA (P ≤ 0.05), and NEO (P ≤ 0.001). In ‘MicroTina’ tomato leaves, there were significant increases in chlorophyll a [Chl a (P ≤ 0.001)] and chlorophyll b [Chl b (P ≤ 0.001)] concentrations. Furthermore, there were significant increases in Chl a (P ≤ 0.001) and Chl b (P ≤ 0.001) in ‘MicroGold’ leaf tissue. In ‘MicroTina’ tomato fruit tissue, the concentration increased significantly for lycopene [LYCO (P ≤ 0.01)]. However, in ‘MicroGold’, there were no significant changes in BC and LUT concentrations. In addition, LYCO was found to be below detection limits in ‘MicroGold’ tomato fruit. Therefore, ABA has been shown to positively change tomato leaf pigments in both genotypes and fruit tissue carotenoid concentrations in ‘MicroTina’ tomato.

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T. Casey Barickman, Dean A. Kopsell and Carl E. Sams

Plants encounter various environmental stress factors that can potentially impact nutritional requirements and fruit quality. Adequate levels of calcium (Ca) in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) fruit have positive effects on fruit quality, specifically firmness. One of the results of insufficient Ca uptake and movement in tomato is the physiological disorder blossom-end rot (BER), which is associated with a Ca deficiency in the distal fruit tissue. Previous research has demonstrated that foliar abscisic acid (ABA) applications decreased the incidence of BER and increased the uptake of Ca into fruit tissue. This study examined how root and foliar spray ABA applications, individually and in combination, affect the partitioning of Ca between the leaves and fruit of tomato plants, especially in the distal tissue, and how ABA affects the incidence of BER in the distal tissue of tomato fruit. ‘Mt. Fresh Plus’ tomato were grown in the greenhouse at 25/20 °C (day/night) under a 16-hour photoperiod. Plants were treated with different Ca concentrations in the fertilizer solution. Plants were also treated with foliar spray ABA applications weekly. Calcium was applied through the irrigation lines at 60, 90, or 180 mg·L−1. ABA treatments were applied as a combination of foliar sprays and root applications. Foliar ABA applications, treatments consisted of deionized (DI) water control (0.0 mg ABA/L) or 500 mg ABA/L. For ABA root applications, treatments consisted of a DI water control (0.0 mg ABA/L) or 50 mg ABA/L applied through the irrigation lines. ABA spray treatments were applied once weekly until dripping from the foliage (tops of pots were covered to prevent spray drip into the pot), whereas root applications were applied four times per day through the irrigation system. Fruit tissues were harvested 84 to 90 days after seeding. Fruit tissue was harvested at red ripe maturity and evaluated for yield, BER, and Ca concentrations. Leaves were harvested at the time of fruit and were analyzed for Ca concentrations. The results indicate that a combination of the spray and root applications of ABA resulted in the greatest decrease in BER. The foliar spray application of ABA combined with the Ca treatment of 180 mg·L−1 decreased the incidence of BER. Results also demonstrate that ABA treatments are effective in increasing fruit Ca and preventing BER in the early stages of plant development but are less effective in preventing Ca deficiency in the later stages of growth.

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T. Casey Barickman, Dean A. Kopsell and Carl E. Sams

Plant growth regulators (PGRs) are chemicals used on a wide range of horticultural crops. These exogenous chemicals, similar to endogenous plant hormones, regulate plant development and stimulate a desired growth response, such as control of plant height. One such PGR is abscisic acid (ABA), which has been used effectively to improve fruit quality, specifically sugars and phytonutrients. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of exogenous applications of ABA on tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) fruit quality, such as carotenoids, soluble sugars and organic acids, and ABA on tomato leaf chlorophylls and carotenoids. Furthermore, this study compared how ABA and calcium (Ca) treatments together affect fruit quality and whether there are added benefits to treating plants with both simultaneously. ABA treatments proved effective in increasing tomato fruit soluble sugars and decreasing organic acid concentrations. This study demonstrated that ABA is a viable PGR to significantly improve tomato fruit quality, specifically pertaining to carotenoids, soluble sugar, and organic acid concentrations.

