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Open access

Neil Bell, Heather Stoven, James S. Owen Jr., and James E. Altland

A cold hardiness evaluation of 57 cultivars and species of grevillea (Grevillea) was conducted from 2011 to 2014 in Aurora, OR, to assess landscape suitability in the Pacific Northwest United States. Plants were established using irrigation in 2011, but they received no supplemental water, mineral nutrients, or pruning from 2012 to 2014. Plants were evaluated for injury in Mar. 2012 and Jan. 2014 after winter cold events with minimum temperatures of −4 and −13 °C, respectively. Damage, at least on some level, occurred on most selections following their first winter after planting in 2011. During Winter 2013, further damage to, or death of, 33 grevillea cultivars or species occurred. The grevillea that exhibited the least cold damage and the most promise for landscape use and further evaluation in the Pacific Northwest United States were ‘Poorinda Elegance’ hybrid grevillea, southern grevillea (G. australis), cultivars of juniper-leaf grevillea (G. juniperina) including Lava Cascade and Molonglo, and oval-leaf grevillea (G. miqueliana), all of which exhibited minor foliage damage.

Free access

Jeb S. Fields, William C. Fonteno, Brian E. Jackson, Joshua L. Heitman, and James S. Owen Jr.

Pine tree substrates (PTSs) may provide growers with sustainable substrate component options. Improved processing of PTS components has provided new materials with little scientific evaluation or understanding of their hydrophysical behavior and properties. Moisture retention characteristics were developed for two PTSs and four traditional greenhouse components: sphagnum peat, coconut coir, perlite, pine bark, shredded-pine-wood (SPW), and pine-wood-chips (PWC). Mixtures of peat containing 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, and 50% of perlite, SPW, or PWC were also characterized. Hydrophysical properties were measured, allowing for comparison of the PTS components to the more traditional substrate components (peat, coir, perlite, and pine bark). The SPW was constructed to retain water similarly to peat and pine bark, whereas the PWC was made to increase drainage like perlite. Shredded pine wood had higher total porosity and more easily available water than did PWC components. Total porosities of SPW and PWC were similar to pine bark and coir; air space and drainage were higher than peat and coir because of the lower percentage of fine particles in the PTS components. The two PTS components had a greater influence on water drainage and retention dynamics than did perlite when amended with peat as an aggregate. Water release patterns of SPW or PWC components at low tensions were lower than peat and greater than pine bark; drainage was similar to perlite at higher tensions. Equilibrium capacity variable models predicted similar physical properties (and trends) across multiple container sizes for peat mixes amended with perlite, SPW, or PWC. The impact of PWC on drainage and aeration was similar to perlite in all containers, but these effects were greater in smaller containers.

Free access

Tyler C. Hoskins, James S. Owen Jr., Jeb S. Fields, James E. Altland, Zachary M. Easton, and Alex X. Niemiera

An understanding of how dissolved mineral nutrient ions (solutes) move through pine bark substrates during the application of irrigation water is vital to better understand nutrient transport and leaching from containerized crops during an irrigation event. However, current theories on solute transport processes in soilless systems are largely based on research in mineral soils and thus do not necessarily explain solute transport in soilless substrates. A study was conducted to characterize solute transport through a 9 pine bark:1 sand (by volume) substrate by developing and analyzing breakthrough curves (BTCs). Columns filled with pine bark substrate were subjected to the application of a nutrient solution (tracer) and deionized water under saturated and unsaturated conditions. Effluent drained from the columns during these applications was collected and analyzed to determine the effluent concentration (C) of the bulk ions in solution through electrical conductivity (EC) and nitrate (NO3 ), phosphate, and potassium (K+) concentrations. The BTCs were developed by plotting C relative to the concentration of the input solution (Co) (i.e., relative concentration = C/Co) as a function of the cumulative effluent volume. Solutes broke through the column earlier (i.e., with less cumulative effluent) and the transition from C/Co = 0 to 1 occurred more abruptly under unsaturated than saturated conditions. Movement of the anion, NO3 , through the substrate was observed to occur more quickly than the cation K+. Throughout the experiment, 37% of the applied K+ was retained by the pine bark. The adsorption of K+ to pine bark cation exchange sites displaced calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+), of which the combined equivalent charge accounted for 43.1% of the retained K+. These results demonstrate the relative ease that negatively charged fertilizer ions could move through a pine bark substrate while solution is actively flowing through substrate pores such as during irrigation events. This approach to evaluating solute transport may be used in horticultural research to better understand how mineral nutrients move through and subsequently leach from soilless substrates during irrigation. Expanding this knowledge base may lead to the refinement of production practices that improve nutrient and water use efficiency in container nurseries.

