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Roberto Testezlaf, Fedro S. Zazueta, Claudia A. Larsen, and Thomas H. Yeager

The objective of these experiments was to evaluate the use of tensiometers to monitor substrate moisture tensions for Metro-Mix 500 and 2 pine bark: 1 Canadian peat: 1 sand (PBPS, by volume) used for container-grown azalea Rhododendron indicum L. `Mrs. G.G. Gerbing' and chrysanthemum (Dendranthema grandiflora Tzvelez.) `Coral Charm.' Commercially available ceramic cups of two sizes, small [0.374 inch (0.95 cm) diameter and 1.125 inches (2.86 cm) long] and large [0.874 inch (2.22 cm) diameter and 3.0 inches (7.62 cm) long] were used to construct pressure transducer-equipped tensiometers. Data from these greenhouse experiments, indicate that either the small or large ceramic cup could be used to monitor substrate tensions at which water would be available to container-grown plants.

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Jianjun Chen, Richard C. Beeson Jr., Thomas H. Yeager, Robert H. Stamps, and Liz A. Felter

Irrigation runoff water from a containerized landscape plant production bed was blended with rainwater from green house roofs in a constructed collection basin. Water from both the collection basin and an on-site potable well were characterized and used to grow foliage and bedding plants with overhead and ebb-and-flow irrigation systems. Over a 2-year period, a total of 18 foliage and 8 bedding plant cultivars were produced with plant growth and quality quantified. Alkalinity, electrical conductivity, hardness, and concentrations of nutrients of water from both sources were well within desired levels for greenhouse crop production. Turbidity and pH were relatively high from algal growth in the collection basin. However, substrate pH, irrigated by either water source, remained between 6 and 7 throughout the production periods. All plants at the time of finishing were of marketable sizes and salable quality independent of water source. No disease incidences or growth disorders related to water sources were observed. Results suggest that captured irrigation runoff blended with rainwater can be an alternative water source for green house crop production.

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Kathryn M. Santos, Paul R. Fisher, Thomas Yeager, Eric H. Simonne, Hannah S. Carter, and William R. Argo

The objective was to quantify the effect of the timing of macronutrient applications on nutrient uptake, growth, and development of Petunia ×hybrida Hort. Vilm.-Andr. ‘Supertunia Royal Velvet’ during vegetative propagation. Starting with unrooted cuttings (Day 0), fertigation was applied continuously at three time intervals (Day 0 to 7, Day 8 to 14, or Day 15 to 21) using either a “complete” (C) water-soluble fertilizer containing (in mg·L−1) 75 NO3-N, 25 NH4-N, 12 phosphorus (P), 83 potassium (K), 20 calcium (Ca), 10 magnesium (Mg), 1.4 sulfur (S), 2 iron (Fe), 1 manganese (Mn), 1 zinc (Zn), 0.5 copper (Cu), 0.5 boron (B), and 0.2 molybdenum (Mo) or a micronutrient fertilizer (M) containing (in mg·L−1) 1.4 S, 2 Fe, 1 Mn, 1 Zn, 0.5 Cu, 0.5 B, and 0.2 Mo in a complete factorial arrangement. With constant fertigation using the C fertilizer, plant dry weight (DW) doubled from Day 0 (sticking of unrooted cuttings) to Day 7 (0.020 g to 0.047 g), root emergence was observed by Day 4, and by Day 7, the average length of primary roots was 2.6 cm. During any week that the M fertilizer was substituted for the C fertilizer, tissue N–P–K concentrations decreased compared with plants receiving the C fertilizer. For example, plants receiving the M fertilizer between Day 0 and 7 had 20% lower tissue-N concentration at Day 7 compared with those receiving the C fertilizer. Although both shoot DW and leaf count increased once macronutrient fertilization was resumed after Day 7, final shoot DW and leaf count were lower than plants receiving C fertilizer from Day 0 to 21. Time to first root emergence was unaffected by fertigation. Constant application of C resulted in a higher shoot-to-root ratio at Day 21 than all other treatments. Results emphasize the importance of early fertigation on petunia, a fast-rooting species, to maintain tissue nutrient levels within recommended ranges.

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John D. Lea-Cox, Cindy Zhao, David S. Ross, Theodore E. Bilderback, J. Roger Harris, Susan D. Day, Chuanxue Hong, Thomas H. Yeager, Richard C. Beeson Jr, William L. Bauerle, Andrew G. Ristvey, Mary Lorscheider, Sarah Dickinson, and John M. Ruter

Increasing environmental concerns and legislation in many states and in other countries require that we take a more comprehensive sustainable “best management” approach to production techniques in nursery and greenhouse operations. This is particularly important because these production facilities are typically intense users of resources that are applied to relatively small land areas. We have developed an online knowledge center to facilitate the implementation of more sustainable practices within the nursery and greenhouse industry. A web-based knowledge center provides the most cost-effective mechanism for information delivery, as our potential audiences are extremely diverse and widespread. We currently have a registered user database of over 450 educators, growers, and industry professionals, and undergraduate and graduate students. A gateway website provides an overview of the issues and the goals of the project. The associated knowledge center currently has 25 in-depth learning modules, designed in a Moodle learning management framework. These learning modules are designed to actively engage learners in topics on substrate, irrigation, surface water, and nutrient and crop health management, which are integral to formulating farm-specific strategies for more sustainable water and nutrient management practices. Additional modules provide assessment and implementation tools for irrigation audits, irrigation methods and technologies, and water and nutrient management planning. The instructional design of the learning modules was paramount because there can be multiple strategies to improve site-specific production practices, which often require an integration of knowledge from engineering, plant science, and plant pathology disciplines. The assessment and review of current practices, and the decision to change a practice, are often not linear, nor simple. All modules were designed with this process in mind, and include numerous resources [pictures, diagrams, case studies, and assessment tools (e.g., spreadsheets and example calculations)] to enable the learner to fully understand all of the options available and to think critically about his/her decisions. Sixteen of the modules were used to teach an intensive 400-level “Principles of Water and Nutrient Management” course at the University of Maryland during Spring 2008 and 2009. The water and nutrient management planning module also supports the nursery and greenhouse Farmer Training Certification program in Maryland. The Maryland Department of Agriculture provides continuing education credits for all consultants and growers who register and complete any module in the knowledge center. Although these learning resources were developed by faculty in the eastern region of the United States, much of the information is applicable to more widespread audiences.