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Peter Alem, Paul A. Thomas, and Marc W. van Iersel

Rising concerns over environmental impacts of excessive water and fertilizer use in the horticultural industry necessitate more efficient use of water and nutrients. Both substrate volumetric water content (θ) and fertilizer affect plant growth, but their interactive effect is poorly understood. The objective of this study was to determine the optimal fertilizer rates for petunia (Petunia ×hybrida) ‘Dreams White’ grown at different θ levels. Petunia seedlings were grown at four levels of θ (0.10, 0.20, 0.30, and 0.40 m3·m−3) with eight different rates of controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) (Osmocote 14-14-14; 14N–6.1P–11.6K; rates of 0 to 2.5 g/plant, equivalent to 0 to 6.25 kg·m−3 substrate). Shoot dry weight increased as the CRF rate increased from 0 to 1.67 g/plant but decreased again at even higher CRF rates. The effect of CRF rate on growth was more pronounced at higher θ. Leaf size doubled as the θ thresholds increased from 0.10 to 0.40 m3·m−3. Flowering was reduced by a combination of high CRF rates (greater than 0.63 g/plant) and high θ (0.30 and 0.40 m3·m−3), indicating that optimal conditions for vegetative growth are different from those for maximal flowering. These results suggest that without leaching, high-quality petunias can be grown with lower CRF rates than commercially recommended rates.

Free access

Stephanie E. Burnett, Marc W. van Iersel, and Paul A. Thomas

French marigold (Tagetes patula L. `Boy Orange') was grown in a peat-based growing medium containing different rates (0, 15, 20, 30, 42, or 50 g·L–1) of polyethylene glycol 8000 (PEG-8000) to determine if PEG-8000 would reduce seedling height. Only 28% to 55% of seedlings treated with 62, 72, or 83 g·L–1 of PEG-8000 survived, and these treatments would be commercially unacceptable. Marigolds treated with the remaining concentrations of PEG-8000 had shorter hypocotyls, and were up to 38% shorter than nontreated controls at harvest. Marigold cotyledon water (ψw), osmotic (ψs), and turgor (ψp) potentials were significantly reduced by PEG-8000, and ψp was close to zero for all PEG-treated seedlings 18 days after seeding. Whole-plant net photosynthesis, whole-plant dark respiration, and net photosynthesis/leaf area ratios were reduced by PEG-8000, while specific respiration of seedlings treated with PEG-8000 increased. Marigolds treated with concentrations greater than 30 g·L–1 of PEG-8000 had net photosynthesis rates that were close to zero. Fourteen days after transplanting, PEG-treated marigolds were still shorter than nontreated seedlings and they flowered up to 5 days later. Concentrations of PEG from 15 to 30 g·L–1 reduced elongation of marigold seedlings without negatively affecting germination, survival, or plant quality. It appears that marigold seedlings were shorter because of reduced leaf ψp and reductions in net photosynthesis.

Free access

Thomas G. Ranney, Thomas A. Eaker, Paul R. Fantz, and Clifford R. Parks

Franklinia alatamaha Bartr. ex Marshall represents a monotypic genus that was originally discovered in Georgia, but is now considered extinct in the wild and is maintained only in cultivation. Although Franklinia is very ornamental, with showy flowers and crimson/maroon fall foliage color, it tends to be short lived when grown as a landscape tree and is known to be susceptible to a variety of root pathogens. Schima argentea Pritz is an evergreen tree that is native to Asia and is valued for its glossy foliage, late-summer flowers, and broad adaptability in mild climates. Hybridization between these genera could potentially combine the cold hardiness and desirable ornamental characteristics of F. alatamaha with the greater adaptability, utility, and genetic diversity of S. argentea. Controlled crosses between F. alatamaha and S. argentea resulted in new intergeneric hybrid progeny. A morphological comparison of parents and the progeny is presented. ×Schimlinia floribunda Ranney and Fantz (mountain schimlinia) is proposed as the name for these hybrids and is validated with a Latin diagnosis.

Open access

Kaylee A. South, Paul A. Thomas, Marc W. van Iersel, Cindy Young, and Michelle L. Jones

