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Clemson plant scientist wins research poster competition at horticultural science conference

Clemson plant scientist Shawna Rogers Daley was honored for excellence in research poster and oral presentation at the 73rd annual meeting of the Southern Region of the American Society for Horticultural Science.

Daley took top honors for her research poster titled “Fatty Alcohol Treatments Control Rootstock Re-growth in Grafted Watermelon” and she took second place for her oral presentation on the same subject matter.

Daley focuses her research on the use of fatty alcohol treatments to increase efficiency in grafting watermelon onto squash and bottle gourd plants. This type of grafting can help the plants battle soil-borne diseases without the use of fumigants — or gaseous pesticides — saving growers money and risking less environmental impact.

“The problem for growers is that the regrowth from the rootstock of grafted watermelons can cause the death of the watermelon scion by stealing its nutrients and sunlight,” Daley said. “By using fatty alcohol to control rootstock growth, we can greatly reduce the labor required to prune grafted transplants and make the process more economically feasible for growers.”

Daley found that the fatty alcohol halts the regrowth of the rootstock but leaves the rest of the plant undamaged and suitable for grafting. The treatment also adds weeks to the narrow window of opportunity for grafting. Daley now will investigate whether the treatment can accelerate graft healing and rooting.

Daley is a graduate research assistant in Clemson’s School of Agricultural, Forest, and Environmental Sciences (SAFES) where she works with Richard Hassell, professor of vegetable physiology and vegetable extension specialist at Clemson’s Coastal Research and Education Center in Charleston.

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