GardenMessenger

This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Glyphosate Resistant Weeds?

Horseweed - Conyza canadensis

Two rapid, non-destructive tests have been developed by the United States Agricultural Research Service to test the effectiveness of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Round-up) on weeds that it is suspected are developing a resistance to the herbicide. In 2000, Horseweed, Conyza canadensis, became the first weed species to develop resistance to glyphosate in cropland where glyphosate-resistant soyabeans were grown. Glyphosate-resistant biotypes of Horseweed have now been confirmed in 13 states east of the Mississippi River. Glyphosate is effective at killing all plant types including grasses, broad-leafed weeds and sedges, as well as perennial and woody plants. After emergence, glyphosate-resistant crops are capable of tolerating multiple applications of the herbicide, while weeds are killed. However, repeated use over many years has left several weed species resistant to glyphosate. The two tests can be used together.

One method, which involves dipping a whole leaf into a glyphosate-based mixture and looking for signs of injury, is quick and easy to perform. To achieve double confirmation of the weed's status, a second assay can be used. This method takes advantage of glyphosate's mode of action, which involves inhibiting amino acid metabolism in what is known as the shikimic acid pathway. Leaf tissue samples are removed, and amino acid levels are measured with specialised laboratory equipment. If glyphosate resistance is confirmed, the tests should help reduce the spread of resistant Horseweed populations because growers will use different herbicides to manage the resistant weeds. While this research is directed at commercial growers, it is very relevant to home gardeners as weeds do not respect field or garden boundaries.


To read further gardening news from the News pages of the GardenMessenger web-site click here.

Happy Gardening

Philip

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Another Fire Blight Resistant Pear

Pear 'Shenandoah'

‘Shenandoah’ is the third fire blight-resistant pear cultivar to be developed by US Agricultural Research Service horticulturist Richard Bell. Fire Blight is a devastating pear disease caused by a bacterium, Erwinia amylovora, and is native to North America. It greatly limits pear production in eastern and mid-western states, so growers in California, Oregon and Washington produce most of the pears harvested in the United States. ‘Shenandoah’ can be grown in all production regions, but it is thought will be especially useful in areas where fire blight is prevalent. In the Eastern United States, pears mature and are harvested from early August through early October. ‘Shenandoah’ matures in September, about four weeks after the widely grown 'Bartlett' cultivar. The new pear can be stored for up to four months in cold air storage.

Richard Bell and colleagues at the ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Station, Kearneysville, West Virginia, began developing the original seedling of ‘Shenandoah’ more than two decades ago. As pear trees have a long juvenile period, they do not produce enough fruit for evaluation until they are five to eight years old. The researchers then spent an additional eight years studying how long the ‘Shenandoah’ pear tree takes to bear a crop, the quality of the crop's yield and its consistency from one year to the next. This cultivar is only available in limited numbers to home gardeners in North America at present.


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Happy Gardening

Philip

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lycoris Research Review

Lycoris specialist Mark Roh

For more than 20 years United States Agricultural Research Services horticulturist Mark Roh has been intrigued by the origins and habitats of the exotic and beautiful Lycoris. Although various Lycoris species have been grown as ornamentals in China, Korea, and Japan for many centuries, only two species are readily available in the West: L. squamigera and L. radiata. They, and the rarer L. incarnata, L. chejuensis, and L. flavescens, are maintained at the U.S. National Arboretum (USNA), in Washington, D.C., and in Beltsville, Maryland.

In 1984, Roh collected several unidentified Lycoris species from Anduck Valley, on Korea’s Jeju Island. This sub-tropical area hosts about 4,000 species of plants. Then in 1998, more Lycoris species were collected in Japan, Korea, and China. DNA molecular markers and chromosome studies proved that some of the unidentified Lycoris collected from Anduck Valley were L. incarnata, a species previously known to be native only to China. It is possible that this accession was brought from China to Korea by bulb collectors, but no record of that can be found.


To read the rest of this review visit the GardenMessenger web-site News pages click here.

Happy Gardening

Philip

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Potato ‘Defender’ Beats Late Blight

Potato 'Defender'

‘Defender’ is a recently released potato cultivar, that while being bred specifically for the commercial grower, could become a big name both in the vegetable garden and kitchen. This potato has held the attention of United States Agricultural Services potato breeders and their university colleagues for more than a decade. These scientists were making sure, in both outdoor and laboratory tests, that this promising potato would not only be ideal for processing into perfect fries, but also would resist attack by Phytophthora infestans, the organism that causes Late Blight, one of the worst diseases of potatoes world-wide.

