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Charlie Garcia and Roberto G. Lopez

Supplemental lighting is required for the production of high-quality vegetable transplants in greenhouses when the photosynthetic daily light integral (DLI) is low. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are a promising alternative to high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps. However, there are a limited number of studies that have evaluated how LED supplemental lighting spectral quality beyond blue (B) and red (R) radiation influences plant growth and development. Seeds of hybrid greenhouse seedless cucumber ‘Elsie’ (Cucumis sativus), tomato ‘Climstar’ (Solanum lycopersicum), and pepper ‘Kathia’ (Capsicum annuum) were sown and placed into a dark growth chamber until radicle emergence. Seedlings were grown in a greenhouse at a 25 °C constant temperature set point and under five lighting treatments. The supplemental lighting treatments delivered a total photon flux density (TPFD) of 120 μmol·m−2·s−1 for 16 h·d−1 based on an instantaneous threshold from HPS lamps or LEDs [three treatments composed of B (400–500 nm), R (600–700 nm), white, and/or far-red (FR; 700–800 nm) LEDs], and a control that delivered 25 μmol·m−2·s−1 from HPS lamps (HPS25). The LED treatments defined by their wavebands (TPFD in μmol·m−2·s–1) of B, green (G, 500–600 nm), R, and FR radiation were B20G10R75FR15, B25R95, and B30G30R60; whereas the HPS treatments emitted B7G57R47FR9 (HPS120) and B1G13R9FR2 (HPS25). Generally, cucumber, pepper, and tomato transplants under B30G30R60 and HPS120 supplemental lighting had the greatest stem diameter. Fresh weight and leaf area of all three species was greater when G radiation replaced R or B radiation. For example, leaf area and fresh weight of cucumber, tomato, and pepper increased (by 33%, 22%, and 49%; and 35%, 14%, and 56%, respectively) for plants under B30G30R60 supplemental lighting compared with plants under B25R95 supplemental lighting. The most compact cucumber and pepper transplants were those grown under B25R95 supplemental lighting, and the most compact tomatoes were those grown under the HPS25 (control) and B25R95 supplemental lighting. Tomato transplants under treatments providing ≥30 μmol·m−2·s−1 of G radiation had an increased incidence of leaf necrosis. From this study, we conclude that plant responses to supplemental lighting quality are generally genera-specific, and therefore high-wire transplants should be separated by genera to optimize production and quality. However, additional studies are required to provide complete LED supplemental lighting recommendations.

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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.

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Roberto G. Lopez and Erik S. Runkle

The vegetatively propagated `Fire Kiss' clone of the hybrid Zygopetalum Redvale orchid has appealing potted-plant characteristics, including fragrant flowers that are waxy lime-green and dark maroon with a broad, three-lobed, magenta and white labellum. We performed experiments to quantify how temperature influenced leaf unfolding and expansion, time from visible inflorescence to flower, and longevity of individual flowers and inflorescences. Plants were grown in controlled-environment chambers with constant temperature set points of 14, 17, 20, 23, 26, and 29 °C and an irradiance of 150 μmol·m-2·s-1 for 9 h·d-1. As actual temperature increased from 14 to 25 °C, the time to produce one leaf decreased from 46 to 19 days. Individual plants were also transferred from a greenhouse to the chambers on the date that an inflorescence was first visible or the first flower of an inflorescence opened. Time from visible inflorescence to open flower decreased from 73 days at 14 °C to 30 days at 26 °C. As temperature increased from 14 to 29 °C, flower and inflorescence longevity decreased from 37 and 38 days to 13 and 15 days, respectively. Data were converted to rates, and thermal time models were developed to predict time to flower and senescence at different temperatures. The base temperature was estimated at 6.2 °C for leaf unfolding, 3.5 °C for time to flower, and 3.7 °C for flower longevity. These models could be used by greenhouse growers to more accurately schedule Zygopetalum flowering crops for particular market dates.

