In addition to photosynthesis, light is a critical mediator of secondary metabolism in plants, signaling the production of potentially health-promoting phytochemicals and regulating the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can alter the sensory perception of a tomato. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are a viable way to test the effects of individual wavebands of light and are being quickly adopted by the greenhouse tomato industry. However, studies characterizing the effects of specific wavelengths of light or supplemental lighting on phytochemical content in general are lacking. We hypothesized that enriching the amount of supplemental blue and/or red light that tomatoes receive would positively affect the amount of carotenoids and phenolic compounds that accumulate in tomato fruits through cryptochrome and/or phytochrome-dependent signaling pathways. To test this hypothesis, we compared the chemical and sensory characteristics of tomatoes grown with overhead high-pressure sodium (OH-HPS) lamps to those grown with intracanopy (IC)-LEDs emitting different ratios of red, blue, and far red light. Tomatoes were profiled for total soluble solids, titratable acidity, ascorbic acid content, pH, total phenolics, and prominent flavonoids and carotenoids. Our studies indicated that greenhouse tomato fruit quality was only marginally affected by supplemental light treatments. Moreover, consumer sensory panel data indicated that tomatoes grown under different lighting treatments were comparable across the lighting treatments tested. Our research suggests that the dynamic light environment inherent to greenhouse production systems may nullify the effects of wavelengths of light used in our studies on specific aspects of fruit secondary metabolism.
Fresh-consumed parthenocarpic cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are a popular and high-value crop sold in local food markets. The parthenocarpic plant characteristics and climbing growth habit make cucumbers an ideal crop for high-tunnel production. Major types of parthenocarpic cucumbers include Beit alpha and mini, Dutch greenhouse, American slicer, and Japanese. Information regarding yield performance, plant growth, and disease resistance of the four types grown in high-tunnel conditions is limited. In this study, 16 parthenocarpic cucumber cultivars from the four major types were evaluated in high tunnels at three locations in Indiana and Illinois during Spring 2018. Plants were pruned to a single stem that was supported on a string. At all locations, the cultivars that had the most total yields were Beit alpha and mini, although their total yields were not always significantly higher than that of all the others. However, Beit alpha and mini cucumbers had high percentages of unmarketable fruit, mainly because of insect feeding damage and mechanical injuries on the skins that led to scarred fruit. Dutch greenhouse cultivars had relatively lower marketable yields at two of the three locations where there was a high percentage of misshaped fruit. ‘Tasty Green’ Japanese cucumber consistently had the lowest yields at all three locations. This cultivar also produced the most side shoot growth and, therefore, more pruning waste. The Japanese types ‘Tasty Jade’ and ‘Taurus’ had yields comparable to those of other cultivars, and they were more tolerant to two-spotted spider mites (Tetranychus urticae). However, ‘Tasty Jade’ was the cultivar most susceptible to powdery mildew (Podosphaera xanthii and Golovinomyces cichoracearum). ‘Corinto’ American slicer cucumber had relatively high yields at two of the three locations. This cultivar also had the highest percentage of marketable fruit. Information provided in the study is readily useful for growers using high tunnels when selecting parthenocarpic cucumber cultivars. It is also valuable for seed companies wishing to breed new cultivars adaptive for high-tunnel production.
Boron deficiency in fresh-market tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) is a widespread problem that reduces yield and fruit quality but is often not recognized by growers. Tomatoes were grown in field and hydroponic culture to compare the effects of foliar and soil applied B on plant growth, fruit yield, fruit quality, and tissue nutrient levels. Regardless of application method, B was associated with increased tomato growth and the concentration of K, Ca, and B in plant tissue. Boron application was associated with increased N uptake by tomato in field culture, but not under hydroponic culture. In field culture, foliar and/or soil applied B similarly increased fresh-market tomato plant and root dry weight, uptake, and tissue concentrations of N, Ca, K, and B, and improved fruit set, total yields, marketable yields, fruit shelf life, and fruit firmness. The similar growth and yield responses of tomato to foliar and root B application suggests that B is translocated in the phloem in tomatoes. Fruit from plants receiving foliar or root applied B contained more B, and K than fruit from plants not receiving B, indicating that B was translocated from leaves to fruit and is an important factor in the management of K nutrition in tomato.