Scientists scrutinised the potato's performance in fields in California, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Washington and elsewhere. French-fry processors also evaluated the potato. It was eventually released under the name ‘Defender’. Today this cultivar remains the only commercial potato in the United States to produce leaves and tubers that usually survive Late Blight. The natural resistance of ‘Defender’ potato plants allows growers and gardeners to use either no pesticides, or reduced amounts, to control Late Blight. In turn, this characteristic makes the cultivar ideal for both conventional and organic cultivation. ‘Defender’ produces high yields of long, white-skin potatoes.

To read more gardening news visit the News pages of the GardenMessenger web-site click here.

Happy Gardening

Philip

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Lingonberry Research

Vaccinium vitis-idaea

The Lingonberry*, Vaccinium vitis-idaea, is one of the lesser-known fruit crops being studied by United States Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists who hope to make these fruits more popular with consumers and gardeners. At the ARS National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon, the research team are studying what are called "minor crops", that is fruits that may be popular in other countries, to see if they can successfully grow them in the United States. Another example is the edible-fruited honeysuckle, which looks somewhat like a blueberry and has its own unique flavour, very different from the more popular ornamental honeysuckles with orange or red fruits.

There are more than 600 minor crops in the United States. While any crop that is grown on fewer than 300,000 acres nationally is considered a minor crop, many of the crops studied in Corvallis are grown on only a few hundred acres. In some cases, such as with kiwifruit, the fruit may start off as a minor crop but eventually become a market staple. The scientists also are studying hardy kiwifruit, which is related to the fuzzy kiwifruit found in supermarket produce sections. The hardy kiwifruit has a smooth skin and is the size of a large grape, but has green flesh and black seeds similar to the traditional kiwi.

*GardenMessenger is ahead of the researchers, its cultivation under the Scottish name Mountain Cranberry is described in the Fruit Growing Guides on the GardenMessenger web-site click here.

Happy Gardening

Philip

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Fighting Fire Blight

Fire Blight on Apples

The fight is on against Erwinia amylovora, the bacterium responsible for Fire Blight, a costly disease of apples, pears and other tree fruit, as well as many berried ornamentals. Until now there has been no satisfactory control, especially for the home gardener. However, the future looks bright with the introduction to commercial fruit growing of a new bio-friendly treatment. United States Agricultural Research Services plant pathologist Larry Pusey and colleagues are calling on Pantoea agglomerans strain E325 for help. The blossom-dwelling bacterium naturally competes with Fire Blight for space and nutrients that both need to survive. Unlike its rival, E325 does not cause disease, Larry Pusey has shown that spraying E325 onto blossoms enables the bacterium to crowd out its Fire Blight rival so the disease is less able to cause harm.

E325 is a "top pick" from more than a thousand bacteria and yeasts that Pusey examined for bio-control potential using a screening method that involves growing the microbes on detached crab apple blossoms. In 1999, soon after ARS patented E325, Northwest Agricultural Products, Inc. of Pasco, Washington, entered into a co-operative research and development agreement with ARS to work with Mr Pusey's laboratory in commercially developing the Fire Blight-fighting strain. Under the agreement, the laboratory helped NAP evaluate a fermentation medium to mass-produce E325 and formulate it for use. It also furnished NAP with secondary strains of E325 that can survive being used with antibiotics. Orchard trials between 2002 to 2004 identified effective application rates. Results showed that E325 was 10 to 100 times better at suppressing the Fire Blight bacterium than other earlier-reported bio-control agents, including Pseudomonas fluorescens strain A506. The product is being registered for use on apples and pears under the name Bloomtime Biological FD. Initially it will only be available to commercial growers, but it is inconceivable that it will not eventually come to the hobby gardener market.

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Happy Gardening

Philip

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Edible Ornamental Peppers Research Review


Is it possible to have peppers that are both good decorative plants, yet produce good quality fruits for the table? Yes, you can. At least, that’s the opinion of two Agricultural Research Service (ARS) geneticists. Since 1991, John Stommel, of the ARS Vegetable Laboratory, and Robert Griesbach, of the ARS Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit, both in Beltsville, Maryland, have bred peppers to please both the eye and the palate. These peppers have been developed through a co-operative research and development agreement with PanAmerican Seed Company and McCorkle Nurseries, Inc.

