Growth and consumer evaluation of Cucumis sativus L. cultivated in controlled environments
Cucumber is a commonly consumed vegetable that is growing in popularity. Recently, there has been an increase in cucumber cultivation in controlled environments. The overall objectives of this research were to (1) identify a cucumber cultivar for optimal growth in a controlled environment, (2) investigate the effects of elevated CO2 on fruit production and plant growth, and (3) evaluate consumer perception of cucumber. Ten Cucumis sativus L. cultivars were hydroponically, greenhouse-grown in a randomized block design to evaluate fruit production and plant growth. Of the cultivars screened, the gynoecious, parthenocarpic cultivars produced the most fruit; of which, the cultivar ‘Rocky’ was chosen as the elite cultivar for optimal growth in a controlled environment. ‘Rocky’ was chosen for evaluation in the growth chamber trials because it is a quick-growing cultivar that yields a heavy, concentrated fruit set, a relatively high harvest index, a low disease incidence, and is aesthetically pleasing. The elite cultivar ‘Rocky’ was grown at 400 and 2000 ppm CO2 to evaluate fruit production and plant growth. Plants grown at 2000 ppm CO2 had an increase in vegetative and reproductive growth when compared to plants grown at 400 ppm CO2. As part of an outreach program, Texas Tech University horticulture students participated in a Hydroponic Cucumber Lab in which they were able take care of cucumber plants and taste the cucumbers they grew. In order to evaluate consumer perception of cucumber, the horticulture students were administered a survey, consisting of a pre- and post-test, which asked students demographic questions and questions about their cucumber eating habits in general. A majority of the students indicated they liked cucumbers and the post-test showed that the student’s perception of cucumber had changed. Sensory panels were conducted to evaluate appearance and taste perception of cucumber. Two cultivars were evaluated: ‘Rocky’ and ‘Socrates’. Students indicated they liked the appearance of ‘Socrates’ more than ‘Rocky’. ‘Socrates’ looks more like a traditional slicer sold in supermarkets; ‘Rocky’ is a non-traditional pickler that is harvested at a shorter length and has a smooth yellowish skin. Overall, students indicated they liked the taste of ‘Rocky’ and ‘Socrates’.