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Uttara C. Samarakoon, James E. Faust, and John M. Dole

Vegetatively propagated unrooted cuttings are typically imported to the United States from Central America. Death or damage of cuttings during shipping and propagation can be reduced if cuttings can be made more resistant to external forces, such as physical damage or pathogen infection. However, strategies to develop durable cuttings via treating stock plants have not been previously quantified in controlled studies. During the current study, mechanical strength of leaves and resistance to infection by Botrytis cinerea were evaluated after weekly applications of calcium chloride (CaCl2) as a foliar spray to stock plants that delivered calcium (Ca) at the concentrations of 0, 400, or 800 mg·L−1. A texture analyzer quantified the peak force required to fracture the leaf and the work of penetration,or area under the force–displacement curve, and these measurements were indicators of mechanical strength. For poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch) cuttings at the time of harvest from the stock plant, work of penetration increased by 10% with the application of 800 mg·L−1 Ca compared with the control, whereas peak force by 9%. For zonal geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum Bailey), work of penetration increased 15% with the application of 800 mg·L−1 Ca compared with the control. Calcium concentration in the leaves increased from 1.2% to 2.0% in geranium and from 1.0% to 1.6% in poinsettia with increasing application from 0 to 800 mg·L−1 Ca. In poinsettia, disease incidence in response to inoculation with B. cinerea spores was 55% and 15% less with CaCl2 applications compared with controls with water and surfactant, respectively, whereas CaCl2 application to geranium did not affect disease incidence.

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Alicain S. Carlson, John M. Dole, and Brian E. Whipker

Plant growth regulators (PGRs) are used to control excessive plant growth in potted crops to improve quality and compactness for shipping and display. Pineapple lily (Eucomis sp.), a recent introduction to the potted crop market, can have excessive foliage growth and inflorescence height making the use of PGRs desirable. Bulbs of ‘Leia’ pineapple lily were forced in the greenhouse and drenched at leaf whorl emergence with three PGRs at five different concentrations: 1) flurprimidol (0.25, 0.5, 1.0, 2.0, and 4.0 mg per 6.5-inch pot), 2) uniconazole (0.25, 0.5, 1.0, 2.0, and 4.0 mg/pot), or 3) paclobutrazol (0.5, 1.0, 2.0, 4.0 and 8.0 mg/pot) and an untreated control. As concentration increased, days to anthesis increased and foliage height decreased for each PGR. Paclobutrazol (4.0 and 8.0 mg/pot), uniconazole (4.0 mg/pot), and flurprimidol (2.0 and 4.0 mg/pot) treatments resulted in excessive stunting with none of the plants being marketable. Flurprimidol had the greatest influence on plant growth among all the PGRs. Acceptable concentrations for each PGR are paclobutrazol at 0.5 to 2.0 mg/pot, uniconazole at 0.25 to 2.0 mg/pot, and flurprimidol at 0.5 to 1.0 mg/pot based on percentage of marketable plants and foliage and inflorescence height suppression without excessively increasing the number of days to anthesis.

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Jaime K. Morvant, John M. Dole, and Earl Allen

Pelargonium hortorum Bailey `Pinto Red' plants were grown with 220 mg·L−1 N (20N-4.4P-16.6K) using hand (HD), microtube (MT), ebb-and-flow (EF), and capillary mat (CM) irrigation systems. At harvest, root balls were sliced into three equal regions: top, middle, and bottom. A negative correlation existed between root medium electrical conductivity (EC) and N concentration to root number such that the best root growth was obtained with low medium EC and N concentrations. EF root numbers were greatest in the middle region. The two subirrigation systems (EF and CM) had higher average root numbers than the two surface-irrigation systems (HD and MT). For all irrigation systems, root numbers were lowest in the top region. In general, less difference in medium soluble salt and N concentrations existed between regions for surface-irrigated than for subirrigated root balls. Soluble salt concentration was lowest in the bottom and middle regions of EF and the bottom region of MT and CM. For subirrigation, the highest medium soluble salt and N concentration was in the top region. For all systems, pH was lowest in the bottom region. Plant growth for all irrigation systems was similar. EF and MT systems required the least water and EF resulted in the least runoff volume.

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Bridget K. Behe, Paul B. Redman, and John M. Dole

Consumer flower-color preferences are of interest to market researchers, plant producers, and retailers because this information can help them to anticipate accurately the sales product mix. Our objective was to determine consumer bract-color preferences for 47 poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch) cultivars. Visitors (124) to the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio, rated `Sonora', a red cultivar, highest (4.6 of 5.0) of any cultivar. Nine of ten highest rated cultivars were red. We compared the ratings of poinsettia buyers with those of nonpoinsettia buyers and found only one difference: nonpoinsettia buyers rated `Jingle Bells III', a marble cultivar, higher (4.3) than poinsettia buyers (3.8). We also compared consumers who had purchased a red poinsettia to those who had purchased nonred colors and found that red poinsettia buyers rated `Sonora' higher (4.9) than nonred poinsettia buyers (4.5). Men rated `Red Elegance' higher (3.7) than women (3.3), whereas women rated `Freedom White' higher (3.1) than men (2.4). We found few differences between men and women, buyers and nonbuyers, and nonred buyers and red buyers, which may indicate a relatively homogeneous market that does not greatly differentiate among poinsettia bract color.