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Christopher J. Currey and Roberto G. Lopez

Our objectives were to quantify the effects of controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) on the growth, morphology, and tissue nutrient concentration of annual bedding plants during propagation. Unrooted cuttings of Angelonia angustifolia ‘AngelFace White’ and ‘Sundancer Pink’, Impatiens hawkeri ‘Celebrette Apricot’ and ‘Celebrette Rose Hot’, Nemesia fruticans ‘Bluebird’ and ‘Raspberry Sachet’, Pelargonium ×hortorum ‘Savannah Red’, and Petunia ×hybrida ‘Cascadia Marshmallow Pink’ and ‘Suncatcher Yellow’ were received from a commercial propagator. Cuttings were immediately stuck individually in cells containing soilless substrate supplemented with 0, 3, 6, 12, or 24 g·L−1 CRF (Osmocote Plus 15–3.9–10 3–4 month) and placed under clear mist water or cuttings were stuck in substrate containing no CRF and fertilized with water-soluble fertilizer beginning immediately after placing cuttings into propagation. Shoot dry mass of cuttings grown in substrates containing up to 12 or 24 g·L−1 CRF increased by up to 150% for some taxa compared with unfertilized cuttings. Incorporating CRFs into propagation substrates increased the concentration of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) in tissues by up to 103%, 42%, and 137%, respectively, compared with unfertilized cuttings. Additionally, tissue nutrient concentrations for cuttings fertilized with 6 g·L−1 CRF or greater were similar to cuttings receiving water-soluble fertilizer (WSF). When the impact of CRF on growth and nutrient concentrations are taken together, our results indicate that CRF is a fertilization application technology that holds promise for use during propagation of herbaceous stem-tip cuttings.

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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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Roberto G. Lopez and Erik S. Runkle

In 2003, commercial greenhouse growers in the United States imported 724 million nonrooted cuttings valued at $53 million. During transit and storage, cuttings can be exposed to environmental stresses (e.g., low or high temperature), which can consequently decrease quality, rooting, and subsequent plant performance. We performed experiments to quantify how temperature and storage duration of cuttings influence root initiation, root number, lateral branch count and length, and time to flower of Tiny Tunia `Violet Ice' petunia (Petunia × hybrida hort. Vilm. -Andr.). Dry or wet cuttings were harvested and packaged into perforated bags within small, ventilated boxes and then into traditional shipping boxes. The boxes were placed in environmental chambers with temperature setpoints of 0, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30 °C for 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 d. Cuttings were then rooted in a propagation house at 26 °C with a vapor pressure deficit of 0.3 kPa under ambient photo-periods. The visual quality rating of dry packaged cuttings decreased with increasing temperature and shipping duration. After 2 d at ≥25 °C, cuttings were horticulturally unacceptable due to water stress and chlorophyll degradation and they never fully recovered. Dry- or wet-packaged cuttings held at temperatures of 0 to 30 °C formed significantly fewer roots and lateral branches as duration increased from 1–5 d. Although cuttings held for 5 d at 0 °C produced 60% fewer lateral branches, they subsequently flowered 5 d earlier than plants held at 0 °C for 1 d. Therefore, exposure to temperatures >15 °C for ≥3 d can reduce petunia cutting quality, delay rooting, and decrease plant size at flowering.

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Roberto G. Lopez and Erik S. Runkle

Prohexadione-Ca (ProCa) is a relatively new plant growth regulator (PGR) that inhibits internode length in rice, small grains, and fruit trees. However, little is known about its efficacy and potential phytotoxicity on floriculture crops and how it compares to other commercially available PGR chemicals. The effects of two foliar spray applications (2 weeks apart) of ProCa (500, 1000, or 2000 ppm), paclobutrazol (30 ppm), or a tank mix of daminozide plus chlormequat (2500 and 1000 ppm, respectively) were quantified on Dianthus barbatus L. `Interspecific Dynasty Red', Ageratina altissima R. King & H. Robinson (Eupatorium rugosum) `Chocolate', Lilium longiflorum Thunb. `Fangio', and Buddleia davidii Franch. `Mixed.' All plants were forced in a glass-glazed greenhouse with a constant temperature setpoint of 20 °C under a 16-h photoperiod. Two weeks after the second spray application of ProCa at 500, 1000, or 2000 ppm, plant height of Dianthus and Lilium was shorter than control plants by 56%, 60%, and 65% and by 6%, 26%, and 28%, respectively. However, ProCa bleached and reduced the size of Dianthus flowers. ProCa at 2000 ppm and daminozide plus chlormequat were effective at controlling the height of Eupatorium (64% and 53% reduction, respectively); however, leaves of Eupatorium were discolored and showed symptoms of phytotoxicity 1 week after the first ProCa application. Only daminozide plus chlormequat were effective on Buddleia. ProCa is an effective PGR for most of the crops we tested; however, its discoloration of red flowers and foliage may limit its application for commercial use.

