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W.C. Lin and P.A. Jolliffe

The importance of light intensity and spectral quality on fruit color and shelf life of long English cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) was studied in four greenhouse experiments. The intensity of cucumber greenness was measured nondestructively by video imaging, and shelf life was measured by visual observation of incipient yellowing. In the summer, filters were used to cover individual fruit to reduce light intensity reaching the fruit surface. The lower the light intensity incident on a cucumber, the shorter its shelf life. The average shelf life was 8, 5, or 1 days for cucumbers receiving 100%, 66%, or 31% of natural daylight, respectively. The fruit that were covered with a filter transmitting red (R) light were greener (low grey level via video imaging) than those with a far-red (FR) filter. In the fall, fruit receiving spectral R lighting from fluorescence tubes were greener and had a longer shelf life than those receiving FR lighting from incandescent bulbs. In the winter, high-pressure sodium (HPS) lighting was necessary to supplement natural daylight for crop growth and production. Under HPS, R and FR lighting produced the same fruit greenness and shelf life. In the spring, R-lighted fruit had longer shelf life than FR-lighted ones, although fruit color at harvest was similar. In these four experiments, postharvest shelf life of long English cucumber was generally related to fruit greenness upon harvest. The data suggest the importance of an open canopy in improving fruit greenness and shelf life of greenhouse-grown cucumbers.

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P.A. Jolliffe and W.C. Lin

Variation in shelf life of greenhouse-grown `Mustang' cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) fruit was enhanced by preharvest experimental treatments of fruit thinning and fruit shading. Treatments also affected the dynamics of fruit elongation, fruit color at harvest, and chlorophyll fluorescence of the pericarp. Fruit color (grey level) at harvest, as measured by image analysis, had the highest simple (positive) correlation with shelf life. Rapid elongation and high photochemical quenching of fluorescence also characterized fruit having longer shelf life. The ability to predict cucumber yellowing is improved using a multiple regression approach, but prediction achieved by the best subset model is still too low to segregate commercially fruit having a short shelf life.

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W.C. Lin and D.L. Ehret

Long English cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) plants were treated with one of three nutrient concentrations in combination with two fruit thinning treatments forming a 3 × 2 factorial greenhouse experiment. High nutrient concentration enhanced fruit color at harvest and prolonged shelf life but reduced marketable fruit per plant. Thinning of one-third of the fruit from the main stem and laterals had a similar effect. Cucumbers harvested from the upper canopy generally had longer shelf life than those from the lower canopy. Shelf life was correlated with fruit color at harvest.

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W.C. Lin, J.W. Hall and A. Klieber

A video-imaging technique, using commercial software to process images obtained at 550 nm, was established to estimate chlorophyll content of cucumber fruit disks. The chlorophyll content of excised disks was extracted, determined, and regressed on the video-image grey level. They were linearly related. The change in grey level of the whole visible image accurately indicated the change of green color during fruit development on the vine and the loss of green color after 1 week of storage at 13C. The relationship of the chlorophyll content on grey level was quadratic for three imaging methods: 1) average grey level of the five disks; 2) average grey level of the whole cucumber image; and 3) average grey level of central one-third of the whole cucumber image. Chlorophyll content was most highly correlated to the grey level of the disks themselves (residual SD = 6.74 μg·cm-2), but this sampling technique was destructive. Both one-third of the fruit image (SD = 9.25 μg·cm-2) and the whole image (SD = 9.36 μg·cm-2) provided satisfactory precision. For simplicity, whole-fruit imaging is suitable for estimating fruit chlorophyll content and for quantifying fruit green color intensity. Potential use of this technique in product sorting and shelf life prediction of long English cucumbers is discussed.

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W.C. Lin, J.W. Hall and M.E. Saltveit Jr.

Greenhouse-grown `Bison' and `Doria' peppers (Capsicum annuum L.) were harvested when mature green (MG) (>95% surface green) or ripe (>95% of surface red or yellow). Both cultivars responded similarly to temperature and neither exhibited chilling injury (CI), as indicated by surface pitting, after storage at 13C for 1 or 2 weeks. Ripe peppers showed no CI when held at 1C for 1 or 2 weeks, while MG peppers exhibited CI after these treatments. Exposing MG peppers to 1C for 3 days caused CI and stimulated C2H4 (12.3x) and CO2 production (2.5x). In contrast, a similar exposure of ripe peppers did not cause CI but stimulated C2H4 (6.5x) and CO2 production (1.4x). It seems that CO2 and C2H4 production was stimulated by exposure to 1C, not necessarily by CI development. Our data question the physiological significance of elevated CO2 and C2H4 production in CI development. The observed tolerance of ripe peppers to 1C suggests that ripe greenhouse-grown peppers can be stored at temperatures lower than those currently recommended for bell peppers.

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W.C. Lin, G.S. Block and M.E. Saltveit

A portable, nondispersive infrared (NDIR) gas analyzer was modified to measure the concentration of CO2 and water vapor in small gas samples. A 2-mL gas sample was taken from a series of sealed flasks partially filled with a saturated solution of chemicals known to produce various levels of relative humidity (RH). The modified NDIR instrument quantified water vapor content by its absorption at 2.59 μm. Peak height was displayed on a strip chart recorder and a standard curve constructed. At a specific temperature, the vapor pressure (VP) and vapor pressure difference (VPD) were calculated for sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum L., cv. Mazurka) fruit packed in trays that were covered with plastic films having several levels of perforations. Water loss from the fruit was highly correlated with VPD inside the packages. The modified NDIR instrument has an advantage over other instruments used to measure RH because it can rapidly and simultaneously determine the concentration of water vapor and CO2 in a single injection of a small gas sample.

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A. Klieber, W.C. Lin, P.A. Jolliffe and J.W. Hall

Various stem-training systems were applied to greenhouse-grown `Mustang' cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) plants at two production stages. Training systems determined the number of stems per plant, orientation of laterals, and leaf: fruit ratio. Training systems permitting high canopy light penetration resulted in darker fruit and a longer shelf life. Shelf life was positively related to rapid fruit growth in Expt. 1 but not in Expt. 2. Training systems to achieve a long shelf life of greenhouse-grown long English cucumber are described.

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W.C. Lin, G.S. Block, S. Chen and D.L. Ehret

In commercial production of greenhouse cucumber, moderate water stress is often undetectable until plants show severe wilting. The purpose of this study was to establish a noncontact, early detection method for such moderate stress before visual wilting takes place. An infrared imaging system including an infrared camera, a personal computer, and necessary image processing software was placed in a greenhouse with the camera elevated and viewing the plant canopy. Selected plants, each in a bag of sawdust growing medium, were subjected to water stress by removing irrigation tubes from the growing medium. The infrared images obtained from a crop canopy displayed an increase in foliar temperature of stressed plants, which were located among normally watered (control) plants in the same greenhouse. Increased foliar temperatures of stressed plants occurred 1 to 3 days before wilting was observed. When visual wilting occurred, the stress treatment was stopped and irrigation was resumed within the same day. Cucumber plants showed no crop loss after one cycle of moderate stress. Repeated moderate stress caused yield loss. The potential applications of this nondestructive, noncontact detection method in plant science research and in commercial greenhouse production will be discussed.