Reduced irrigation (RI) can be used to reduce irrigation volume as well as to control plant growth. The timing and duration of RI applications can affect overall plant growth and flowering. Knowledge of plant response to RI can allow growers to control growth and plant form. The objective of this study was to quantify flower and overall plant growth of ‘PAS702917’coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and ‘Helbro’ sneezeweed (Helenium hybrida) in response to RI. A soil-moisture sensor automated irrigation system was used to apply four irrigation treatments: RI and well-watered (WW) controls (25% or 38%) and two alternating treatments to apply RI for either the first 2 weeks (25% followed by 38%, RIWW treatment) or final 4 weeks (38% followed by 25%, WWRI treatment) of the 6-week study. For the sneezeweed experiment, RI was reduced to 20%. For coneflower, peduncle length was greater for the WW (36.8 cm) and RIWW treatments (35.7 cm) than the RI (27.0 cm) and WWRI treatments (26.6 cm). Shoot dry weight, compactness, leaf area, and flower number were not significant. For sneezeweed, WW plants were taller (57.2 cm) and had greater shoot dry weight (49.8 g) than plants in other treatments. WW plants also had more flowers (99) than WWRI (63) and RI (67) plants, which were more compact. Total leaf area did not differ between treatments for either species. Total irrigation volume was greatest for WW plants (5.2 and 15.1 L/plant for coneflower and sneezeweed, respectively), with RI at any point during the experiment resulting in water savings.
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Kevin T. Walsh and Tina M. Waliczek
The free-floating algae known as sargassum (Sargassum fluitans and Sargassum natans) drifts onto coastlines throughout the Atlantic Ocean during spring and summer months. Beach communities seek to maintain tourist appeal and, therefore, remove or relocate the sargassum drifts once it collects on shore. Maintenance efforts have attempted to incorporate the sargassum into dunes and beach sand. However, not all communities have the resources to manage the biomass and must dispose of it in a landfill. The utility of the seaweed biomass as a fertilizer for plant growth has been renowned for centuries. The purpose of this project was to evaluate the appropriate proportion of sargassum for other compost ingredients used in a large-scale composting system to create a quality product for utilization in horticultural and/or agricultural products. This study used ≈32 yard3 of sargassum as part of 96 yard3 of compost material that also included food waste, fish waste, and wood chips. Four protocols were prepared and included either 25% or 41.5% sargassum and various proportions of food or fish waste and wood chips, which are ingredients that would be readily available in coastline communities, to determine the ideal ratios of materials to create a quality compost. Piles were turned regularly and monitored for pH, moisture, and temperatures according to compost industry standards and approximately every 5 to 7 days. Piles cured for 4 to 8 weeks and the entire composting process lasted 5 months. Samples of compost were collected and tested through the Agricultural Analytical Services Laboratory’s U.S. Composting Council’s Seal of Testing Approval Program at Pennsylvania State University. All final compost products and protocols had reasonable quality similar to those required by current compost standards. However, the protocol incorporating equal parts sargassum (41.5%) and wood chips (41.5%), fish waste (4%), and food waste (13%) had the best results in terms of organic matter content and overall nutrient levels. Therefore, this study determined that waste management industries can use sargassum as a feedstock through a large-scale composting system to create a desirable compost product that could be used in the horticulture industries. Sargassum could also be composted and then returned to the shoreline, where it would help build soils and vegetation.
Julie Campbell, Alicia Rihn and Hayk Khachatryan
Home lawn fertilizer use throughout the United States is coming under increased scrutiny due to potential negative environmental impacts. A better understanding of how consumer perceptions and socio-demographics impact their choices of types of lawn fertilizers can aid industry stakeholders when marketing products. This research uses a nationwide survey to evaluate factors that impact respondents’ choice of lawn fertilizer brands. Respondents with home lawns selected the lawn fertilizer brands they purchased the most frequently and rated the importance of various fertilizer attributes (e.g., nitrogen–phosphorus–potassium ratio, brand, price, etc.) when selecting lawn fertilizers. Given many lawn fertilizer brands share commonalities, respondents’ answers were grouped into five categories: most popular brand, primarily turf brands, sustainable/organic brands, other brands, and “I don’t remember the brand.” The most popular brand of fertilizer was chosen by 69% of respondents, with the primarily turf brands and other fertilizers being chosen by 25% and 23% of respondents, respectively. This study finds that brand selection is impacted by important fertilizer features, frequented retail outlets, geographical region of residence, and demographic variables. For example, brand importance and purchasing from mass merchandisers or wholesale clubs increased respondents’ selection likelihood of the most popular brand by 6.9% and 20.5% points, respectively. Marketing implications are discussed.