The eye-catching 'Black Pearl', released in 2005 and honoured as a 2006 All-America Selections (AAS) winner, attests to their success in developing new cultivars with both aesthetic and culinary appeal. The award recognises new flower and vegetable cultivars that demonstrate "superior garden performance" in trials conducted throughout the country.

'Black Pearl' is a robust plant, adaptable to environments from New England to California, Stommel says. In addition, it resists attacks from many insects and fungi and is remarkably drought-tolerant. The pepper is now on display at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. With moderately shiny, black leaves and glossy fruits that ripen from black to red, 'Black Pearl' offers a temptation few pepper enthusiasts could resist—and the AAS judges aren’t the only people who think so. Since its release, more than 2 million seeds have been sold.

'Black Pearl' has company. Stommel and Griesbach look forward to releasing several new pepper cultivars in the future, including one with spreading black foliage and colourful upright peppers with a spicy flavour. Another is exceptionally tall-growing as high as 90cm (3ft). A third, which produces fruit around Halloween, has black foliage and orange, pumpkin-shaped fruit.

Breeding these culinary ornamental peppers has been a cross-laboratory effort. How did the breeders do it? The first step is to isolate individual traits and select the ones they want, Stommel says. Within the Capsicum genus, there is great variety of qualities such as the size, shape, and colour of leaves and fruits. Griesbach compares the process of pepper breeding to assembling a Mr. Potato Head doll. By selecting specific characteristics, breeders can make desirable combinations. Any new combination will create a novel pepper. "Only your imagination is limiting," he says.

Breeding a new cultivar takes ten to fifteen years and involves making crosses and submitting the resulting plants to rigorous tests. But creating tasty and attractive plants isn’t the only benefit of the ornamental pepper breeding program. This work also has applications for many plant genetics studies.

These peppers are not the first plants to come out of the Vegetable Laboratory with both aesthetic and culinary appeal. Earlier research produced tomatoes rich in the carotenoids lycopene and beta-carotene, red and orange pigments that give tomatoes their characteristic colour. Lycopene and beta-carotene are antioxidants and have been linked to health-promoting benefits, so increasing tomatoes’ carotenoid content improves not only their colour, but also their nutritional value.

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Happy Gardening

Philip

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

All America Seed Selections Winners 2007

Petunia ‘Opera Supreme Pink Morn’

The winners of the All America Seed Selections for 2007 have been announced.

Vinca ‘Pacifica Burgundy Halo’
This is a beautiful Vinca with blossoms that are burgundy with distinctive white centres. It is very free-flowering and attains a height of around 30cm (12in). It is an excellent bedding plant for a sunny spot and is also excellent for container cultivation.

Petunia ‘Opera Supreme Pink Morn’
A trailing Petunia hybrid with iridescent pink blossoms that fade to cream-coloured white centres with yellow throats. It is very free-flowering, but has little requirement for trimming or deadheading. It is 10-15cm (4-6in) tall and is ideal for either bedding or container cultivation.

Celosia ‘Fresh Look Gold’
An excellent plant for either formal or informal bedding or container cultivation, which produces distinctive bright golden yellow flower spikes throughout the summer. It grows up to 30cm (12in) tall and benefits from a warm sunny position.

Capsicum ‘Holy Molé’
This is the type of pepper that is used to make molé sauce that is used in Mexican cuisine. The fruits are dark green, up to 24cm (10in) long and have a tangy and nutty flavour. If left to ripen completely they turn dark brown. ‘Holy Molé’ requires a hot sunny position outdoors or greenhouse cultivation in cool districts. It will grow up to 90cm (36in) tall.

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Happy Gardening

Philip

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

GLEE New Products - The Award Winners

Eco Decking Tiles

The international Garden and Leisure Exhibition product awards, held in the UK, have just been announced. A team of fifteen expert judges from the garden, pet and leisure industries studied more than two hundred and eighty GLEE New Product entries in fourteen categories. The products were rated for innovation, design and originality; how well products met the gardener’s needs; and any unique features or technologies setting the product apart from competitors. They were also judged for quality, fitness for purpose, environmental impact and value for money. The following are two of those that are particularly relevant to home gardeners.

