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Roberto G. Lopez and Diane M. Camberato

Biodegradable, compostable, and traditional plastic containers were evaluated for production of ‘Eckespoint Classic Red’ poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), a long-term greenhouse crop (12–16 weeks transplant to finish, depending on cultivar). Containers were rated for appearance and durability during the 14-week production period and plant quality parameters were measured at anthesis. Plastic, rice hull, wheat starch-derived bioresin, and molded fiber containers remained unchanged in appearance and integrity and received a rating of 5 (1–5 rating scale, where 1 = container integrity compromised substantially and 5 = container was intact, no visible changes in terms of color or construction). However, straw, coconut coir, composted cow manure, and Canadian sphagnum moss and wood pulp containers had an average rating of 2.9, 2.7, 1.4, and 1.6, respectively. Both shoot and root dry weights were greatest in plants produced in molded fiber and straw containers. The root to shoot dry weight ratio and days to anthesis was not significantly different among container types. Bract area index (a measurement derived to estimate bract area) was greatest for plants produced in molded fiber containers and lowest for those produced in the wheat starch containers. When adjusted for container height, final plant height was greatest in molded fiber containers and lowest in wheat starch containers. Plants produced in molded fiber containers, on average, exhibited the greatest height, bract area index, and total root and shoot weight, with no visible changes to container integrity. Based on these results, plant quality was not negatively impacted by any of the seven containers, though marketability of finished plants can be affected by container integrity.

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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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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

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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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.

Open access

Annika E. Kohler and Roberto G. Lopez

Domestic production of culinary herbs continues to increase in the United States. Culinary herbs are primarily propagated by seed; however, some herbs have poor germination rates and slow growth. Thus, there are advantages of propagating herbs by vegetative stem-tip cuttings as they lead to true-to-type plants and a shortened production time. Previous research of ornamental young plants and finished culinary herbs have shown a reduction in rooting time and increases in plant quality with increases in the photosynthetic daily light integral (DLI). To our knowledge, little to no research has addressed how the DLI influences culinary herb liner quality. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to quantify morphological traits of five economically important culinary herbs when grown under DLIs ranging from 2.8 to 16.4 mol·m−2·d−1. Stem-tip cuttings of Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare var. hirtum), rosemary ‘Arp’ (Rosmarinus officinalis), sage ‘Extrakta’ (Salvia officinalis), spearmint ‘Spanish’ (Mentha spicata), and thyme ‘German Winter’ (Thymus vulgaris) were excised from stock plants and rooted under no shade or aluminum shading of 36%, 56%, or 76% to create a range of DLI treatments. After 9 days (spearmint) or 16 days (all other genera) of DLI treatments, the root, shoot, and total dry mass of all culinary herb liners generally increased by 105% to 449%, 52% to 142%, and 82% to 170%, respectively, as the DLI increased from 2.8 to 16.4 mol·m−2·d−1 or genus-specific DLI optimums. Stem length of oregano, spearmint, and thyme decreased by 37%, 28%, and 27%, respectively, as the DLI increased from 2.8 to 16.4 mol·m−2·d−1. However, stem length of rosemary and sage were unaffected by the DLI. The quality index of all genera was greatest at DLIs from 10.4 to 16.4 mol·m−2·d−1. Furthermore, all culinary herbs grown under a DLI of ≤6 mol·m−2·d−1 had low root and shoot dry mass accumulation; and oregano, spearmint, and thyme were generally taller. Therefore, DLIs between 10 to 12 mol·m−2·d−1 should be maintained during culinary herb propagation, because a DLI ≥16 mol·m−2·d−1 may be deleterious and energy inefficient if supplemental lighting use is increased.

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S. Guzman, H. Alejandro, J. Farias, A. Michel, and G. Lopez

Watermelon (Citrullus vulgaris Schrad.) is a widely grown crop throughout the tropics and subtropics. In Mexico, it is an economically important crop. In vitro adventitious shoot regeneration of watermelon has been reported from shoot tip culture, leaf, hypocotyl, and cotyledons. Hence, the objective of this study was to evaluate in vitro plant regeneration from axillary buds of triploid watermelon. Axillary buds explants were prepared from shoot of commercial cultivar in field of 60 old day plants. Explants of 2 to 3 mm were incubated 2 weeks on Murashige and Skoog (MS) shoot regeneration medium containing 2.5 mg/L kinetin (KT) or indole-3-butyric acid (IBA), or gibberellic acid (GA3), followed by 3 weeks on shoot elongation medium supplemented with different combinations of the same phytohormones. The percentage of explants (83% to 90%) that produced shoots, expansion in size of explant (0.81–1 cm) and shoot length (6 mm) were highest in MS medium containing KT or IBA. In the shoot elongation step, shoot length (0.9–1 cm) and leaves number (6–7) were highest in MS medium supplemented with 2.5 mg/L of KT or GA3 and 0.2 mg/L IBA, but the better induction of roots in elongated shoot occurred on MS medium with 2.5 mg/L KT and 0.2 mg/L IBA. The results show that axillary buds from watermelon is an alternative for the micropropagation of this crop.