Phalaenopsis orchids are an increasingly popular potted house plant in the United States. New cultivars have a long display life in home environments, but these epiphytes are often overirrigated by consumers. Irrigating potted Phalaenopsis orchids weekly with ice cubes has been recommended as a simple solution to help consumers, but concern has been raised about whether the ice cubes will cause low temperature damage in these tropical plants. The effect of ice cube irrigation on the display life and quality of four cultivars of potted Phalaenopsis orchids was, therefore, evaluated. Irrigation treatments included weekly application of three ice cubes or the equivalent volume of room-temperature tap water. The longevity of individual flowers and the overall display life of the orchid plants were determined. Monthly measurements determined the volume of leachate in the outer decorative pots after irrigation. The quantum yield of photosystem II (ΦPSII) in roots and leaves was evaluated monthly to determine if photosynthetic efficiency was affected by the ice irrigation. The temperature in the orchid bark growing media during irrigation events was recorded, and a programmable antifreeze bath was used to determine the temperature at which damage to PSII was observed in orchid roots. The flower longevity and display life were unaffected by irrigation treatment. In general, the leachate volume over time was the same or lower in ice irrigated orchids compared with those irrigated with the same volume of water. The lowest temperature in the bark media irrigated with ice cubes was ≈11 °C, while controlled freezing experiments showed that damage to photosystem II in orchid roots did not occur until bath temperatures were below −7 °C. The internal temperature of roots in direct contact with ice cubes decreased to around 4 °C. Ice cube irrigation had no detrimental effects on the quality or display life of potted Phalaenopsis orchids growing in bark, demonstrating that ice cubes are a viable method of irrigating these tropical house plants.

Full access

Matthew Chappell, Sue K. Dove, Marc W. van Iersel, Paul A. Thomas, and John Ruter

Water quality and quantity are increasingly important concerns for agricultural producers and have been recognized by governmental and nongovernmental agencies as focus areas for future regulatory efforts. In horticultural systems, and especially container production of ornamentals, irrigation management is challenging. This is primarily due to the limited volume of water available to container-grown plants after an irrigation event and the resultant need to frequently irrigate to maintain adequate soil moisture levels without causing excessive leaching. To prevent moisture stress, irrigation of container plants is often excessive, resulting in leaching and runoff of water and nutrients applied to the container substrate. For this reason, improving the application efficiency of irrigation is necessary and critical to the long-term sustainability of the commercial nursery industry. The use of soil moisture sensing technology is one method of increasing irrigation efficiency, with the on-farm studies described in this article focusing on the use of capacitance-based soil moisture sensors to both monitor and control irrigation events. Since on-farm testing of these wireless sensor networks (WSNs) to monitor and control irrigation scheduling began in 2010, WSNs have been deployed in a diverse assortment of commercial horticulture operations. In deploying these WSNs, a variety of challenges and successes have been observed. Overcoming specific challenges has fostered improved software and hardware development as well as improved grower confidence in WSNs. Additionally, growers are using WSNs in a variety of ways to fit specific needs, resulting in multiple commercial applications. Some growers use WSNs as fully functional irrigation controllers. Other growers use components of WSNs, specifically the web-based graphical user interface (GUI), to monitor grower-controlled irrigation schedules.

Open access

Mary Lewis, Matthew Chappell, Paul A. Thomas, Rebekah C. Maynard, and Ockert Greyvenstein

Milkweed (Asclepias sp.) is an important pollinator genus across North America and is a host plant for many butterfly species, notably the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Commercial production of Asclepias is limited to a few species, because most species lack commercial traits, with minimal branching habit, excessive height, and minimal color variation. This study used a commercially viable Asclepias species, butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa L.), as a maternal parent and trialed three different pollination methods in an attempt to create interspecific hybrids. Pollination methods included a traditional method, a pollen–solution-based method, and a novel inverted pollinia method. The inverted pollinia method increased pollination success rates 4-fold among intraspecific crosses of A. tuberosa. When pollination methods were optimized, A. tuberosa was used as the maternal parent, and one-way crosses were made to seven other Asclepias species using the inverted pollinia method. Of the seven species used as pollen donors, four developed hybrid seed successfully: green milkweed (Asclepias hirtella Woodson), purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens L.), showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa Torr.), and common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.). As germination methods vary significantly among Asclepias species, three methods of germination were trialed on seed developed via interspecific hybridizations: direct seeded, cold–moist stratification, and embryo rescue. Of the three methods, cold–moist stratification was superior to direct seeding and embryo rescue. This research is the first documented case of a controlled interspecific hybridization event among these species.

Free access

Stephanie E. Burnett, Svoboda V. Pennisi, Paul A. Thomas, and Marc W. van Iersel

Polyethylene glycol 8000 (PEG-8000) was applied to a soilless growing medium at the concentrations of 0, 15, 20, 30, 42, or 50 g·L-1 to impose controlled drought. Salvia (Salvia splendens F. Sellow. ex Roem & Shult.) seeds were planted in the growing medium to determine if controlled drought affects morphology and anatomy of salvia. Polyethylene glycol decreased emergence percentage and delayed emergence up to 5 days. Stem elongation of salvia treated with the five lowest concentrations was reduced up to 35% (21 days after seeding), and salvia were a maximum of 53% shorter and the canopy was 20% more narrow compared to nontreated seedlings 70 days after seeding. These morphological changes were attributed to PEG-8000 mediated reduction in leaf water potential (Ψw). The growing medium Ψw ranged from -0.29 to -0.85 MPa in PEG-8000 treated plants, and plant height was positively correlated with Ψw 21 days after seeding. Stem diameter of PEG-treated seedlings was reduced up to 0.4 mm mainly due to reductions in vascular cross-sectional area. Xylem cross-sectional area decreased more than stem and phloem cross-sectional area. Polyethylene glycol 8000 reduced vessel element number, but not diameter.

