Quantifying the Thermal Tolerance of Nonrooted Petunia Cuttings and Their Subsequent Performance

in HortScience
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  • 1 Michigan State University, Horticulture, A288 Plant and Soil Science Building, E. Lansing, MI, 48824

In 2003, commercial greenhouse growers in the United States imported 724 million nonrooted cuttings valued at $53 million. During transit and storage, cuttings can be exposed to environmental stresses (e.g., low or high temperature), which can consequently decrease quality, rooting, and subsequent plant performance. We performed experiments to quantify how temperature and storage duration of cuttings influence root initiation, root number, lateral branch count and length, and time to flower of Tiny Tunia `Violet Ice' petunia (Petunia × hybrida hort. Vilm. -Andr.). Dry or wet cuttings were harvested and packaged into perforated bags within small, ventilated boxes and then into traditional shipping boxes. The boxes were placed in environmental chambers with temperature setpoints of 0, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30 °C for 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 d. Cuttings were then rooted in a propagation house at 26 °C with a vapor pressure deficit of 0.3 kPa under ambient photo-periods. The visual quality rating of dry packaged cuttings decreased with increasing temperature and shipping duration. After 2 d at ≥25 °C, cuttings were horticulturally unacceptable due to water stress and chlorophyll degradation and they never fully recovered. Dry- or wet-packaged cuttings held at temperatures of 0 to 30 °C formed significantly fewer roots and lateral branches as duration increased from 1–5 d. Although cuttings held for 5 d at 0 °C produced 60% fewer lateral branches, they subsequently flowered 5 d earlier than plants held at 0 °C for 1 d. Therefore, exposure to temperatures >15 °C for ≥3 d can reduce petunia cutting quality, delay rooting, and decrease plant size at flowering.

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