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Madeline W. Olberg and Roberto G. Lopez

Due to the high cost associated with constructing and operating a greenhouse, many growers have begun using alternative, low-input methods for bedding plant production, such as unheated high tunnel and outdoor production. Previous research indicates that bedding plant production in unheated high tunnels may be suitable for cold-tolerant species, but flowering is delayed compared with greenhouse production. To our knowledge, there has been no published research on the effects of outdoor production on bedding plant species. The objectives of this study were therefore to 1) compare the growth and development of 10 cold-tolerant and intermediate annual bedding plant species grown in an unheated high tunnel or in an unprotected outdoor growing area, 2) evaluate the effect of a 1-week acclimation period in the high tunnel before outdoor production, and 3) quantify the effectiveness of these production methods for producing high-quality bedding crops. Seedlings of ‘Antigua Orange’ african marigold (Tagetes erecta), ‘Hot Cakes White’ stock (Matthiola incana), and ‘Lilac Flame’ primula (Primula acaulis), and rooted cuttings of ‘Aloha Kona Hot Pink’ calibrachoa (Calibrachoa ×hybrida), ‘Royal Lavender’ regal geranium (Pelargonium ×domesticum), ‘Bella Oceano’ lobelia (Lobelia erinus), ‘Potunia Plus Red’ petunia (Petunia ×hybrida), ‘Phloxy Lady Purple’ phlox (Phlox maculata), ‘Summertime Pink Charme’ osteospermum (Osteospermum ecklonis), and ‘Empress Purple’ verbena (Verbena ×hybrida) were transplanted on 13 Apr. 2015 (week 16) into an unheated high tunnel or an outdoor growing area, or into an unheated high tunnel for a 1-week acclimation period before being moved outdoors. Average mean daily air temperature was 2.3 °C lower outdoors compared with inside the high tunnel, whereas average daily light integral (DLI) increased by 11.7 mol·m−2·d−1. All plants were delayed when grown outdoors compared with in the high tunnel, and all marigolds grown outdoors died in April when outdoor air temperatures dropped below −4 °C. When plants were acclimated for a 1-week period before outdoor production, all species, with the exception of regal geranium, were delayed by less than 1 week compared with those grown in the high tunnel. Stem length of all species grown outdoors was reduced or similar to those in the high tunnel, whereas biomass accumulation and branch number was unaffected or increased for most species. Overall, high-quality bedding plants could be grown outdoors, although development may be delayed compared with high tunnel production. Growers must be aware of the risk of crop loss due to extreme temperatures and plan for delays when growing annual bedding plant crops outdoors.

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Christopher J. Currey and Roberto G. Lopez

During the propagation of herbaceous stem-tip cuttings, the photosynthetic daily light integral (DLI) inside greenhouses can be low (≈1–4 mol·m−2·d−1) during the winter and early spring when propagation typically occurs. The mechanisms by which cuttings adapt biomass allocation patterns, gas exchange, and starch accumulation in response to the photosynthetic DLI are not clearly understood. Our objectives were to quantify the impact of DLI on growth, photosynthesis, and carbohydrate concentration during the root development phase of cutting propagation. Petunia (Petunia ×hybrida ‘Suncatcher Midnight Blue’), geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum ‘Fantasia Dark Red’), and new guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri ‘Celebration Pink’) cuttings were propagated in a glass-glazed greenhouse with 23 °C air and substrate temperature set points. After callusing (≈5 mol·m−2·d−1 for 7 days), cuttings of each species were placed under either no shade or one of the two different fixed-woven shade cloths providing ≈38% or 86% shade with 16 hours of supplemental light for 14 days, resulting in DLIs of 13.0‒14.2, 5.5‒6.0, and 2.0‒2.4 mol·m−2·d−1, respectively. Leaf, stem, and root biomass accumulation increased linearly with DLI by up to 122% (geranium), 118% (petunia), and 211% (new guinea impatiens), as DLI increased by ≈11‒12 mol·m−2·d−1, while relative biomass allocation into roots increased under increasing DLI. Compared with cuttings rooted under low DLIs (2.0‒2.4 mol·m−2·d−1), cuttings of all three species generally had greater maximum gross photosynthesis under high DLIs (13.0‒14.2 mol·m−2·d−1) starting 5 or 8 days after transfer. Starch concentration increased with DLI by up to 946% (impatiens) during propagation. Taken together, the increased growth of cuttings appears to be a result of increased carbohydrate availability from elevated photosynthesis and/or photosynthetic capacity.