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Dean A. Kopsell, Carl E. Sams, T. Casey Barickman and Robert C. Morrow

Previous research in our group demonstrated that short-duration exposure to narrow-band blue wavelengths of light can improve the nutritional quality of sprouting broccoli (Brassica oleacea var. italica) microgreens. The objective of this study was to measure the impact of different percentages of blue light on the concentrations of nutritional quality parameters of sprouting broccoli microgreens and to compare incandescent/fluorescent light with light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Microgreen seeds were cultured hydroponically on growing pads under light treatments of: 1) fluorescent/incandescent light; 2) 5% blue (442 to 452 nm)/95% red (622 to 632 nm); 3) 5% blue/85% red/10% green (525 to 535 nm); 4) 20% blue/80% red; and 5) 20% blue/70% red/10% green in controlled environments. Microgreens were grown at an air temperature of 24 °C and a 16-hour photoperiod using a light intensity of 250 μmol·m−2·s−1 for all light treatments. On emergence of the first true leaf, a nutrient solution of 42 mg·L−1 nitrogen (N) (20% Hoagland’s #2 solution) was used to submerge the growing pads. Microgreens were harvested after 20 days under the light treatments and shoot tissues were processed and measured for nutritionally important shoot pigments, glucosinolates, and mineral nutrients. Microgreens under the fluorescent/incandescent light treatment had significantly lower shoot fresh mass than plants under the 5% blue/95% red, 5% blue/85% red/10% green, and the 20% blue/80% red LED light treatments. The highest concentrations of shoot tissue chlorophyll, β-carotene, lutein, total carotenoids, calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), phosphorus (P), sulfur (S), boron (B), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), zinc (Zn), glucoiberin, glucoraphanin, 4-methoxyglucobrassicin, and neoglucobrassicin were found in microgreens grown under the 20% blue/80% red light treatment. In general, the fluorescent/incandescent light treatment resulted in significantly lower concentrations of most metabolites measured in the sprouting broccoli tissue. Results from the current study clearly support data from many previous reports that describe stimulation of primary and secondary metabolite biosynthesis by exposure to blue light wavelengths from LEDs.

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Tongyin Li, Guihong Bi, Judson LeCompte, T. Casey Barickman and Bill B. Evans

Colored shadecloths are used in the production of vegetable, fruit, and ornamental crops to manipulate the light spectrum and to induce specific plant physiological responses. The influence of three colored shadecloths (red, blue, and black) with 50% shade and a no-shade control on the production of two lettuce (Lactuca sativa) cultivars [Two Star (green-leaf) and New Red Fire (red-leaf)] and snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) was investigated. Use of shadecloth increased plant growth indices of lettuce and total length of snapdragon flower stems (at the first harvest) compared with no-shade control. Red shadecloth resulted in longer flower stems of snapdragon (at the second harvest) than black and blue shadecloths and no-shade control. However, shadecloth delayed blooming of snapdragon for 1 week compared with no-shade control. Stomatal conductance (g s) and leaf transpiration rate of both lettuce cultivars and photosynthetic rate and transpiration rate of snapdragon were decreased in response to shadecloth treatments. All shadecloths decreased health beneficial flavonoids (luteolin/quercetin glucuronide and quercetin malonyl concentrations for both lettuce cultivars and cyanidin glucoside in red-leaf lettuce). The two lettuce cultivars varied in their phenolic compounds, with the green-leaf ‘Two Star’ having higher quercetin glucoside and caftaric acid than red-leaf ‘New Red Fire’, whereas ‘New Red Fire’ had higher concentrations of chlorogenic acid, luteolin/quercetin glucuronide, and quercetin malonyl. Shadecloths reduced substrate temperature and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) to about half of full sunlight compared with no-shade control, which may have contributed to reduced g s and leaf transpiration (for lettuce and snapdragon), decreased phenolic compounds in lettuce, and delayed flowering of snapdragon.

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T. Casey Barickman, Thomas E. Horgan, Jennifer R. Wheeler and Carl E. Sams

Lettuce is one of the major crops of the United States and can provide a large portion of income for small to medium size growers. Growing lettuce in adverse environmental conditions can have negative effects on quality. Elevated levels of potassium (K) have been shown to positively influence quality in various fruits and vegetables, such as tomato, pepper, and strawberry. However, research is lacking on the effects of elevated levels of K on leafy vegetables such as lettuce. Therefore, seeds of ‘Cimmaron’ lettuce were sown into a soilless medium and grown in greenhouse conditions at 25/20 °C (day/night). At 27 days after seeding, the plantlets were transferred to 3.8-L plastic nursery pots. Plants were grown under increasing K treatments of 98 (control), 185 (2×), 370 (3×), and 740 (8×) kg·ha−1. Plants were harvested 56 days after seeding. Application of elevated levels of K fertilizer treatments in red romaine lettuce had a positive quadratic effect on plant height increasing 7.0% from the control. Fresh weight (FW) increased 13.0% from the control and dry weight (DW) increased 15.5%. There was linear increase of 30.0% in sucrose concentrations in lettuce leaf tissue. In addition, the increase in K treatments caused an increase of 43.3% in K concentrations in the leaf tissue. In other nutrients, such as Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), and Sulfur (S), there was a decrease in the leaf tissue of 61%, 52%, and 46% when compared with the control treatment, respectively. The results of the current study suggest that increasing K fertilizer to 185 kg·ha−1 has the best results for plant height, FW and DW, and mineral nutrient concentrations. This study may initiate research that could examine the effects of increasing K fertilizer levels in lettuce or other leafy green vegetables on antioxidant levels and postharvest storability.

