Seed Treatment and Cultural Practices Influence Seedling Growth of Hydroponic Lettuce

in HortTechnology
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  • 1 Graduate research assistant. Current address: Department of Horticulture, Clemson University, Clemson, S.C. 29634.
  • | 2 Professor, Delaware Agriculture Experiment Station, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 10717-1303. To whom reprint requests should be sent.
  • | 3 Owner and operator of ARC Greenhouses, Shiloh, N.J.

Raw, pelleted or germinated seeds of `Cortina' lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) were sown in phenolic foam cubes preplant soaked in water or fullstrength nutrient solution (2 mmho·cm−1, 2 dS·m−1). The seeds were left uncovered or covered with fine vermiculite (grade 5), and seedling emergence characteristics were subsequently determined. Shoot fresh masses and their coefficients of variation (cv) by 9 days after planting (1 or 2 true leaves) and by 31 days after planting (4 or 5 true leaves) also were determined. Soaking the cubes in nutrient solution rather than water increased seedling emergence percentage and rate, and increased shoot fresh masses by 9 or 31 days after planting. This increased shoot fresh mass was accompanied by lower cv of shoot fresh mass by 9 days after planting, but not by 31 days after planting. Covering seeds with vermiculite decreased emergence from 99% to 93%, but increased shoot fresh mass by 9 and 31 days after planting when cubes were soaked in water, but not in nutrient solution. Seed treatments influenced shoot fresh mass at 9 and 31 days after planting in the order germinated > pelleted > raw. Germinated seeds resulted in lower cv of shoot fresh mass (24%) than raw or pelleted seeds (29%) by 31 days after planting. Thus, sowing germinated seeds into foam cubes soaked in full-strength nutrient solution, with or without covering the seeds with vermiculite, produced the heaviest and most uniform seedlings.

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