Full access

Rhuanito S. Ferrarezi, Stuart A. Weiss, Thomas C. Geiger, and K. Paul Beamer

Snow pea (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum) and sugar snap pea (P. sativum var. macrocarpon) are high-value crops typically grown in temperate regions. Temperature is the main limiting factor to growing edible-pod peas in warmer U.S. states and territories. The objective was to evaluate edible-pod peas performance in tropical climates and to make cultivar recommendations to farmers in the U.S. Virgin Islands based on fruit yield. Trials were performed in two consecutive years (2014 and 2015), testing six cultivars of edible-pod peas: three snow pea (Little Sweetie, Mammoth Melting, and Oregon Giant) and three sugar snap pea (Super Sugar Snap, Cascadia, and Sugar Sprint) in a complete randomized block with four replications. ‘Little Sweetie’ produced the highest total fruit yield for the season (15,442 kg·ha−1) and ‘Mammoth Melting’ (4249 kg·ha−1) and ‘Sugar Sprint’ (3349 kg·ha−1) produced the lowest total fruit yield in Year 1. The same trend happened in Year 2, where ‘Little Sweetie’ (14,322 kg·ha−1) and ‘Super Sugar Snap’ (12,511 kg·ha−1) were higher yielding and ‘Mammoth Melting’ (4582 kg·ha−1) and ‘Sugar Sprint’ (1929 kg·ha−1) were the lowest yielding cultivars. ‘Mammoth Melting’ showed a marketable yield below 80% of total yield in Years 1 and 2. ‘Mammoth Melting’ and ‘Super Sugar Snap’ produced the tallest plants in Year 1, while ‘Mammoth Melting’ was significantly taller than the others in Year 2. As expected, sugar snap pea presented fruit soluble solids concentration (SSC) 2.7% to 6.5% higher than snow pea. The snow pea cultivars had longer mean fruit length (81 to 86 mm) than sugar snap pea (60 to 68 mm). The opposite trend occurred with fruit thickness; sugar snap pea averaged 28.5% thicker than snow pea. The shoot dry weight of ‘Sugar Sprint’ was on average 78.5% smaller than ‘Mammoth Melting’ and ‘Oregon Giant’, resulting in poor performance due to small plant size. ‘Mammoth Melting’ and ‘Super Sugar Snap’ had the lowest chlorophyll content compared with the other cultivars. Results of this experiment indicate that edible-pod peas have potential as a specialty, short-season, high-value crop when grown in the cool–dry winter months of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of the cultivars tested, Little Sweetie was the highest yielding cultivar evaluated within the environmental and geographical conditions of this study for two consecutive years.

Open access

Shea A. Keene, Timothy S. Johnson, Cindy L. Sigler, Terah N. Kalk, Paul Genho, and Thomas A. Colquhoun

For the past century, daylily (Hemerocallis) hybridization focused almost exclusively on enhancing the diversity of flower forms, colors, and color patterns. This focus on the visual characteristics of daylilies resulted in the development of thousands of hybrids that come in a fantastic array of colors and color patterns. However, these modern daylilies exhibit little to none of the floral fragrance possessed by some of the daylily progenitor species. Because little work has been done on daylily floral volatiles, the objective of this research was to evaluate the floral volatile profiles of a variety of daylily species and hybrids and assess the state of fragrance among modern hybrids. Using a field collection system and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GS-MS), this study evaluated the fragrance profiles of 147 daylily genotypes. Eighteen volatile organic compounds, primarily terpenoids, were identified and their variations among the genotypes were investigated. Results suggest that fragrance could be a trait pursued in a breeding program to enhance the sensory phenotypes of new daylily cultivars.

Free access

Heidi C. Wernett, Thomas J. Sheehan, Gary J. Wilfret, Francis J. Marousky, Paul M. Lyrene, and David A. Knauft

A broad source of Gerbera × hybrida Hort. germplasm was evaluated for vase life. Senescence mode, i.e., bending or folding of stems or wilting of ligulae was also recorded for flowers evaluated. Intensive selection was practiced to improve vase life. About 10% of the plants from a sample population were selected for having flowers with high vase life. Progeny means for vase life resulting from a topcross between these plants and `Appleblossom' were used to select five plants (about 1.5% of the sample population) whose flowers had high vase life. A diallel cross using these five plants as parents resulted in a progeny population with an increase in mean vase life of 3.4 days compared to mean vase life for the initial sample population. Increases in vase life means for days to bending, folding, and wilting were 0.3, 3.5, and 1.2 days, respectively. Plants with flowers which senesced due to wilting had the longest mean vase life before and after breeding. Changes in proportion of senescence modes were observed; bending decreased, folding and wilting increased. Frequencies of bending, folding, and wilting were compared to vase life means for 10 progenies. Proportion of bending generally decreased as vase life increased.