Silicon (Si) is a beneficial element that is usually ample in mineral soil solution, but it is minimally bioavailable from soilless substrates. Several Si additives are commercially available, but the rate of dissolution of Si is not well-characterized. The ideal additive would steadily release bioavailable Si over the crop lifecycle. We report the long-term (120 days) dissolution of Si from soilless substrates and substrate additives. Studies involving gently agitated containers with deionized water indicated that perlite, sphagnum peat, vermiculite, and coconut coir released less than 0.03 mmol Si per liter of substrate per day. Rice hulls and wollastonite (CaSiO3) had 7- to 130-times faster rates of dissolution in this system; therefore, they were further studied in peat-based media. Dissolution of Si from the addition of 1 g wollastonite per liter of peat peaked at day 10 at 2.1 mmol Si per liter of media per leaching event (15% by volume); then, it gradually decreased over 120 days. The peak dissolution of Si amended with 12% rice hulls was similar, but it gradually increased over time. The concentrations of nine heavy metals in plant tissue were compared with untreated control plants to determine wollastonite and steel slag. The concentration of some elements statistically increased, but all concentrations were well below the legal concentration limits of these elements for human consumption in the United States. These results indicate that both wollastonite and rice hulls steadily release Si for up to 4 months; therefore, they are good sources of Si for container-grown crops in soilless media.
Integrating solar modules into agricultural production constitutes a novel type of agricultural industry. We evaluated the effect of setting opaque plastic solar modules on greenhouse roofs on the crop growth inside greenhouse. The opaque plastic agricultural films simulating the material of solar modules and the greenhouse roofs covered with these films were used, and the yield and nitrate content of pak choi (Brassica chinensis ‘Bekamaru’) and rape (Brassica napus ‘Dragon’) under these films were measured. The results indicated that the yield of pak choi did not change considerably by a simulated photovoltaic (SPV) roof with a shading rate of 38% compared with an uncovered plastic (PL) roof. However, during the first and second planting periods, the yield of rape under the PL roof substantially exceeded that under the SPV roof by 31% and 34%, respectively, indicating that the effect of shading on the yield of rape was greater than that on the yield of pak choi. In addition, the appearance of pak choi and rape also changed under the SPV roof, such as fewer leaves, lower chlorophyll content, and larger specific leaf areas. Nevertheless, the nitrate content of crops grown under the SPV roof exceeded that of crops grown under the PL roof. In conclusion, based on the expression of yield and growth of crops, pak choi is suitable for cultivation in greenhouses that are equipped with photovoltaic systems. However, to prevent plants from accumulating excessive nitrate, attention must be focused on the amount and frequency of nitrogen fertilizers application.
Identifying the irrigation-induced cooling effects from a particular plant species used for urban groundcovers while optimizing the rates of irrigation applications is important in regions with hot and dry summers. A 2-year (2020–21) study was conducted in Riverside, CA, USA, to evaluate the effect of irrigation rates on the canopy temperature dynamics of 10 urban groundcovers. Four reference evapotranspiration (ETo)-based irrigation treatments (20%, 40%, 60%, and 80% ETo) and 10 groundcovers were laid in a randomized complete block design and replicated three times. The effect of irrigation rates on the difference between canopy–air temperature (ΔT), leaf area index (LAI), and stomatal conductance (gs) were evaluated. All response variables were collected between May and October 2020 and 2021. The crop water stress index for five groundcovers was also computed. The ΔT was affected (P < 0.05) by irrigation rates, and groundcovers, including Rhagodia spinescens and Baccharis × ‘Starn Thompson’, maintained the canopy temperature less than the ambient air temperature for all irrigation rates imposed. For most of the groundcovers, the ΔT yielded a strong relationship with LAI (r = –0.41 to –0.73), and gs (r = –0.35 to –0.60). Crop water stress index also showed a strong correlation to normalized difference vegetation index (r = 0.42 to –0.72) and gs (r = –0.57 to –0.64). Irrigation-included cooling was evident in most groundcovers irrigated at higher rates; however, Rhagodia spinescens and Baccharis × ‘Starn Thompson’ were found to perform well in cooling ability and maintaining the canopy growth as evidenced by LAI. Our study showed that proper plant selection and irrigation management could help maintain green spaces and mitigate the urban heat island effect while conserving irrigation water.