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Brigitte D. Crawford, John M. Dole, and Ben A. Bergmann

Influence of season of the year, cutting week within a propagation cycle (number of weeks from which a stock plant has been harvested), stock plant age, and rooting compound on postpropagation cutting quality, and adventitious rooting was examined for ‘Stained Glass’ coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides). Cuttings were of higher quality and produced more robust root systems when a propagation cycle started in summer vs. fall or spring even when cuttings were harvested from stock plants of the same age. Cutting week within a propagation cycle significantly influenced postpropagation cutting quality and rooting when cuttings were harvested over many weeks from the same stock plants and when cuttings were harvested for three propagation events using stock plants of different ages. When cuttings were harvested on the same days from stock plants of three distinct ages, cuttings harvested in the first week were larger with greater root weights but had more yellowed leaves and lower quality ratings compared with the two subsequent cutting weeks, but stock plant age had no effect on any observed parameter. Treatment with rooting compound did not overcome the significant influences of season and cutting week within a propagation cycle whether rooting was carried out in a greenhouse or growth chamber. Shoot and root fresh and dry weights were positively correlated with both daylength and midday instantaneous light of the stock plant environment.

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Erin P. Moody, John M. Dole, and Jared Barnes

Various postharvest procedures were conducted on several rose (Rosa hybrida) cultivars to determine the effects on vase life, water uptake, change in fresh weight, stage of opening, and vase life termination criteria. Vase life was influenced by cultivar and vase solution. Commercial preservative solutions resulted in a longer vase life, smaller decrease in fresh weight than the controls, and smaller increase in water uptake. Vase life of nine cultivars in distilled water ranged from a low of 7.1 days for Queen 2000 to a high of 15.3 days for Forever Young. Flower termination criteria were also cultivar specific with Black Baccara, Classy, and Charlotte most prone to bent neck and blackening of petal tips. Exogenous ethylene at 0.4 or 4.0 μL·L−1 did not affect vase life but lowered water uptake. Application of the antiethylene agent silver thiosulfate (STS) at 0.2 mm concentration significantly improved vase life in five out of the nine cultivars (Anna, Charlotte, First Red, Freedom, and Konfetti) tested, but 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) at 740 nL·L−1 did not improve vase life over the control. Both vase life and water uptake were reduced when more than one stem was placed in a vase; placing 10 stems in a vase shortened vase life by 1.4 days and impeded water uptake by up to 10.6 mL/stem per day. Increasing the amount of time stems remained dry before placing in a vase reduced vase life, but recutting immediately before placing in a vase minimized the decline. Increasing the amount of stem cut off the base up to 10 cm increased vase life.

Open access

Cristian E. Loyola, John M. Dole, and Rebecca Dunning

In the United States and Canada, there has been an increase in the demand for local specialty cut flowers and a corresponding increase in production. To assess the needs of the industry, we electronically surveyed 1098 cut flower producers and handlers in the United States and Canada regarding their current cut flower production and postharvest problems, and customer issues. We received a total of 210 responses, resulting in a 19% response rate. The results showed that the main production problem was insect management; crop timing was the second most important problem and disease management was the third. Crop timing encompasses a range of related issues such as determining the correct harvest stage, harvest windows that are too short, flowering all at once, or lack of control when the crop is ready to harvest. The main postharvest problems were temperature management, hydration, and flower food management. Timing and stem length were the two most mentioned species-specific production issues, with each one listed by 10% or more of the respondents for eight of the total 31 species. Regarding on-farm postharvest handling, hydration and vase life were the two most mentioned issues; they were reported for five and three species, respectively. For postharvest during storage and transport, damage and hydration were the most common issues; these were listed for three species each. The most commonly mentioned customer complaints were vase life and shattering, which were reported for six and two species, respectively. These results will allow researchers and businesses to focus on the major cut flower production and postharvest issues and on crops that are most in need of improvement in North America.

