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Yun Kong and Youbin Zheng

Suaeda glauca is an annual halophyte growing in saline–alkali environment in North China. To evaluate the potential of producing S. glauca as a vegetable at moderate NaCl concentrations, plants were grown in nutrient solutions with 6, 8, and 10 mm NaCl, and with 200 mm NaCl as a control. Results showed that main stem length, true leaf number, side branch number, and canopy width of plants in 6–10 mm NaCl were not significantly different from those in 200 mm. Also, no significant differences in fresh and dry weights of individual plants, marketable yield, and water use efficiency of the plants were observed between 6–10 and 200 mm NaCl treatments. Despite remarkable decreases in sodium uptake, similar water consumptions by the plants were obtained in 6–10 vs. 200 mm NaCl. The results suggest that S. glauca is a potential candidate for hydroponic production as a vegetable at moderate NaCl salinity, since growth attributes and biomass accumulation were not reduced when grown at lower salinity levels, despite with decreased sodium uptake.

Free access

Yun Kong and Youbin Zheng

Salicornia bigelovii is a halophyte that is capable of growing under high salinity. To evaluate the potential of producing S. bigelovii hydroponically as a vegetable at moderate NaCl concentrations, plants were grown in nutrient solutions with 6, 8, and 10 mm NaCl, and with 200 mm NaCl as a control. Results showed that plants had a reduced main stem length, canopy width, stem diameter, and root system length in 6 to 10 mm NaCl compared with those in 200 mm. Also, fresh weight increase, fresh and dry weights of individual plants, marketable yield, and water use efficiency of the plants grown in solutions with 6 to 10 mm NaCl were significantly lower than those grown in 200 mm. Associated with the reduced growth attributes, remarkable decreases in sodium uptake by the plants were also obtained in 6 to 10 vs. 200 mm NaCl. The results suggest that S. bigelovii is not a good candidate for hydroponic production as a vegetable at moderate NaCl salinity resulting from reduced growth attributes, which are possibly associated with decreased sodium uptake.

Free access

Yun Kong and Youbin Zheng

To evaluate the potential of producing purslane (Portulaca oleracea L.) as a sodium (Na)-removing vegetable hydroponically at moderate NaCl salinity, two cultivars (Green and Golden) were grown in solutions with added 0, 6, 8, and 10 mm NaCl (the actual Na+ concentrations ≈2, 8, 10, and 12 mm, respectively). At harvest, 26 days after transplanting, apparent growth and biomass accumulation were not negatively affected by 6 to 10 mm added NaCl compared with 0 mm added NaCl. However, with the increase of added NaCl concentration from 0 to 6 to 10 mm, the sodium removal showed a 1- to 3-fold increase up to 0.26 to 0.41 mmol/plant, and 225.7 to 300.2 mmol·kg−1 dry weight (DW) or 0.90 to 1.32 mmol·L−1 H2O, respectively. ‘Green’ produced greater biomass and removed more sodium per plant than ‘Golden’. ‘Golden’ had more of a dwarfed and compact canopy than ‘Green’. Sodium removal rate (mmol/plant/day) was the highest during the first 7 days after transplanting, but the fresh weight increase rate (g/plant/day) increased gradually as growth progressed. Results suggest that it is possible to hydroponically produce purslane in nutrient solutions with 8 to 12 mm Na+. Despite the high sodium-removal capability, purslane cannot be used to reduce Na+ concentrations in NaCl-rich hydroponic solutions. The biomass yield and the sodium removal of individual plants were affected by different cultivars and time after transplanting.

Open access

Yun Kong, Xiangyue Kong and Youbin Zheng

Nondestructive estimation of individual shoot fresh weight (FW) from its measurable morphological traits is useful for a wide variety of purposes in pea shoot production. To predict individual shoot FW, nine regression models in total were developed, including two power models using stem diameter (SMD) or stem length (SML) as a variable, and seven linear models using part or all the following variables: SMD, SML, leaflet length (LL), leaflet width (LW), stipule length (SEL), and stipule width (SEW). Among the nine models, the 6-variable linear equation had the highest coefficient of determination, R 2 = 0.92, indicating it is most effective at explaining the variation in FW. The linear equations including only one variable, SMD or SML, were equally the least effective as nonlinear equations (i.e., power models). This finding suggests that there was a linear rather than nonlinear relationship between FW and the morphological variables. During stepwise regression, SEW and LW together were first removed from the 6-variable linear models without reducing the R 2, and then SEL, SMD, SML were further removed one-by-one, which reduced the R 2 from 0.92 to 0.90, 0.85, and 0.71, respectively. The result suggests that SMD, SML, SEL, and LL were the most important four predictor variables for multivariable linear regression models to estimate FW, an idea that was also supported by path analysis. For the four linear models with 1–4 predictor variables from stepwise regression, the prediction accuracy of FW was evaluated based on the agreement between the predicted and measured values using another independent dataset. The 4- and 3-variable linear models (i.e., FW = −1.437 + 0.276 SMD + 0.010 SML + 0.022 LL + 0.013 SEL and FW = −1.383 + 0.308 SMD + 0.011 SML + 0.030 LL, respectively) were selected for their more accurate prediction than 1- and 2-variable linear models and relatively simpler forms than a 6-variable linear model. Although the prediction accuracy can be potentially affected by air temperature, light conditions, and harvesting time, the multilinear regression model is an effective approach for estimating fresh weight of individual pea shoots using its measurable morphological traits.