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Christopher J. Currey and Roberto G. Lopez

Total crop management (TCM) is a holistic approach to crop production that integrates data collection and interpretation to facilitate decisions that produce a uniform, high-quality, and marketable crop. Our objective was to determine if integrating TCM into poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) production experiences at two separate land-grant universities would improve student confidence in greenhouse potted plant production decision-making skills. Students produced containerized poinsettias and collected data on the greenhouse environment [light, temperature, and relative humidity (RH)], plant growth, media properties, irrigation water quality, and pest populations weekly at Purdue University (PU) (2011 and 2013) and Iowa State University (ISU) (2013) or biweekly (2015). Students were provided with self-assessments at the beginning and end of each course with statements about TCM and the various components comprising TCM activities. For nearly every statement at both institutions, self-assessments in confidence and understanding increased on the pre- to postsemester surveys. The systematic data collection combined with discussion and reflection provides an opportunity for peer instruction and learning. We believe TCM increases student confidence in their greenhouse plant production skills.

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Madeline W. Olberg and Roberto G. Lopez

Heating accounts for up to 30% of total operating costs for greenhouse operations in northern latitudes. Growers often lower air temperatures for production to reduce energy costs; however, this causes delays in development even in cold-tolerant crops, such as petunia (Petunia ×hybrida). This delay increases production time and can reduce profitability. Recent studies on low air temperature bedding plant production indicate petunia as a strong potential candidate for using lower air temperatures in combination with bench-top root-zone heating (RZH) to avoid or reduce delays in development. The objectives of this study were to 1) quantify time to flower (TTF) of seven petunia cultivars and two recombinant inbred lines (RILs) when the mean daily air temperature (MDT) was lowered by 5 °C and bench-top RZH was used and 2) determine if a high-quality petunia crop can be produced on RZH. Petunia ‘Sun Spun Burgundy’, ‘Sun Spun Lavender Star’, ‘Sanguna Patio Red’, ‘Potunia Plus Red’, ‘Potunia Plus Purple’, ‘Supertunia Red’, ‘Supertunia Bordeaux’, and two RILs, IA160 and IA349, were grown in a greenhouse with an MDT of 15 °C without RZH or with a RZH set point of 21, 24, or 27 °C. Additionally, a commercial control (CC) was established by growing plants without RZH at an MDT of 20 °C. All plants were grown under a 16-hour photoperiod to provide a daily light integral (DLI) of ≈12 mol·m−2·d−1. Time to flower was shorter at higher RZH set points. For example, TTF of ‘Potunia Plus Red’ was 56, 52, 49, or 47 days for plants grown at an MDT of 15 °C without RZH, or with RZH set points of 21, 24, or 27 °C, respectively. When a RZH set point of 27 °C was employed, TTF of all cultivars and inbred lines, except ‘Potunia Plus Red’ and ‘Sanguna Patio Red’, was similar to plants grown in the CC. Shorter stem length, lower growth index, and smaller shoot dry mass (SDM) at flowering were observed for plants grown under lower air temperatures with RZH, resulting in a more compact and high-quality plant. Producing a compact plant in a shorter time period is beneficial for growers; thus, results suggest that MDT can be lowered to 15 °C for petunia production when a RZH set point of 27 °C is employed.

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W. Garrett Owen and Roberto G. Lopez

Crown division, tissue culture, and culm cuttings are methods for propagating purple fountain grass [Pennisetum ×advena Wipff and Veldkamp (formerly known as Pennisetum setaceum Forsk. Chiov. ‘Rubrum’)]. However, propagation by culm cuttings is becoming an economically attractive method for quick liner production. Our objective was to quantify the impact of propagation daily light integral (PDLI) and root-zone temperature (RZT) on root and culm development of single-internode purple fountain grass culm cuttings. Before insertion into the rooting substrate, cuttings were treated with a basal rooting hormone solution containing 1000 mg·L−1 indole-3-butyric acid (IBA) + 500 mg·L−1 1-naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA). The cuttings were placed in a glass-glazed greenhouse with an air temperature of 23 °C and benches with RZT set points of 21, 23, 25, or 27 °C. PDLIs of 4 and 10 mol·m−2·d−1 (Expt. 1) or 8 and 16 mol·m−2·d−1 (Expt. 2) were provided. After 28 d, culm and root densities (number) increased as the RZT increased from 21 to 27 °C, regardless of PDLI during Expt. 1. Compared with 4 mol·m−2·d−1, a PDLI of 10 mol·m−2·d−1 generally resulted in the greatest root biomass accumulation. For example, as PDLI increased from 4 to 10 mol·m−2·d−1, root dry mass increased by 105%, 152%, and 183% at RZTs of 21, 25, and 27 °C, respectively. In Expt. 2, as the RZT increased from 21 to 23 °C, root dry mass increased by 70% under a PDLI of 8 mol·m−2·d−1. However, root dry mass was similar among all RZTs under a PDLI of 16 mol·m−2·d−1. Our results indicate that single-internode culm cuttings of purple fountain grass can be most efficiently propagated under PDLIs of 8–10 mol·m−2·d−1 together with RZT set points of 23 to 25 °C for quick liner production.