Donnie K. Miller, Thomas M. Batts, Josh T. Copes and David C. Blouin
Commercialization of crops tolerant to application of 2, 4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and dicamba is a cause of major concern for sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) producers regarding potential negative impacts due to herbicide drift or sprayer contamination events. A field study was initiated in 2016 and repeated in 2017 to assess impacts of reduced rates of combinations of glyphosate with 2,4-D or dicamba on sweetpotato growth and production. Reduced rates of 1/10x, 1/33x, 1/66x, and 1/100x of a 1x rate of glyphosate at 1 lb/acre plus 2,4-D choline at 0.94 lb/acre and glyphosate at 1 lb/acre plus diglycolamine salt of dicamba at 0.5 lb/acre were applied to ‘Beauregard’ sweetpotato at 10 or 30 days after transplanting. With respect to visual injury, in general glyphosate plus dicamba proved to be more injurious than glyphosate plus 2,4-D, especially within the lower rate range. In most cases injury was greater at the later application timing. In either case, typical hormonal herbicide symptomology was quite evident 35 days after application. With respect to U.S. No. 1 and total (U.S. No. 1, canner, and jumbo grade) sweetpotato yield, greatest negative impact was observed with herbicide application at the upper rate range, particularly the 1/10 and 1/33x rates, and at the later application timing regardless of herbicide applied.
Tina M. Waliczek, Nicole C. Wagner and Selin Guney
Composting is the biological decomposition of organic materials, such as plant tissue, food scraps, paper, animal fodder, and wood chips. The end-product, compost, is a beneficial soil amendment because it can contain a diversity of beneficial microorganisms, has high nutrient and water-holding capacities, can increase total soil porosity, and contains essential plant nutrients that improve soil productivity. Coastal regions of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the Atlantic and European shorelines, have witnessed a proliferation of brown seaweed (Sargassum sp.). When piled on beaches, tourism appeal is reduced, threatening the local economy. When amassed offshore, thick brown seaweed mats can hinder fishing. Excessive decomposition rates can lead to eutrophication, which threatens coastal areas economically and environmentally. Despite these problems, seaweed may be considered a valuable compost ingredient. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to conduct a market test to determine the potential value of a seaweed-incorporated compost to consumers in Texas and to identify attributes of likely consumers. A marketing survey was developed and distributed to gardeners in the central and south Texas regions. Contingent valuation questions measured participants’ willingness to pay for the seaweed compost products. Participants were able to see, smell, and touch a sample of the compost while completing the survey. Despite 92% of respondents ranking themselves as inexperienced in compost behavior, results indicated a potential for a specialty, competitively priced seaweed-incorporated compost to be introduced to the market. Respondents were most willing to pay $4.00/ft3 to $5.00/ft3 for seaweed-incorporated compost. Additionally, participants who responded positively to buying local, buying compost in the past, having positive environmental attitudes, and buying American were more likely to pay more for the seaweed-incorporated compost. There was not an obvious pattern between willingness to pay for seaweed-incorporated compost and demographic responses.
Seth D. Wannemuehler, Chengyan Yue, Wendy K. Hoashi-Erhardt, R. Karina Gallardo and Vicki McCracken
DNA-informed breeding techniques allow breeders to examine individual plants before costly field trials. Previous studies with tree fruits such as apple (Malus ×domestica) and peach (Prunus persica) have identified cost-effective implementation of DNA-informed techniques. However, it is unclear whether breeding programs for herbaceous perennials with 1- to 2-year juvenile phases benefit economically from these techniques. In this study, a cost-benefit analysis examining marker-assisted selection (MAS) in a Pacific northwest U.S. strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) breeding program was conducted to elucidate the effectiveness of DNA-informed breeding in perennial crops and explore the capabilities of a decision support tool. Procedures and associated costs were identified to create simulations of the breeding program. Simulations compared a conventional breeding program to a breeding program using MAS with low (12.5%), medium (25%), and high (50%) removal rates, and examined different scenarios where MAS had diminishing power to remove individuals as selections reenter the breeding cycle as parent material. We found that MAS application under current costs was not cost-effective in the modeled strawberry program when applied at the greenhouse stage, but cost-effectiveness was observed when MAS was applied at the end of the seedling trials before clonal trials with a removal rate of 12.5%.