Landscaping - Eco Decking Tiles by Eco Deck UK
Judges' Comment: "At the price offered - around £60 per square metre - it was well packaged for both the customer and professional, and very easy to clip together."

Nursery - Marvellous Mushrooms by Mr Fothergill's Seeds
Judges' Comment: "It's an exciting product for all ages, from the very youngest to the oldest customer. The mushrooms are grown on recycled products such as logs, straw and old newspapers. You don't even need a garden to grow these mushrooms."

To read about all the gardening related awards from GLEE visit the News pages on the GardenMessenger web-site click here.

Happy Gardening

Philip

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Monday, September 18, 2006

All-America Rose Selections Announces 2006 Competition Winners

Lacy Park Rose Garden

All-America Rose Selections has announced the winning gardens for the 2006 "Designing with Roses" Competition. Judges from Better Homes & Gardens, Pasadena Tournament of Roses, the American Society of Landscape Architects, Weeks Roses and Jackson & Perkins considered submissions from across the United States for this inaugural competition. Professionals and students submitted a variety of types of gardens including large public gardens, restoration projects, memorial gardens, university grounds and private homes. The judges selected the designs that best demonstrated excellent landscape design execution and incorporation of rose plants into the site design.

What Was Old is New Again: Restored 1920s Garden Wins Professional Category

The panel of judges awarded first place in the professional category to the Lacy Park Rose Garden Restoration project by Steven Ormenyi & Associates, in the City of San Marino in the greater Los Angeles area. AARS will award Steven Ormenyi with an all expenses-paid trip to Pasadena, California to see the annual Rose Parade at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses in January 2007.

The Lacy Park Rose Garden, originally designed in 1929, is a beautiful public park with large open spaces and a diverse mix of plants. Following a gradual decline, the Lacy Park landscape committee hired Mr. Ormenyi in 2002 to restore the rose garden to its grand stature. Completed in 2003, the current Lacy Park Rose Garden features a wonderful mix of modern, disease-resistant and fragrant roses including AARS Winners ‘Fourth of July’, ‘Mister Lincoln’, ‘Scentimental’ and ‘Perfume Delight’. The updated palette of colours was selected for optimal viewing and enjoyment at dawn and dusk, while the overall layout of the garden stayed true to its historical roots.

Professional Category Winners:
First Place: Lacy Park Rose Garden Restoration, San Marino, Calif.
Steven A. Ormenyi & Associates

Second Place: September 11th Memorial Rose Garden, Private Estate, Huntington Bay, NY
Michael Spitzer

Third Place: Jasper Crane Rose Garden, Brandywine Park, Wilmington, Del.
Andrew Durham

Kansas State Dominates Student Category
Designed by three students from Kansas State University, the KSU Gardens "Secret Garden" design took top honours in the student category, and the team will receive the $1,000 first place prize.

KSU students Lynda Armstrong, Aarthi Padmanabhan and Hilary Kemper created a special space for the university’s garden that would combine beautiful roses with garden nooks and a quiet retreat for students and visitors. Their design highlights the university’s garden education and learning laboratory by providing visitors with information on growing roses and ideas for incorporating roses into their private gardens. The competition did not require student entries to be built.

Student Category Winners:
First Place: Kansas State University Gardens, Secret Garden, Manhattan, Kan.
Lynda Armstrong, Aarthi Padmanabhan and Hilary Kemper

Second Place: Kansas State University Gardens, Conservatory Garden, Manhattan, Kan.
Timothy Merklein

Third Place: Delaware Valley College, Rose Garden at Schmieder Arboretum,
Doylestown, Penn.
William Rein

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Philip

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Plant of the Month September - Aster

Aster 'Purple Dome'

Perennial asters are named as the Dutch nursery industry’s plant of the Month for September. They are amongst the most spectacular of the autumn-blooming perennials, are easy to grow and do well in average soils. While most need full sun; others will do well in partial shade or even full shade. Asters are available in blues, purples, a variety of pinks, as well as white. All asters are yellow in the centre of the flower and have a daisy-like in appearance. They are available in a wide variety of sizes and growth habits, with some less than 30cm (12in) tall while others are 60cm (24in) or more. All are suitable for cutting.