An artificial neural network (NN) and a statistical regression model were developed to predict canopy photosynthetic rates (Pn) for `Waldman's Green' leaf lettuce (Latuca sativa L.). All data used to develop and test the models were collected for crop stands grown hydroponically and under controlled-environment conditions. In the NN and regression models, canopy Pn was predicted as a function of three independent variables: shootzone CO2 concentration (600 to 1500 mmol·mol-1), photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) (600 to 1100 μmol·m-2·s-1), and canopy age (10 to 20 days after planting). The models were used to determine the combinations of CO2 and PPF setpoints required each day to maintain maximum canopy Pn. The statistical model (a third-order polynomial) predicted Pn more accurately than the simple NN (a three-layer, fully connected net). Over an 11-day validation period, average percent difference between predicted and actual Pn was 12.3% and 24.6% for the statistical and NN models, respectively. Both models lost considerable accuracy when used to determine relatively long-range Pn predictions (≥6 days into the future).
Two greenhouse cucumber (Cucumis sativus) cultivars with differing fruit types [European (`Bologna') and Beit-alpha (`Sarig')] were grown during two seasons in a perlite medium in black plastic nursery containers in a passively ventilated greenhouse in northern Florida to evaluate fruiting responses to nitrogen (N) fertilization over the range of 75 to 375 mg·L–1. Fruit production, consisting mostly of fancy fruits, increased quadratically with N concentration in the nutrient solution, leveling off above 225 mg·L–1 for both cucumber cultivars. Fruit length and diameter were not affected by N concentration in the nutrient solution. Leaf N concentration, averaged over three sampling dates, increased linearly with N concentration in the nutrient solution from 46 g·kg–1 with 75 mg·L–1 N to 50 g·kg–1 with 375 mg·L–1 N. Fruit firmness decreased with increasing N concentration and there was little difference in firmness between the two cultivars. Firmness was similar across three measurement dates during the spring harvest season, but increased during the season in the fall. Fruit color responses to N concentration were dependent on the specific combination of experiment, sampling date, and cultivar. For most combinations of experiment, sampling date, and cultivar, cucumber epidermal color was greener (higher hue angle) with increased N concentration. The color was darkest (lowest L* value) and most intense (highest chroma value) with intermediate to higher N concentrations.
Cloudy days cause an abrupt reduction in daily photosynthetic photon flux (PPF), but we have a poor understanding of how plants acclimate to this change. We used a unique 10-chamber, steady-state, gas-exchange system to continuously measure daily photosynthesis and night respiration of populations of a starch accumulator [tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. cv. Micro-Tina)] and a sucrose accumulator [lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. cv. Grand Rapids)] over 42 days. All measurements were done at elevated CO2 (1200 μmol·mol-1) to avoid any CO2 limitations and included both shoots and roots. We integrated photosynthesis and respiration measurements separately to determine daily net carbon gain and carbon use efficiency (CUE) as the ratio of daily net C gain to total day-time C fixed over the 42-day period. After 16 to 20 days of growth in constant PPF, plants in some chambers were subjected to an abrupt PPF reduction to simulate shade or a series of cloudy days. The immediate effect and the long term acclimation rate were assessed from canopy quantum yield and carbon use efficiency. The effect of shade on carbon use efficiency and acclimation was much slower than predicted by widely used growth models. It took 12 days for tomato populations to recover their original CUE and lettuce CUE never completely acclimated. Tomatoes, the starch accumulator, acclimated to low light more rapidly than lettuce, the sucrose accumulator. Plant growth models should be modified to include the photosynthesis/respiration imbalance and resulting inefficiency of carbon gain associated with changing PPF conditions on cloudy days.
Our objectives in this study were to measure the effects of low levels of root system carbon dioxide on peach tree growth (Prunus persica L. Batsch) and nutrient uptake. Using soil and hydroponic systems, we found that increased root CO2: 1) increased root growth without increasing shoot growth, 2) increased leaf P concentration, 3) decreased leaf N concentration, and 4) reduced water use relative to air injection or no treatment.