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Dean A. Kopsell, Carl E. Sams, T. Casey Barickman, Dennis E. Deyton and David E. Kopsell

Selenium (Se) is an essential mammalian micronutrient. Adult humans have a daily requirement of 55 to 70 μg/day Se depending on sex and pregnancy/lactation for females. In addition, recent studies have shown health benefits with dietary Se supplementation of 100 to 200 μg/day Se. However, daily intakes in humans greater than 900 μg Se will result in toxicity called selenosis. Although not essential in plant nutrition, some species can bioaccumulate Se. Brassica and Allium species became prime candidates for Se enrichment because of their ability to accumulate and tolerate high concentrations of Se in edible tissues; however, there is now concern that these species are too efficient at selenization and overconsumption of their selenized tissues could result in selenosis. Herbal crop species are consumed regularly in the diet for their culinary flavor attributes. Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) and cilantro (Coridandrum sativum L.) are not classified as Se accumulators. Therefore, a study was undertaken to determine the potential to selenize basil and cilantro through foliar Se applications to consistently supplement diets with nutritionally beneficial levels of Se. Plants of each species were grown in both growth chamber and field environments and treated with foliar applications (5 mL per plant) of selenate-Se and selenite-Se at concentrations of 0, 2, 4, 8, 16, and 32 mg·L−1 Se. Crops received three separate foliar applications at ≈5-day intervals beginning 24 to 28 days after planting for the growth chamber plants and 50 days after planning for the field environment. Selenium accumulation in both basil and cilantro leaf tissues increased linearly under both selenate-Se (P ≤ 0.001) and selenite-Se (P ≤ 0.001) foliar treatments in growth chamber and field evaluations. Maximum Se leaf tissue concentrations for basil and cilantro ranged from 13 to 55 μg·g−1 Se dry weight. Selenization of basil and cilantro is possible through foliar Se applications, and Se fortification of herbal crops may provide alternative delivery systems in human diets.

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Erick G. Begitschke, James D. McCurdy, Te-Ming Tseng, T. Casey Barickman, Barry R. Stewart, Christian M. Baldwin, Michael P. Richard and Maria Tomaso-Peterson

Preemergence herbicides generally have a negative effect on hybrid bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. × C. transvaalensis Burtt-Davy] establishment. However, little is known about the effect they have on root architecture and development. Research was conducted to determine the effects of commonly used preemergence herbicides on ‘Latitude 36’ hybrid bermudagrass root architecture and establishment. The experiment was conducted in a climate-controlled greenhouse maintained at 26 °C day/night temperature at Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS, from Apr. 2016 to June 2016 and repeated from July 2016 to Sept. 2016. Hybrid bermudagrass plugs (31.6 cm2) were planted in 126-cm2 pots (1120 cm3) and preemergence herbicide treatments were applied 1 d after planting at the recommended labeled rate for each herbicide. Preemergence herbicide treatments included atrazine, atrazine + S-metolachlor, dithiopyr, flumioxazin, indaziflam, liquid and granular applied oxadiazon, S-metolachlor, pendimethalin, prodiamine, and simazine. Treatments were arranged in a completely randomized design with four replications. Plugs treated with indaziflam and liquid applied oxadiazon failed to achieve 50% hybrid bermudagrass cover by the end of the experiment. Of the remaining herbicide treatments, all herbicides other than granular applied oxadiazon and atrazine increased the number of days required to reach 50% cover (Days50). In addition, all herbicide treatments reduced root mass when harvested 6 weeks after treatment (WAT) relative to the nontreated. By 10 WAT, all treatments reduced root mass in run 1, but during run 2, only prodiamine, pendimethalin, simazine, atrazine + S-metolachlor, liquid applied oxadiazon, and indaziflam reduced dry root mass compared with the nontreated. At 4 WAT, all treatments other than simazine and granular applied oxadiazon reduced root length when compared with the nontreated. By 10 WAT, only dithiopyr, S-metolachlor alone, and indaziflam reduced root length when compared with the nontreated. No differences were detected in the total amounts of nonstarch nonstructural carbohydrates (TNSC) within the roots in either run of the experiment. Results suggest that indaziflam, dithiopyr, and S-metolachlor are not safe on newly established hybrid bermudagrass and should be avoided during establishment. For all other treatments, hybrid bermudagrass roots were able to recover from initial herbicidal injury by 10 WAT; however, future research should evaluate tensile strength of treated sod.