Rebecca Grube Sideman
High tunnels can facilitate production of ripe colored bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) in locations with short growing seasons by extending the length of the growing season and protecting fruit from biotic and abiotic stressors. We grew 10 cultivars of bell pepper over 3 years in a high tunnel in Durham, NH. Yields of marketable colored fruit ranged from 1576 to 2285 g/plant in 2015, from 1194 to 1839 g/plant in 2016, and 1471 to 2358 g/plant in 2017. Significant differences in marketable yield among cultivars existed only in 2015 and 2017. Of the 10 cultivars evaluated, those developed for controlled environments produced greater marketable yields than those developed for production in the field or unheated tunnels (P < 0.0001). The seasonal production patterns were similar among cultivars in all 3 years: a single peak in production occurred between 159 and 175 days after seeding, followed by much lower but steady production until frost ended each growing season. Our results demonstrate that reasonable yields of colored bell peppers can be produced in high tunnels in locations with short growing seasons. We suggest that further work may be needed to identify optimal pruning and canopy management strategies to maximize yields and fruit quality.
Seth D. Wannemuehler, Chengyan Yue, William W. Shane, R. Karina Gallardo and Vicki McCracken
Marker-assisted selection (MAS) use in breeding programs allows for examination of seedlings at an early stage before accumulation of high field costs. However, introducing MAS into a breeding program implies additional costs and uncertainties about effective incorporation. Previous simulations in apple (Malus ×domestica) have shown cost-effective applications of MAS. To further evaluate MAS cost-effectiveness in perennial crops, we conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis examining MAS in an upper midwestern U.S. peach (Prunus persica) breeding program. Breeding program procedures and associated costs were collected and used as input into spreadsheet-based simulations of the breeding program. Simulations compared a conventional breeding program to MAS with varying cull rates of low, medium, and high at multiple stages in the breeding cycle. Cost-effective MAS implementation was identified at the end of seedling trials with a break-even cull rate of 4%. These results inform breeders of cost-effectiveness of MAS use in a peach breeding program.
Bethany A. Harris, Wojciech J. Florkowski and Svoboda V. Pennisi
Biodegradable containers of various types are available on the market and can be directly purchased by growers and homeowners. However, adoption of these containers has been slow, limiting their potential as an alternative to plastic containers. It is crucial to assess level of knowledge and use of biodegradable containers by horticultural growers and landscape service providers to help explain their slow rate of adoption by the industry. An online survey instrument was implemented to assess grower and landscaper knowledge and familiarity regarding biodegradable containers in the state of Georgia. Results indicated that 83% of horticultural growers do not purchase biodegradable containers. However, peat biodegradable containers were primarily purchased when these containers were used. Both growers and landscape service providers “neither agreed nor disagreed” that the use of biodegradable containers could improve plant growth. Growers “did not know” if using biodegradable containers “improved water efficiency.” Landscape service providers exhibited low knowledge of the wide variety of biodegradable containers available on the market as well as limited awareness of features of such containers as they pertained to plant growth.
Coleman L. Etheredge, Tina M. Waliczek and Pratheesh Omana Sudhakaran
A university faculty-managed and student-run service-learning program provides seasonal plants and floral designs for holidays and special events on campus. Native and well-adapted plants for client personal use are also promoted and sold throughout the semester. Students propagate and grow greenhouse and nursery crops and create floral designs through service-learning applications in classes. Floral designs and greenhouse/nursery products are advertised via e-mail to members of the university's faculty and staff. The purpose of this study was to document program fundraising over time, as well as to measure the experiential value to the students and the quality of life benefits to the campus community. Economic benefits were evaluated by reviewing overall and average costs and earnings from the program over a 13-year period. Results indicated the average profits for the program were $6578 annually, with most sales occurring during the late spring semester. Surveys collected qualitative data from students participating in the program and indicated the experience was a valuable hands-on horticultural teaching tool, but also helped students build confidence, learn business skills in management and networking, and find their passion within the industry. Unsolicited comments from faculty and staff found that the program brought joy, had educational value, and provided a service to departments.