‘Cherokee Purple’ tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) plants are a highly sought-after heirloom cultivar in the United States but are low yielding and highly susceptible to soil-borne pathogens, and may benefit from being grafted. Soilless systems such as aquaponics and hydroponics help increase yield, mitigate disease, and serve as an alternative to field production. The objective of this study was to evaluate a grafting combination of ‘Cherokee Purple’ × ‘Maxifort’ and nongrafted controls in 1.85-m2 media grow beds with hydroponic and aquaponic systems using copper nose bluegill in a greenhouse. Grafting increased stem diameter, leaf count, stem height, flower count, and bud count compared with nongrafted plants. In aquaponics, grafting increased the phosphorus uptake over nongrafted plants grown in the aquaponic system. Grafting resulted in greater fresh (49.2%) and dry (40.0%) shoot biomass, and fresh (33.3%) and dry (42.8%) root biomass. Grafting also increased the uptake of copper and sulfur in the aquaponic systems. The hydroponic systems resulted in greater leaf count, soil plant analysis development, stem height, shoot biomass, and greater boron, phosphorus, potassium, iron, and manganese levels than aquaponic systems. Total fruit number and weight were greater in hydroponic systems than in aquaponic systems by 35.4% and 30.4%, respectively, but fruit splitting was a problem in both. Aquaponics resulted in greater root fresh weight than hydroponics. The nutrients zinc and copper increased with the use of aquaponic systems over hydroponic systems. This research suggests that the type of system can affect growth and nutrient uptake, and ‘Cherokee Purple’ should not be used in a soilless system because of excessive fruit splitting, leading to unmarketable fruit and low yield, unless environmental conditions can be managed during the heat of the summer.
Soilless substrates are widely used for plant cultivation. However, little is known about how soilless substrate components, plant growth, or their interactions impact microbial communities in soilless media. The objectives of this study were to analyze microbial communities in typical pine bark substrates used for nursery crop production and determine the impacts of substituting peat with a compost substrate, and planting, on microbial community dynamics over a production cycle. Three soilless substrate mixtures were compared. The substrate mixes consisted of 80:20:0, 80:10:10, and 80:0:20 (volume:volume:volume) ratios of pine bark:peatmoss:leaf compost, respectively. One set of each treatment was planted with a single birch (Betula nigra ‘Cully’) liner and another set was not planted. The treatments (n = 3) were maintained in a nursery production setting, and samples were taken after 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4 months. Bacterial and fungal communities were characterized by sequencing polymerase chain reaction-amplified 16s rRNA genes and internal transcribed spacer regions. Initially, the two substrate mixtures that contained compost had more phyla than the substrate mixture that only contained peat and bark. After 1 month, microbial communities in all treatments contained similar phyla, but at different relative abundances based on the amount of compost they contained. Over time, Nitrosomonadaceae and Acetobacteraceae were the most abundant bacterial families in substrate mixes containing 10% and 20% compost, but they were absent from treatments without compost. The communities were dynamic and changed the most over the first 2 months. Microbial communities and their dynamics were similar between planted and unplanted treatments. Planting had less of an effect on microbial communities than compost amendment. Among the fungal communities, differences were observed based on both compost amendment and plant presence. Ascomycota and Basidiomycota were the most abundant fungal phyla and resembled those originally in the peat and compost, respectively. These findings could be used to understand the importance and dynamics of specific microbial communities present in substrate components and how they develop during greenhouse production.