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Christopher J. Currey and Roberto G. Lopez

Plant growth retardants (PGRs) are commonly applied to control poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) stem elongation to meet a target final height. Two weeks after pinching, 4-fl·oz substrate drenches containing 0.0, 0.05, 0.10, 0.15, 0.20, or 0.25 mg·L−1 flurprimidol were applied to high-vigor ‘Orion’ and low-vigor ‘Polly Pink’ poinsettia (Expt. I); while drenches containing 0.0, 0.05, 0.10, or 0.15 mg·L−1 flurprimidol or a foliar spray containing 1250 mg·L−1 daminozide and 750 mg·L−1 chlormequat chloride were applied to high-vigor ‘Classic Red’ and low-vigor ‘Freedom Salmon’ poinsettia (Expt. II). Final height of ‘Orion’ and ‘Polly's Pink’ poinsettia was suppressed by 12% to 25% and 13% to 30%, respectively, as flurprimidol concentration increased from 0.05 to 0.25 mg·L−1. Final height of ‘Classic Red’ and ‘Freedom Salmon’ was suppressed by 11% to 30% and 10% to 19%, respectively, as flurprimidol concentration increased from 0.05 to 0.15 mg·L−1. Although the daminozide and chlormequat chloride spray had no significant effect on bract area index compared with untreated plants, bract area index was smaller for all plants treated with flurprimidol. However, the bract area to height ratio of all cultivars was not impacted by any PGR application, indicating aesthetic appearance was not negatively affected with smaller bract area. Time to anthesis was delayed by up to 4 days when 0.10 mg·L−1 was applied to ‘Classic Red’, although no significant delays were observed for the remaining cultivars. Based on these results, flurprimidol may be applied as an early drench to suppress height of poinsettia without adversely impacting finished plant quality or crop timing.

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Ariana P. Torres and Roberto G. Lopez

Current market trends indicate an increasing demand for unique and exotic flowering crops, including tropical plants. Tecoma stans (L. Juss. Kunth) ‘Mayan Gold’ is a tropical plant that was selected as a potential new greenhouse crop for its physical appearance and drought and heat tolerance. However, in winter and early spring, when propagation occurs, outdoor photosynthetic daily light integral (DLI) can be relatively low. The objective of this study was to quantify the effects of DLI during propagation of Tecoma and to determine optimum DLI levels for seed propagation. Seeds were propagated under 13 mean DLIs ranging from 0.75 to 25.2 mol·m−2·d−1 created by the combination of high-pressure sodium lamps (HPS) and fixed woven shadecloths of varying densities. Thirty-five days after sowing, height, stem diameter, node number, relative leaf chlorophyll content, leaf fresh weight, leaf number, total leaf area, individual leaf area, leaf area ratio, shoot and root dry mass increased as DLI increased. Average internode elongation and specific leaf area decreased at a quadratic and linear rate, respectively, as DLI increased from 0.75 to 25.2 mol·m−2·d−1. These experiments indicate that high-quality Tecoma seedlings were obtained when DLI was 14 to 16 mol·m−2·d−1 during propagation.

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W. Garrett Owen and Roberto G. Lopez

Variability in outdoor daily temperatures and photosynthetic daily light integrals (DLIs) from early spring to late fall limits the ability of propagators to accurately control propagation environments to consistently callus, root, and yield compact herbaceous perennial rooted liners. We evaluated and compared the effects of sole-source lighting (SSL) delivered from red (R) and blue (B) light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to supplemental lighting (SL) provided by high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps on herbaceous perennial cutting morphology, physiology, and growth during callusing and initial rhizogenesis. Cuttings of perennial sage (Salvia nemorosa L. ‘Lyrical Blues’) and wand flower (Gaura lindheimeri Engelm. and A. Gray ‘Siskiyou Pink’) were propagated in a walk-in growth chamber under multilayer SSL provided by LEDs with [R (660 nm)]:[B (460 nm)] light ratios (%) of 100:0 (R100:B0), 75:25 (R75:B25), 50:50 (R50:B50), or 0:100 (R0:B100) delivering 60 µmol·m−2·s–1 for 16 hours (total DLI of 3.4 mol·m−2·d−1). In a glass-glazed greenhouse (GH control), cuttings were propagated under ambient solar light and day-extension SL provided by HPS lamps delivering 40 µmol·m−2·s–1 to provide a 16-hour photoperiod (total DLI of 3.3 mol·m−2·d−1). At 10 days after sticking cuttings, callus diameter and rooting percentage were similar among all light-quality treatments. For instance, callus diameter, a measure of growth, of wand flower cuttings increased from an average 1.7 mm at stick (0 day) to a range of 2.7 to 2.9 mm at 10 days after sticking, regardless of lighting treatment. Relative leaf chlorophyll content was generally greater under SSL R75:B25 or R50:B50 than all other light-quality treatments. However, stem length of perennial sage and wand flower cuttings propagated under SSL R50:B50 at 10 days were 21% and 30% shorter and resulted in 50% and 8% greater root biomass, respectively, compared with those under SL. The herbaceous perennial cuttings propagated in this study under SSL R50:B50 were of similar quality or more compact compared with those under SL, indicating that callus induction and initial rooting can occur under LEDs in a multilayer SSL propagation system.