Free access

Jeb S. Fields, James S. Owen Jr., James E. Altland, Marc W. van Iersel, and Brian E. Jackson

Water-efficient soilless substrates need to be engineered to address diminishing water resources. Therefore, we investigated soilless substrates with varying hydrologies to determine their influence on crop growth and plant water status. Aged loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) bark was graded into four particle size fractions. The coarsest fraction was also blended with either sphagnum peat or coir at rates that mimic static physical properties of the unfractionated bark or conventional substrate used by specialty crop producers within the eastern United States. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Fort Myers’ plugs were established in each of the seven substrates and maintained at optimal substrate water potentials (−50 to −100 hPa). After a salable crop was produced 93 days after transplanting, substrate was allowed to dry until plants completely wilted. Crop morphology and water use was affected by substrate hydrology. Increased substrate unsaturated hydraulic conductivity (K) allowed for plants to access higher proportions of water and therefore increased crop growth. Maintaining optimal substrate water potential allowed plants to be produced with <18 L water. Measurements of plant water availability showed that the substrate water potential at which the crop ceases to withdraw water varied among substrates. Pore uniformity and connectivity could be increased by both fibrous additions and particle fractionation, which resulted in increased substrate hydraulic conductivity (K s). Plants grown in substrates with higher hydraulic conductivities were able to use more water. Soilless substrate hydrology can be modified and used in concert with more efficient irrigation systems to provide more water sustainability in container crop systems.

Free access

James S. Owen Jr., Stuart L. Warren, Ted E. Bilderback, and Joseph P. Albano

The physical and chemical properties of pine bark yield low water and nutrient efficiency; consequently, an engineered substrate altering the substrate properties may allow greater water and nutrient retention. Past research has focused on controlling the quantity and rate of water and nutrient inputs. In this study, pine bark was amended at 8% (by volume) with a Georgiana palygorksite-bentonite blended industrial mineral aggregate with a particle size of 850 μm-4.75 mm or 300 μm-710 μm to improve water and nutrient efficiency. Each particle size was pretreated at temperatures of ≈140 °C (pasteurized) or ≈390 °C (calcined). The study was a 2 (particle size) × 2 (heat pretreatment) factorial in a randomized complete-block design with four replications. The control was a pine bark substrate amended with 11% sand (by volume). Containers (14 L) were topdressed with 17–5–12 controlled release fertilizer. A 0.2 leaching fraction was maintained by biweekly monitoring container influent from spray stakes and effluent volume measured daily. An aliquot of the daily collected effluent was analyzed for phosphorus (P). After 112 days, tops and roots were harvested, dried, and weighed for dry weight comparisons. Compared to pine bark amended with sand the 300 μm-710 μm particle size mineral decreased mean daily water application by ≈0.4 L/day per container. The calcined mineral reduced P leaching by ≈10 mg of P per container or 60% over the course of the study compared to pine bark: sand. Top and root dry weights were unaffected. These results suggest 300 μm–710 μm calcined mineral provided the most significant decreases in water use and P leaching while growing an equivalent plant.

Free access

Ryan N. Contreras, John M. Ruter, James S. Owen Jr., and Andy Hoegh

Japanese-cedar has been underused in landscapes of the United States until recent years. There are now over 100 cultivars, many of which are grown in the southeast of the United States. Performance of cultivars has been described from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Zone 6b to USDA Zone 7b; however, there are no reports on how cultivars perform in USDA Zone 8. The current study was conducted to measure chlorophyll a, chlorophyll b, total chlorophyll, and carotenoid content and assign visual color ratings to determine if there was a relationship between pigment values and perceived greenness, which generally is regarded as a desirable and potentially heritable trait. Total chlorophyll (P = 0.0051), carotenoids (P = 0.0266), and the ratio of total chlorophyll to carotenoids (P = 0.0188) exhibited a positive relationship with greenness after accounting for season and tree effects. In contrast, the ratio of chlorophyll a to chlorophyll b did not have an effect on greenness. There was a linear relationship between total chlorophyll and carotenoid regardless of season (summer R 2 = 0.94; winter R 2 = 0.88) when pooled across 2 years. The observed correlation between chlorophyll and carotenoid content suggests they could be used interchangeably as predictors of greenness. There were large differences in rainfall between the 2 years that may have resulted in additional variation. Furthermore, the climate in which the evaluation was conducted differs greatly from the native distribution of japanese-cedar occurring in China and Japan.