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Yun Kong, Devdutt Kamath and Youbin Zheng

An elongated stem has beneficial effects on microgreen production. Previous studies indicate that under 24-hour light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, monochromatic blue light, compared with red light, can promote plant elongation for some species. The objective of this study was to investigate whether shortened photoperiod can change blue vs. red light effects on elongation growth. The growth and morphology traits of arugula (Brassica eruca, ‘Rocket’), cabbage (Brassica oleracea, unknown variety name), mustard (Brassica juncea, ‘Ruby Streaks’), and kale (Brassica napus, ‘Red Russian’) seedlings were compared during the stage from seeding to cotyledon unfolding under two light quality × two photoperiod treatments: 1) R, monochromatic red light (665 nm) and 2) B, monochromatic blue light (440 nm) using continuous (24-hour light/0-hour dark) or periodic (16-hour light/8-hour dark) LED lighting. A photosynthetic photon flux density of ≈100 μmol·m−2·s−1 and an air temperature of ≈22 °C was used for the preceding treatments. After 7 to 8 days of lighting treatment, regardless of photoperiod, B promoted elongation growth compared with R, as demonstrated by a greater stem extension rate, hypocotyl length, or petiole length in the tested microgreen species, except for mustard. The promotion effects on elongation were greater under 24- vs. 16-hour lighting in many cases. Among the tested species, mustard showed the lowest sensitivity in elongation response to B vs. R, which was independent of photoperiod. This suggests that the blue-light-promoted elongation is not specifically from 24-hour lighting, despite the varying promotion degree under different photoperiods or for different species. The elongation growth promoted by blue LED light under a photoperiod of either 24 hours or 16 hours can potentially benefit indoor production of microgreens.

Open access

Qinglu Ying, Yun Kong and Youbin Zheng

To facilitate machine harvest for labor savings, the height of microgreens needs to reach ≈5 cm. Recent studies indicate that monochromatic blue light (B) can promote stem elongation similar to far-red light (FR). To examine whether nighttime B treatments can promote plant elongation without compromising yield and quality, mustard (Brassica juncea) and arugula (Eruca sativa) microgreens were grown under different light-emitting diode (LED) lighting regimes in a growth chamber. The 16-hour daytime lighting comprised 20% B and 80% red light (R), and had a total photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) of 300 µmol·m–2·s–1 at canopy level. During the 8-hour nighttime, the plants were exposed to the following treatments: 1) dark (D) as one control; 2) 4 hours of B at 40 µmol·m–2·s–1 followed by 4 hours of darkness (40B-D); 3) 4 hours of darkness followed by 4 hours of B at 40 µmol·m–2·s–1 (D-40B); 4) 8 hours of B at 20 µmol·m–2·s–1 (20B); 5) 8 hours of B + FR, and each of them at 20 µmol·m–2·s–1 (20B20FR); and 6) 8 hours of FR at 20 µmol·m–2·s–1 (20FR) as another control. The plants were harvested after 11 days of treatment. Nighttime B treatments (40B-D, D-40B, and 20B), compared with D, increased plant height by 34% and 18% for mustard and arugula, respectively, with no difference among the three B treatments. The combination of B and FR (20B20FR), compared with B alone, further increased plant height by 6% and 15% for mustard and arugula, respectively, and showed a similar promotion effect as 20FR. Plant height did not meet the machine harvest requirement for both species with the D treatment, but did so for mustard with the nighttime B treatments and for arugula with the 20B20FR treatment. There was no difference in biomass among all treatments except that 20B, compared with D, increased the fresh weight (FW) of arugula by 12%, showing a similar promotion effect as 20FR. Despite a greater promotion effect on elongation than B alone, 20FR reduced the leaf index compared with D. However, B alone or the 20B20FR treatment increased leaf thickness compared with D, and increased chlorophyll content index (CCI), leaf index, dry matter content, and leaf thickness to varying degree with species, compared with 20FR. Overall, nighttime B alone, or its combination with FR, promoted microgreen elongation without compromising yield and quality.

Free access

Yun Kong, David Llewellyn, Katherine Schiestel, Martha Gay Scroggins, David Lubitz, Mary Ruth McDonald, Rene Van Acker, Ralph C. Martin, Youbin Zheng and Evan Elford

There is a potentially large market for locally produced organic bitter melons (Momordica charantia L.) in Canada, but it is a great challenge to grow this warm-season crop in open fields (OFs) due to the cool and short growing season. To test the feasibility of using high tunnels (HTs) for organic production of bitter melons in southern Ontario, plant growth, fruit yield and quality, and pest and disease incidence were compared among three production systems: OF, HT, and high tunnel with anti-insect netting (HTN) at Guelph in 2015. The highest marketable fruit yield was achieved in HTN (≈36 t·ha−1), followed by HT (≈29 t·ha−1), with the lowest yield obtained in OF (≈3 t·ha−1). Compared with OF, there were several other benefits for bitter melon production in HT and HTN: increased plant growth, advanced harvest timing, reduced pest numbers and disease incidence, and improved fruit quality traits such as increased individual fruit weight and size, and reduced postharvest water loss. In addition to higher yield, HTN had fewer insect pests and disease incidence compared with HT. The results suggest that HTs can be used for organic production of bitter melon in southern Ontario and regions with similar climates. Also, the addition of anti-insect netting to HTs is beneficial to production if combined with an effective pollination strategy.