Asters are easily grown from division. Plants do best if divided every two to three years. Simply dig out half to two thirds of the plants, leaving the remainder in place. Then separate the portion you removed into two sections and plant in another location. Once asters are established, they should grow well for years. The soil should be moist, but not wet. They will withstand dry periods. Water them during dry periods, once or twice per week to keep growth vibrant. Add mulch around the plants to help conserve moisture and suppress weeds.

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Happy Gardening

Philip

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Plantarium 2006 Press Award for Sedum ‘Postman’s Pride’

Sedum ‘Postman’s Pride’

Sedum ‘Postman’s Pride’ was announced as the winner of the Plantarium 2006 Press Award at the recent international horticultural exhibition in The Netherlands. The plant was shown by Gebr. Jonkers Elshout BV of Elshout, The Netherlands. The international jury of horticultural trade journalists said that Sedum ‘Postman’s Pride’ catches the eye because of the beautiful dark colour of both leaf and flower and the fact that it is attractive all year round. This compact plant will look excellent in the garden and on a balcony or terrace. According to the jury another advantage of ‘Postman’s Pride’is that it requires little water and is easy to maintain.
Photo: Plantarium

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Philip

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Plantarium 2006 Best Novelty

Albizia julibrissin ‘Summer Chocolate’

Albizia julibrissin ‘Summer Chocolate’ was voted as the Best Novelty at Plantarium 2006 in The Netherlands. With its extremely dark leaf colour, this plant from French entrant André Briant Jeunes Plants from St. Barthélémy d’Anjou was deemed to be a fine addition to the small Albizia range.

In addition to ‘Summer Chocolate’ there was also a gold medal for Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Zorro’, entered by André van Zoest B.V. from Reeuwijk, The Netherlands.

Sixteen plants won silver and twenty-one plants won bronze medals. The committee of inspection inspected a total of seventy novelties. Photo: Plantarium

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Philip

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

UK National Amateur Gardening Show

Quality pumpkins at the show

Bad weather failed to dampen the spirits of the thousands of determined show-goers who turned out in force for the National Amateur Gardening Show at the Bath and West Showground in south-west England. Over 33,000 people enjoyed a record total of twenty-one spectacular garden displays, a feast of flowers, fruit and vegetables, the biggest dahlia show in the world, top gardening experts, a world record breaking cucumber and the finest display of pumpkins ever seen in this country.

Show judges praised the quality and high standards of the multitude of produce on display, including the magnificent Floral Marquee’s fifty exhibits, and the spectacular Floral Art displays – many of them brought to the show by the talented members of the National Association of Floral Arrangement Societies who made a welcome return. The Showering Pavilion was also bursting with colour and blooms as the National Dahlia Society, celebrating its 125th anniversary, staged its annual show which attracted growers from as far away as Scotland and France, and inspired many new members to join up.

Ray Davey, giant vegetable co-ordinator and steward of the Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Marquee, said that entries were well up, standards were excellent all round and the giant pumpkins on display were the finest ever seen in the whole country. The poor growing conditions this year meant that for once there was only one world record broken at the show – that was for the longest cucumber, measuring just over 35inches (90cm) and grown by a delighted 90 year old Mr Alf Cobb, from Nottinghamshire.

Craig Glenday, editor of Guinness World Records, made a surprise visit to the Show to hand over a special certificate for Mr Cobb. Meanwhile 23 year old Mark Baggs’ mighty pumpkin from Dorset weighed in at 314 kilos. At six weeks old and therefore still only a baby, the pumpkin was pronounced the biggest ever seen in the show’s history. Photo: AG

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Philip

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Monday, September 11, 2006

2006 Plantarium Introductions

Polygala myrtifolia oppositifolia ‘Polylab’

Plantarium is one of the major trade horticultural exhibitions in the world. It takes place towards the end of August every year in the heart of the horticultural production district of The Netherlands. While horticultural machinery and sundries are important, it is the plant exhibits that are the great attraction. These comprise completely new cultivars as well as new introductions that may have been around in North America, Asia or Australasia for a short time. Prior to the exhibition, this blog and the New Plants pages of the GardenMessenger web-site showcased a few of the new introductions as information became available. The remaining plants that were exhibited and received recognition from the horticultural profession can be reviewd on the GardenMessenger web-site click here.