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Roberto G. Lopez and Erik S. Runkle

A majority of commercial propagation of herbaceous ornamental cuttings occurs during the winter when the photosynthetic daily light integral (DLI) is relatively low. We quantified how the mean DLI influenced rooting and subsequent growth and development of two popular vegetatively propagated species, New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri Bull.) and petunia (Petunia ×hybrida hort. Vilm.-Andr.). Three cultivars of each species were propagated under a mean DLI ranging from 1.2 to 10.7 mol·m−2·d−1. Cuttings were rooted in a controlled greenhouse environment maintained at 24 to 25 °C with overhead mist, a vapor-pressure deficit of 0.3 kPa, and a 12-h photoperiod. Rooting and growth evaluations of cuttings were made after 8 to 16 d. In a separate experiment, rooted cuttings under DLI treatments were then transplanted into 10-cm containers and grown in a common greenhouse at 21 ± 2 °C under a 16-h photoperiod to identify any residual effects on subsequent growth and development. In both species, rooting, biomass accumulation, and quality of cuttings increased and subsequent time to flower generally decreased as mean propagation DLI increased. For example, root number of petunia ‘Tiny Tunia Violet Ice’ after 16 days of propagation increased from 17 to 40 as the propagation DLI increased from 1.2 to 7.5 mol·m−2·d−1. In addition, cutting shoot height decreased from 6.3 to 4.5 cm, and root and shoot dry biomass of cuttings harvested after 16 days of propagation increased by 737% and 106%, respectively. Subsequent time to flower for ‘Tiny Tunia Violet Ice’ from the beginning of propagation decreased from 50 to 29 days as propagation DLI increased from 1.4 to 10.7 mol·m−2·d−1 regardless of the DLI provided after propagation. In New Guinea impatiens ‘Harmony White’, root and shoot dry weight of cuttings increased by 1038% and 82%, respectively, and subsequent time to flower decreased from 85 to 70 days as the propagation DLI increased from 1.2 to 10.7 mol·m−2·d−1. These experiments quantify the role of the photosynthetic DLI during propagation on the rooting and subsequent growth and development of vegetatively propagated herbaceous ornamental cuttings.

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Wesley C. Randall and Roberto G. Lopez

Annual bedding plant seedlings or plugs are considered high quality when they are compact, fully rooted transplants with a large stem caliper and high root dry mass. Greenhouses in northern latitudes rely on supplemental lighting (SL) from high-pressure sodium lamps (HPS) during winter months to achieve high-quality, finished plugs. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) offer higher energy efficiencies, a long operating life, and precise waveband specificity that can eliminate wavebands not considered useful. Seedlings of Antirrhinum, Catharanthus, Celosia, Impatiens, Pelargonium, Petunia, Tagetes, Salvia, and Viola were grown at 21 °C under a 16-hour photoperiod of ambient solar light and SL of 100 μmol·m−2·s–1 from either HPS lamps or LED arrays with varying proportions (%) of red:blue light (100:0, 85:15, or 70:30). Height of Catharanthus, Celosia, Impatiens, Petunia, Tagetes, Salvia, and Viola was 31%, 29%, 31%, 55%, 20%, 9%, and 35% shorter, respectively, for seedlings grown under the 85:15 red:blue LEDs compared with those grown under HPS lamps. Additionally, stem caliper of Antirrhinum, Pelargonium, and Tagetes was 16%, 8%, and 13% larger, respectively, for seedlings grown under the 85:15 red:blue LEDs compared with seedlings grown under HPS lamps. The quality index (QI), a quantitative measurement of quality, was similar for Antirrhinum, Catharanthus, Impatiens, Pelargonium, and Tagetes grown under LEDs and HPS lamps. However, it was significantly higher for Petunia, Salvia, and Viola under 85:15, 70:30, and 100:0 red:blue LEDs than under HPS lamps, respectively. These results indicate that seedling quality for the majority of the species tested under SL from LEDs providing both red and blue light was similar or higher than those grown under HPS lamps.