Free access

James S. Owen Jr, Stuart L. Warren, Ted E. Bilderback, and Joseph P. Albano

Nonpoint source effluent containing nitrate N (NO3-N) and phosphorus (P) from containerized nursery production has garnered local, regional, and national concern. Industrial minerals have long been used as absorbents, agrochemical carriers, and barriers to retain heavy metals. Our objective was to determine the effects of a palygorskite–bentonite industrial mineral aggregate on the physical and chemical properties of a soilless substrate and the resulting impact on water and nutrient efficiency. The mineral aggregate had two particle size ranges (0.25 to 0.85 mm or 0.85 to 4.75 mm) in combination with two temperature pretreatments [low volatile material (LVM) or regular volatile material (RVM)]. A representative substrate (8 pine bark:1 coarse sand) of the southeastern United States nursery industry was also included in the study as a control. Cotoneaster dammeri C.K. Schneid. ‘Skogholm’ was grown in all substrates on collection pads that allowed for the quantification of daily influent and effluent volumes to calculate cumulative NO3-N, ammonium N (NH4-N), and dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) loss for 112 days. There was a 13% to 15% decrease in daily water application volume with no effect on Skogholm cotoneaster growth, which equated into a savings of 22 to 26 L per 14-L container in mineral aggregate-amended substrates compared with a sand-amended substrate (control). Mineral aggregate-amended substrates decreased NH4-N and DRP effluent 39% and 34%, respectively, compared with the control. In addition, LVM and particle size 0.25 to 0.85 mm reduced effluent DRP compared with the 0.85 to 4.75-mm RVM aggregate. Plant dry weight was unaffected by any of the treatments. Substantial nutrient content reduction in effluent and reductions in water application were achieved with amending pine bark with 0.25 to 0.85 mm LVM industrial mineral aggregate. A 0.25 to 0.85-mm LVM industrial mineral aggregate pine bark-amended substrate reduced effluent DRP and NH4-N greater than 40% and reduced water application 15% or 26 L when compared with the industry representative substrate.

Free access

James S. Owen Jr, Stuart L. Warren, Ted E. Bilderback, and Joseph P. Albano

Production of containerized nursery crops requires high inputs of water and mineral nutrients to maximize plant growth to produce a salable plant quickly. However, input efficiencies remain below 50% resulting in major quantities of water and nutrients leached. This study was conducted to determine if production factors could be altered to increase water and phosphorus uptake efficiency (PUE) without sacrificing plant growth. The effects of a pine bark substrate amendment (clay or sand) and a 50% reduction in both P application rate (1.0 g or 0.5 g) and leaching fraction (LF = effluent ÷ influent) (0.1 or 0.2) were investigated. Containerized Skogholm cotoneaster (Cotoneaster dammeri Schnied. ‘Skogholm’) was grown on gravel floor effluent collection plots that allowed for calculation of water and nutrient budgets. Pine bark amended with 11% (by vol.) Georgiana 0.25 to 0.85 mm calcined palygorksite-bentonite mineral aggregate (clay) increased available water 4% when compared with pine bark amended with 11% (by volume) coarse sand. Decreasing LF from 0.2 to 0.1 reduced cumulative container influent 25% and effluent volume 64%, whereas total plant dry weight was unaffected by LF. Reduction of target LF from 0.2 to 0.1 reduced dissolved reactive P concentration and content by 8% and 64%, respectively. In a sand-amended substrate, total plant dry weight decreased 16% when 1.0× P rate was reduced to 0.5× P, whereas total plant dry weight was unaffected by rate of P when pine bark was amended with clay. Plant content of all macronutrients, with the exception of N, increased when pine bark was amended with clay versus sand. Reducing P rate from 1.0× to 0.5× increased PUE 54% or 11% in a clay or sand-amended substrate, respectively. Amending pine bark with 11% (by volume) 0.25 to 0.85 mm calcined palygorksite-bentonite mineral aggregate produced an equivalent plant with half the P inputs and a 0.1 LF, which reduced water use 25% and P effluent losses 42% when compared with an industry representative substrate [8 pine bark : 1 sand (11% by volume)].

Full access

Ted E. Bilderback, Stuart L. Warren, James S. Owen Jr., and Joseph P. Albano

Many research studies have evaluated potential organic and mineral container substrate components for use in commercial potting substrates. Most studies report results of plant growth over a single production season and only a few include physical properties of the substrates tested. Furthermore, substrates containing predominantly organic components decompose during crop production cycles producing changes in air and water ratios. In the commercial nursery industry, crops frequently remain in containers for longer periods than one growing season (18 to 24 months). Changes in air and water retention characteristics over extended periods can have significant effect on the health and vigor of crops held in containers for 1 year or more. Decomposition of organic components can create an overabundance of small particles that hold excessive amounts of water, thus creating limited air porosity. Mineral aggregates such as perlite, pumice, coarse sand, and calcined clays do not decompose, or breakdown slowly, when used in potting substrates. Blending aggregates with organic components can decrease changes in physical properties over time by dilution of organic components and preserving large pore spaces, thus helping to maintain structural integrity. Research is needed to evaluate changes in container substrates from initial physical properties to changes in air and water characteristics after a production cycle.

Open access

Amy Fulcher, Anthony V. LeBude, James S. Owen Jr., Sarah A. White, and Richard C. Beeson

Nursery and greenhouse producers, research and extension faculty, and representatives from allied fields collaborated to formulate a renewed vision to address water issues affecting growers over the next 10 years. The authors maintained the original container irrigation perspective published in “Strategic vision of container nursery irrigation in the next ten years,” yet broadened the perspective to include additional challenges that face nursery crop producers today and in the future. Water availability, quality, and related issues continue to garner widespread attention. Irrigation practices remain largely unchanged due to existing irrigation system infrastructure and minimal changes in state and federal regulations. Recent concerns over urbanization and population growth, increased climate variability, and advancements in state and federal regulations, including new groundwater withdrawal limitations, have provided an inducement for growers to adopt efficient and innovative practices. Information in support of the overarching issues and projected outcomes are discussed within.