Recycling wastewater containing soaps and detergents for plant growth is highly desirable when fresh water is limited. This is especially true during times of drought and is imperative in some specialized situations such as a regenerative space habitat. To regenerate food, water, and air, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Controlled Ecological Life Support System (CELSS) must recycle wastewater commonly known as gray water. The anionic surfactant Igepon is the principal ingredient of many detergent formulations and soaps and is a prime candidate for use in a space habitat. To determine if gray water would have phytotoxic effects on crops grown in a CELSS, `Waldmann's Green' lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) was grown in nutrient solutions containing varying concentrations of Igepon TC-42. Igepon concentrations of 250 mg·L-1 or higher in nutrient solutions resulted in phytotoxic effects in lettuce. Thus, the toxic threshold of Igepon is <250 mg·L-1. Toxicity symptoms include browning of the roots within 4 hours of exposure to Igepon followed by suppression of root dry mass within 24 hours. Plant death never resulted from exposure to Igepon used in these experiments, although roots were killed. The phytotoxic effect of Igepon was not persistent; plants initially displaying acute toxicity show clear signs of recovery within 3 days of initial exposure. Further, when fresh plants were exposed to these same nutrient solutions 3 days or more following initial Igepon addition, no phytotoxic effect was observed. The elimination of the phytotoxicity was associated with a decrease in fatty acid components in the nutrient solution associated with Igepon. The degradation of phytotoxicity appears to be associated with microbes present on the surface of the roots and not directly due to any plant process or instability of the surfactant.
An increase in nutrient solution concentration to produce high-quality fruit vegetables, such as tomatoes, may reduce growth and yield. One reason might be inhibition of photosynthesis, but results of photosynthesis studies in the literature are inconsistent. In this study, we investigated growth and photosynthesis of whole `Celebrity' and `Counter' tomato [Lycopersicon esculentum (L.) Mill.] plants in response to nutrient solution concentration, measured as electrical conductivity (EC). The effects of two levels of photosynthetic photon flux density (PPF = 400 or 625 μmol·m-2·s-1) on plant response to nutrient solution EC in a range between 1.25 to 8.75 dS·m-1 in a series of four experiments in gas exchange chambers placed in larger growth chambers were examined. Increasing PPF enhanced tomato growth and photosynthesis but increasing EC diminished them. Reduction of dry weight was 1.9% to 7.3%, while plant photosynthesis was reduced between 1.7% and 4.5% for each 1 dS·m-1. Increasing EC did not decrease dry matter content and leaf photosynthesis. Mean plant dry matter content ranged between 70 and 95 g·kg-1, and net leaf photosynthesis on the last measurement day was between 7.5 and 11.3 μmol·m-2·s-1, depending on experiment. The decrease in whole plant photosynthesis with an increase in EC was caused by decreased leaf area but not by a decrease in leaf photosynthesis.
Rapid, synchronized, and high percentage of germination is required for commercial spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) production using hydroponic techniques. Seed treatments examined to improve seed germination were: 1) decoating; 2) leaching in water; and 3) soaking seeds for 4 hours in 0.5% NaOCl, leaching for 15 hours in water, and sowing in 0.3% H2O2 (this treatment will be referred to as NaOCl/H2O2). Germination studies were conducted on four cultivars at a constant 18 °C (optimal) or 30 °C (inhibitory). At 18 °C, germination rate (T50) was maximized by both hydration treatments, but uniformity of germination (Tsd) was greatest for decoated seeds; final germination was ≥89% for all treatments. At 30 °C, decoating resulted in greatest uniformity of germination. The NaOCl/H2O2 treatment resulted in highest germination (94%) at the high temperature, whereas decoating was least effective (69%). Reduced germination of decoated seeds was attributed to atypical germinants. Cultivars differed in response to the treatments at both temperatures. Component analysis of the NaOCl/H2O2 treatment was studied with two slow-to-germinate cultivars. Treatment with H2O2, with or without NaOCl, improved the rate, uniformity, and percentage of germination of seeds of both cultivars, but NaOCl alone did not. Pericarp removal or pericarp removal plus NaOCl/H2O2 treatments reduced variability in germination time and enhanced speed of germination at 30 °C, but decoating produced a higher percentage of atypical seedlings than did other treatments. Therefore, the NaOCl/H2O2 treatment is recommended for growers who are unable to maintain cool germination temperatures and/or cannot afford the costs associated with cooling. If growers can maintain a germination temperature of ≈18 °C, decoated seeds are preferable, based on the high uniformity of germination.