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Ben A. Bergmann, John M. Dole, and Ingram McCall

Responses of 14 to 20 poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) cultivars were assessed following exposure to environmental stressors common in the crop’s postproduction supply chain and consumer environment: low light levels, low temperatures, and low substrate moisture. As indicated by number of days to unacceptable appearance, 14 cultivars tolerated three low light levels (10, 20, and 40 µmol·m–2·s–1) well, with all individuals of six of the cultivars exhibiting an acceptable appearance at 7 weeks when the experiment ended. An experiment with 20 cultivars showed them to be surprisingly tolerant of low temperatures for a short duration, with no differences found when averaging across cultivars among plants exposed to 2, 5, or 20 °C for 2 days. However, all cultivars exposed to 5 °C for 10 days performed poorly. Cultivars differed markedly in response to low substrate moisture, with frequency of unacceptable plants before 4 weeks across all treatments ranging from 0% to 87% among the 14 cultivars tested. Across 17 cultivars, acceptable plant appearance was extended from 23 days for plants that were never irrigated after 10 d in sleeves to 32 days for plants that received a single irrigation at unsleeving and not thereafter. The low temperatures and low substrate moisture experiments were conducted in 2 years, and years differed significantly for nearly all dependent variables assessed. The significant interaction between year and cultivar for all observed variables in those two experiments indicates the importance of conducting experiments such as these over 2 years or more. Potted plants of many of the poinsettia cultivars tested proved to be highly tolerant in terms of low light levels, low temperatures, and low substrate moisture. Three cultivars appeared to be most tolerant in two of the three experiments: Prestige Red (low light levels and low temperatures), Titan Red (low temperatures and low substrate moisture), and Whitestar (low light levels and low substrate moisture). Three cultivars were most tolerant to all three sources of postproduction plant stress: Christmas Day Red, Early Mars Red, and Titan White.

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Iftikhar Ahmad, John M. Dole, and Bruno T. Favero

Effects of pulsing with different concentrations of gibberellin plus benzyladenine (GA4+7 + BA), a proprietary mixture of GA4+7 plus BA in a commercial floral preservative (GA4+7 + BA + preservative), or a propriety mixture of sugar plus acidifier developed for bulbous flowers (floral bulb preservative) were studied on postharvest performance and quality of cut lily (Lilium hybrids) and gladiolus (Gladiolus hybrids) flowers. Pulsing of cut stems of lily with GA4+7 + BA at 5 or 2 mL·L−1 GA4+7 + BA + preservative for 20 hours at 3 ± 1 °C extended the vase life and controlled leaf chlorosis of ‘Cobra’ oriental lily and ‘Cappuccino’ and ‘Dot Com’ asiatic lily. Cut ‘Orange Art’ asiatic lily performed best when pulsed with GA4+7 + BA at 10 mg·L−1. For cut gladiolus, pulsing with GA4+7 + BA at 10 mg·L−1 extended the vase life of ‘Alice’, ‘Mammoth’, and ‘Passion’, while ‘Scarlet’ had the longest vase life when pulsed with 5 mg·L−1 GA4+7 + BA. GA4+7 + BA + preservative also extended the vase life and controlled leaf chlorosis, but the floral bulb preservative had no effect on vase life extension or preventing leaf chlorosis of lilies. Gladiolus cultivars had no or minor leaf chlorosis during vase period. Overall, overnight pulsing with GA4+7 + BA or GA4+7 + BA + preservative extended the vase life and prevented leaf chlorosis and can be used by growers and wholesalers for maintaining quality of cut stems.

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Ben A. Bergmann, John M. Dole, and Ingram McCall

Increasing cut stem length and reducing crop production time are producers’ goals for numerous cut flower species. One or both of these aims was met in several field-grown cultivars through foliar application of gibberellic acid (GA3), but effectiveness varied by cultivar, application rate, and timing. Of the 13 cultivars tested, stem length was increased in nine cultivars [Toreador Red celosia (Celosia argentea), Camelot White foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), Imperial Giants Pink Perfection larkspur (Larkspur hybrids), Compliment mix lobelia (Lobelia hybrids), Nippon Taka ornamental pepper (Capsicum annuum), Amazon Neon Duo and Bouquet Purple sweet william (Dianthus hybrids), Summer Pastels yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and Benary’s Giant Scarlet zinnia (Zinnia elegans)], and time to harvest was decreased in four cultivars [High Tide White ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum), lobelia, ornamental pepper, and zinnia], when GA3 was applied as a foliar spray. Concentrations of 400, 800, and 1600 mg·L−1 GA3 were most effective. Application of GA3 resulted in malformed or smaller flowers or lighter green foliage in foxglove, lobelia, sweet william, and zinnia. In most cases, only one application was tested, and greatest response to GA3 was observed during 3–6 weeks post application. Gibberellic acid did not influence stem length in three cultivars [High Tide White ageratum, Aurora Deep Purple delphinium (Delphinium hybrids), and Column Lilac Lavender stock (Matthiola incana)], and decreased flower stem length in one cultivar (High Tide Blue ageratum). Four cultivars were identified as good candidates for further research given their promising responses to GA3 treatments.