Summary of Temperature Stress Issues in Nursery Containers and Current Methods of Protection

in HortTechnology

Container nurseries are generally more productive than field nurseries because plants can be produced faster and at higher densities. Increasingly, nursery stock is being propagated, grown, and marketed in containers. The prime biological advantage of container stock over bareroot and field-grown balled and burlapped (B&B) stock is that the root system is packaged and protected from transplant or mechanical stress; however, temperature stress limits container production. Plants overwintered in containers suffer greater winter injury than those in the ground because the roots are surrounded by cold, circulating air rather than the insulating environment of the soil. There are several methods for providing protection from cold winter temperatures that are used in the nursery industry; however, all are labor intensive, expensive and vary in effectiveness. Container stock also suffers from elevated summer root zone temperatures. Cultivar differences in the degree of summer injury have been reported. With increasing human population pressures and decreasing availability of fresh water supplies, the need for more water-efficient nursery cultural practices becomes increasingly important. Water and nutrient use efficiency are predominant factors restricting nursery container production. Cultural factors that improve root function and reduce root injury and container heat load are considered key to improving these efficiencies. This paper examines temperature stress issues and the effects of different nursery cultural environments such as conventional overwintering systems, conventional gravel production surfaces, pot-in-pot production, and retractable roof greenhouses.

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