Amongst the plants reviewed is:-

Polygala myrtifolia oppositifolia ‘Polylab’
‘Polylab’is a crawling, semi-upright shrub with oval-round foliage that resembles eucalyptus leaves. The plant is frost-hardy and flowers from late spring until early autumn. The flowers are purple-pink.‘Polylab’ was originally known as ‘Bibi’.
Photo: Plantarium

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Philip

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Friday, September 08, 2006

New Beans Resist White Mould

Scientists are beating White Mould

Two new pinto bean germplasm lines, known as USPT-WM-1 and USPT-WM-2, have been developed for breeding cultivars of beans that will resist White Mould. The disease is caused by the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, and affects dry edible beans, especially in North America. Under favourable conditions, the fungus’ mushroom stage will eject millions of infectious spores into the air, infecting nearby bean plants or travelling on the wind to wreak havoc elsewhere. Infected plants typically sport white, cottony tufts on their stems, leaves and pods. Severe outbreaks can reduce both the yield and the quality of the seed.

The new pinto lines owe their resistance to such assaults to crosses made between ‘Aztec’, a semi-upright pinto bean, and ND88-106-4, an upright navy bean breeding line. Besides White Mould resistance, the new pintos offer high yields. However, they have fallen prey to race 53 of Bean Rust and were mildly susceptible to Beet Curly Top Virus. So it seems we cannot have everything.
Photo :USDA

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Philip

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Natural Plant Anti-freeze
Untreated and Treated Solanum

Yesterday, at the international Four Oaks trade exhibition near Manchester in England, a little known company called Cropaid won the show’s prestigious Technical Excellence Award for an innovative new natural anti-freeze product. Called Cropaid NPA it is produced using a subspecies of Thiobacillus bacteria and minerals in a formula, which the company claims is both natural and safe for the environment. Cropaid NPA offers several benefits to plants. It is freeze resistant and lowers the freezing point so it helps to increase the plants’ resistance to cold injuries.

During the growing season, applying the correct dosage at the right time will encourage the plants to produce anti-freeze proteins and anti-freeze amino acids which will increase resistance to cold and frost injuries. Cropaid NPA is formulated to be absorbed by both the leaves and roots of plants. Within a short period of time, plants will respond by increasing their metabolic rate, resulting in an increase of their content of anti-freeze amino acids and proteins, sugars, oils, vitamins, and minerals. However, the company warns that the product will not enable plants to grow outside of their normal habitats and will only temporarily assist plants for up to fifteen days after application.

The product has undergone vigorous commercial trials under the auspices of the UK’s Agricultural Development and Advisory Service (ADAS) and come out with flying colours. The product would seem to be the perfect solution for protecting plants at critical times, especially during the spring in temperate districts, when late frosts and cold spells can be so damaging.
Photo: Cropaid

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Philip

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Controlling "Dog Strangling" Vines

Vincetoxicum rossicum

Two invasive and destructive plants, first introduced to North America as garden plants, and known as "Dog Strangling" vines, are spreading uncontrolled through large areas of New York, New England and Ontario, prompting Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Cornell University scientists to launch a study to find biological ways to stop them. The targets of the three-year study—which is being led by entomologist Lindsey Milbraith of the ARS Plant Protection Research Unit (PPRU) in Ithaca, New York, are two members of the milkweed family known as Pale Swallow-wort and Black Swallow-wort.

Both plant species originated in Europe. Pale Swallow-wort, Vincetoxicum rossicum comes from the Ukraine, and Black Swallow-wort, V. nigrum is from south-western Europe. On their home grounds, both are kept in check by native natural enemies, particularly insects and diseases. But so far, nothing in North America has halted their advance. According to Milbrath, the vines contain strong and unique poisons that probably limit natural enemies and keep deer and cattle from feeding on them.

