The North American pawpaw [Asimina triloba (L.) Dunal] has great potential as a fruit crop or as a landscape plant. The influence of incident irradiance on pawpaw seedling growth and development in containers was examined in the greenhouse and outdoors. Root spiraling can be a problem for container-grown pawpaw seedlings; therefore, the influence of paint containing cupric hydroxide [Cu(OH)2] at 100 g·L-1 applied to the interior of containers on plant growth was also examined in a greenhouse environment. In pawpaw seedlings grown outdoors for 11 weeks, low to moderate shading levels of 28%, 51%, or 81% increased leaf number, total leaf area, and total plant dry weight (DW) compared to nonshaded seedlings. A shading level of 81% decreased the root to shoot ratio by half compared to nonshaded plants. Shading of 98% reduced leaf number, leaf size, and shoot, root, and total plant DW. Shading increased leaf chlorophyll a and b concentrations for pawpaw seedlings grown outdoors, while it decreased average specific leaf DW (mg·cm-2). In a separate greenhouse experiment, pawpaw seedlings subjected to shade treatments of 0%, 33%, 56%, 81%, or 98% did not respond as greatly to shading as plants grown outdoors. Greenhouse-grown plants had greater total and average leaf area under 33% or 56% shading than nonshaded plants; however, shading >56% reduced root, shoot, and total plant DW. Total shoot DW was greater in greenhouse grown plants with 33% shading compared to nonshaded plants. Pawpaw seedlings in control and most shade treatments (33% to 81%) in the greenhouse environment had more leaves and greater leaf area, as well as larger shoot, root, and total plant DW than seedlings in similar treatments grown outdoors. The greenhouse environment had a 10% lower irradiance, a 60% lower ultraviolet irradiance, and a significantly higher (1.23 vs. 1.20) red to far-red light ratio than the outdoors environment. Treatment of container interiors with Cu(OH)2 decreased total and lateral root DW in nonshaded seedlings, and it adversely affected plant quality by causing a yellowing of leaves and reduction of chlorophyll levels by the end of the experiment in shaded plants. Growth characteristics of pawpaw seedlings were positively influenced by low to moderate shading (28% or 51%) outdoors and low shading (33%) in the greenhouse. Seedlings did not benefit from application of Cu(OH)2 to containers at the concentration used in this study. Commercial nurseries can further improve production of pawpaw seedlings using low to moderate shading outdoors.
Corresponding author and principal investigator of horticulture; curator, USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository for Asimina sp., Kentucky State Univ.