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Ricardo González-Ponce, Esther G. López-de-Sá, and César Plaza

Struvite (MgNH4PO4·6H2O) production is widely studied as a way to remove phosphorus (P) from wastewater and generate a potentially marketable P fertilizer, but its effects on crops have yet to be researched more thoroughly. This study was conducted to evaluate struvite recovered by the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) pilot process (STR) as a source of P for lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) by comparing its effectiveness with that of single superphosphate (SUP), a common P fertilizer derived from phosphate rock. In a greenhouse pot experiment, a P-deficient loamy sand soil was amended with either SUP or STR at P rates of 0, 4, 8, 12, 16, and 20 mg·kg−1. Nitrogen and potassium were uniformly supplied to all treatments. The response of lettuce head fresh weight and P uptake to P rate exhibited statistically significant quadratic relationships for both SUP and STR. With respect to SUP, STR was significantly more effective in increasing lettuce yield and P uptake, probably because of the larger amount of magnesium (Mg) incorporated with this material and a synergistic effect on P uptake. This work supports previous findings based on other test crops in suggesting that STR can be a P source attractive to the fertilizer market with additional agronomic and environmental benefits such as providing available Mg and nitrogen, helping attenuate consumption of phosphate rock, and reducing release of P by discharge of treated wastewaters to surface and groundwater systems.

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Diane M. Camberato, Roberto G. Lopez, and Brian A. Krug

The holiday poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch.) is the number two potted flowering crop sold in the United States with a reported wholesale value of $146 million in 2010. Profitability is increasingly threatened as the cost to heat greenhouses has increased by over 90% in the last 10 years. As energy costs continue to increase and poinsettia prices remain relatively constant, growers are seeking cultivars that can be finished under reduced temperatures. Our objectives were to quantify how reduced temperature finishing (RTF) 2 weeks after the start of short days influences height, bract area index, and time to anthesis of poinsettia. Eight red poinsettia cultivars were selected based on their early response attributes (initiate and finish within 6 to 8 weeks), moderate to high vigor, and naturally large bracts. Rooted cuttings were grown at day/night temperature set points (12 h/12 h) of 24/19 °C until 15 Oct. and under a 16-h photoperiod consisting of natural daylengths with day-extension lighting until 1 Oct. On 15 Oct., plants were transferred to day/night temperatures (12 h/12 h) of 20/14, 21/17, or 24/19 °C. Time to anthesis from the start of short days was 60 and 55 days at 24/19 °C and 76 and 68 days at a reduced finishing temperature of 20/14 °C for ‘Prestige Early Red’ and ‘Early Orion Red’, respectively. Final height was not significantly influenced by RTF in either cultivar. Our results indicate that RTF is a viable option that greenhouse growers can use to help reduce energy costs of carefully selected poinsettia cultivars.

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Veronica A. Hutchinson, Christopher J. Currey, and Roberto G. Lopez

Vegetatively propagated bedding plants are produced during the late winter and early spring when outdoor photosynthetic daily light integral (DLI) is low, especially in northern latitudes. Our objective was to quantify how propagation DLI influences subsequent growth and development of annual bedding plants. Cuttings of Angelonia angustifolia Benth. ‘AngelMist White Cloud’, Nemesia fruticans (Thunb.) Benth. ‘Aromatica Royal’, Osteospermum ecklonis (DC.) Norl. ‘Voltage Yellow’, and Verbena ×hybrida Ruiz ‘Aztec Violet’ were harvested and propagated in a glass-glazed greenhouse. After callusing (≈5 mol·m−2·d−1 for 7 days), cuttings of each species were placed under one of three different fixed-woven shadecloths providing ≈38%, 61%, or 86% shade or no shade with 16 h of supplemental light for 14 days. Rooted cuttings were then transplanted into 11-cm containers and grown in a common greenhouse of 21 ± 1 °C and DLI of ≈12 mol·m−2·d−1 to identify any residual effects on subsequent growth and development during the finish stage. As DLI during propagation increased, time to first open flower decreased for Angelonia, Nemesia, Osteospermum, and Verbena. For example, time to flower for Angelonia and Osteospermum was hastened by 23 and 19 days, respectively, as DLI during propagation increased from 1.2 to 12.3 mol·m−2·d−1. Our research can be used to predict growth and flowering under varying propagation DLIs for the cultivars of Angelonia, Nemesia, Osteospermum, and Verbena in the study.