Cornell research has shown that the pink-flowered Pale Swallow-wort grows rapidly in forest under-stories and in open fields of undisturbed soil throughout central and upstate New York, around the Great Lakes and in Canada. The purple-flowered Black Swallow-wort prefers open areas. It is found primarily in New York's Hudson Valley and Long Island, as well as throughout New England. Pale Swallow-wort is believed to be a serious threat to Monarch butterflies, as it may be replacing common milkweeds in open fields upon which monarch larvae feed. The butterflies' larvae are unable to survive on either plant species.
Photo: USDA

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Philip

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Soil Holds Weed Control Answers

Soil's electrical conductivity holds the answer

At Fort Collins, Colorado, United States, scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are turning to soil to promote weed control. Soil variability, an important factor in treating weed-infested land, can be gauged by measuring different soils' electrical conductivity (EC). A soil's EC assesses how easily it allows a current to pass through it. Soils with a higher EC generally have more clay and organic matter and require more herbicide. Commercial growers can use EC to create herbicide application maps, allowing them to adjust application rates based on variations within the soil. This, in turn, reduces the risk of excessive herbicide leaching while maintaining effectiveness. Though a field kit is still in the early stages of development, it is believed that it could help reduce herbicide overdose. It is doubtless only a matter of time before someone will produce a simple device so that home gardeners can discover their own soil’s electrical conductivity and reduce herbicide application to the minimum.
Photo: USDA

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Philip

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Re-heating Oil-rich Seeds

A Cuphea species

The challenge of germinating oil-rich seeds after they've been stored in low temperatures is being met by United States Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Fort Collins, Colorado. Initial work has been done with Cuphea, a genus of mainly herbaceous plants that grow in many sub-tropical areas. Many Cuphea species' seeds yield oils with useful properties, but the lauric and myristic fatty acids which make them desirable to commerce can impede their germination following cold storage. As lauric and myristic fatty acids have 12 and 14 carbons, respectively, the lipids containing these acids crystallise when stored at -17ºC (0ºF), the standard temperature for long-term seed preservation. When returned to room temperature, the lipids remain crystallised and the seeds usually will not germinate.

Plant physiologist Christina Walters and her colleagues in the ARS Plant Germplasm Preservation Research Unit suspect that freezing temperatures disrupt the forces binding the contents within the seeds' cells, so they cannot function properly when the seeds re-hydrate. With support from ARS researchers in Ames, Iowa, the team examined the seeds' lipid composition, identified the species susceptible to damage, and developed a solution: warming the seeds before germination. Cuphea seeds can be harvested, dried and stored like other seeds. However, before germination, they should be heated for ten minutes at 45ºC (113ºF). Seeds which have undergone cold storage and re-heating are capable of germination, although electron micrograph images show significant differences between post and pre-storage seeds. The researchers believe their findings can be used to improve long-term seed storage for other oil-rich tropical species that both commercial growers and home gardeners commonly grow.

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Philip

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Water Melon Fusarium

Water melon grafted

Both melon growers and home gardeners who grow melons are beset by numerous problems related to disease, weather, pests and the quest for fruit uniformity. Now a new threat has emerged. In separate studies, scientists with the United States Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Lane, Oklahoma, and at the University of Maryland (UM) in Salisbury, have identified a new, more aggressive race of the fungus that causes Fusarium Wilt in water melon. This disease can attack plants at any stage of growth, leaving young seedlings lifeless, or mature plants fruitless with nothing to show but shrivelled and yellowing leaves.

ARS scientists Benny Bruton and Wayne Fish, together with UM’s Xin-Gen Zhou and Kathryne Everts, discovered a new race of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum that causes Fusarium Wilt. Their findings were presented recently at the joint meeting of the American Phytopathology Society and the Mycological Society of America in Quebec City, Canada.

Bruton and Fish found the new race, dubbed "Race 3," while monitoring water melon plants in fields near their Oklahoma laboratory. Bruton saw that a new, differently-acting fungus was plaguing plants thought to be resistant to Fusarium. Three distinct races of Fusarium are known to cause wilt in melons. Plant breeders have developed water melon cultivars that can fend off Races 0 and 1 fairly well, and luckily, Race 2 - for which there are no resistant commercial cultivars - is not competitive in the soil environment. According to Bruton, the same is likely true for the new, more virulent Race 3. However, he has got a solution. He and colleagues have found that grafting water melon onto sturdy squash or gourd rootstock is an effective way of controlling Fusarium Wilt. Such rootstocks are resistance to the Fusarium races that attack water melon. When water melon are grafted onto Cucurbita rootstock, the resulting water melon plant will gain resistance to Fusarium Wilt and show enhanced fruit quality.

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Philip

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