Freezing temperatures in fall, winter, and spring can cause damage to multiple perennial fruit crops including northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). Predictive modeling for lethal temperatures allows producers to make informed decisions about freeze mitigation practices but is lacking for northern highbush blueberry grown in the Pacific Northwest. If buds are hardier than air temperatures, unnecessary use of propane heaters and/or wind machines is costly. In contrast, use of heaters and/or wind machines during freezing, damaging temperatures can minimize crop damage and potential yield loss. The objective of this study was to model cold hardiness across multiple cultivars of northern highbush blueberry grown in various regions in Washington, USA, and to generate predictive cold hardiness models that producers in the Pacific Northwest could use to inform freeze mitigation. Multiple years of experimental cold hardiness data were collected on four cultivars of northern highbush blueberry grown in western and eastern Washington, USA. Freeze chambers were used to reduce bud temperatures systematically, after which buds were dissected and bud survival was assessed. A generalized linear mixed model with a binomial response and logit link was fit to each cultivar to characterize the relationship between bud survival, freezer temperature, recent air temperatures, and growing degree days from fall acclimation to late winter/spring deacclimation. Model simulation was performed to obtain marginal-scale lethal temperature estimates. Model error estimation was performed using cross validation. Results show cultivar-specific cold hardiness models can be generated, and model development and use can help growers make more informed decisions regarding freeze protection that also minimizes costly applications of freeze protection when unnecessary. Furthermore, such models can be adapted to other blueberry growing regions and cultivars experiencing similar climactic conditions.
There is a growing trend of cultivating hybrid bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. × Cynodon transvaalensis Burtt-Davy] on golf course putting greens in the transition zone because of its excellent quality in the summer months, coupled with less pesticide input than creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera L.). However, the long-term success of bermudagrass putting greens is hindered by low temperatures in winter months, particularly in the transition zone. To address this issue, in addition to genetic improvement for cold hardiness through the development of new cultivars, effective management approaches are necessary to enhance the winter survival of putting green–type bermudagrass. The objective of this study was to investigate the relative freeze tolerance of four bermudagrasses and the effects of raising mowing height on the freeze tolerance of putting green–type bermudagrasses. In this study, two experimental putting green–type bermudagrasses (11X2 and OKC0805) along with cultivars TifEagle and OKC3920 were tested at two mowing heights (3.2 vs. 6.4 mm) at freeze temperatures that ranged between –4 and –11 °C. The lethal temperature to kill 50% of the population (LT50) as well as regrowth vigor during recovery were evaluated. Variety ‘OKC3920’ demonstrated enhanced freeze tolerance compared with ‘TifEagle’ at both mowing heights. Increasing the mowing height from 3.2 mm to 6.4 mm improved freeze tolerance for most genotypes tested in this study. After exposing the grasses to –8 °C for 1 hour, genotypes such as 11X2 exhibited better regrowth vigor and demonstrated a faster recovery. This study suggests that golf course managers can enhance winter resilience of bermudagrass putting greens by selecting genotypes strategically with superior freeze tolerance and raising mowing heights in the fall acclimation process.
Protective netting and evaporative cooling are commonly used for sunburn protection in apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) orchards in semiarid environments such as central Washington state. Sunburn is caused by a combination of solar radiation and heat, which can cause significant economic losses. Although protective netting and evaporative cooling can be effective for preventing apple sunburn, netting can also introduce new risks, including red color development on the fruit surface. This study evaluated whether retracting netting before harvest improves red color development and/or changes sunburn risk compared with leaving netting in place until after harvest. An experiment was conducted that compared three netting treatments: 1) netting from June until harvest, 2) netting retracted 10 d before harvest, and 3) no netting all season combined with the presence or absence of evaporative cooling. Fruit was harvested and assessed for sunburn incidence and external quality characteristics immediately after harvest. In retracted netting treatments, red color was higher when netting was retracted compared with the nonretracted controls, and sunburn risk did not increase with netting retraction. Evaporative cooling reduced sunburn incidence. Retractable netting can be used to minimize the loss of fruit to sunburn while allowing a full light environment that promotes red color near harvest. There is no inherent increase in sunburn risk from netting retraction, and the proportion of fruit with red color improved.