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Madeline W. Olberg and Roberto G. Lopez

Heating accounts for up to 30% of total operating costs for greenhouse operations in northern latitudes. Growers often lower air temperatures for production to reduce energy costs; however, this causes delays in development even in cold-tolerant crops, such as petunia (Petunia ×hybrida). This delay increases production time and can reduce profitability. Recent studies on low air temperature bedding plant production indicate petunia as a strong potential candidate for using lower air temperatures in combination with bench-top root-zone heating (RZH) to avoid or reduce delays in development. The objectives of this study were to 1) quantify time to flower (TTF) of seven petunia cultivars and two recombinant inbred lines (RILs) when the mean daily air temperature (MDT) was lowered by 5 °C and bench-top RZH was used and 2) determine if a high-quality petunia crop can be produced on RZH. Petunia ‘Sun Spun Burgundy’, ‘Sun Spun Lavender Star’, ‘Sanguna Patio Red’, ‘Potunia Plus Red’, ‘Potunia Plus Purple’, ‘Supertunia Red’, ‘Supertunia Bordeaux’, and two RILs, IA160 and IA349, were grown in a greenhouse with an MDT of 15 °C without RZH or with a RZH set point of 21, 24, or 27 °C. Additionally, a commercial control (CC) was established by growing plants without RZH at an MDT of 20 °C. All plants were grown under a 16-hour photoperiod to provide a daily light integral (DLI) of ≈12 mol·m−2·d−1. Time to flower was shorter at higher RZH set points. For example, TTF of ‘Potunia Plus Red’ was 56, 52, 49, or 47 days for plants grown at an MDT of 15 °C without RZH, or with RZH set points of 21, 24, or 27 °C, respectively. When a RZH set point of 27 °C was employed, TTF of all cultivars and inbred lines, except ‘Potunia Plus Red’ and ‘Sanguna Patio Red’, was similar to plants grown in the CC. Shorter stem length, lower growth index, and smaller shoot dry mass (SDM) at flowering were observed for plants grown under lower air temperatures with RZH, resulting in a more compact and high-quality plant. Producing a compact plant in a shorter time period is beneficial for growers; thus, results suggest that MDT can be lowered to 15 °C for petunia production when a RZH set point of 27 °C is employed.

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Wesley C. Randall and Roberto G. Lopez

To produce uniform, compact, and high-quality annual bedding plant seedlings in late winter through early spring, growers in northern latitudes must use supplemental lighting (SL) to achieve a photosynthetic daily light integral (DLI) of 10 to 12 mol·m−2·d−1. Alternatively, new lighting technologies may be used for sole-source photosynthetic lighting (SSL) to grow seedlings in an indoor high-density multilayer controlled environment. The objective of this study was to compare seedlings grown under low greenhouse ambient light (AL) to those grown under SL or SSL with a similar DLI. On hypocotyl emergence, seedlings of vinca (Catharanthus roseus), impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum), petunia (Petunia ×hybrida), and French marigold (Tagetes patula) were placed in a greenhouse under AL or AL plus SL delivering a photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) of 70 µmol·m−2·s–1 for 16 hours, or under multilayer SSL delivering a PPF of 185 µmol·m−2·s–1 for 16 hours in a walk-in growth chamber. Supplemental lighting consisted of high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps or high-intensity light-emitting diode (LED) arrays with a red:blue light ratio (400–700 nm; %) of 87:13, and SSL consisted of LED arrays providing a red:blue light ratio (%) of 87:13 or 70:30. Root and shoot dry mass, stem diameter, relative chlorophyll content, and the quality index (a quantitative measurement of quality) of most species were generally greater under SSL and SL than under AL. In addition, height of geranium, petunia, and marigold was 5% to 26%, 62% to 79%, and 7% to 19% shorter, respectively, for seedlings grown under SSL compared with those under AL and SL. With the exception of impatiens, time to flower was similar or hastened for all species grown under SL or SSL compared with AL. Seedlings grown under SSL were of similar or greater quality compared with those under SL; indicating that LED SSL could be used as an alternative to traditional greenhouse seedling production.

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Kellie J. Walters and Roberto G. Lopez

The plant growth regulator (PGR) ethephon [(2-chloroethyl) phosphonic acid; ETH] can be sprayed on floriculture crops to inhibit internode elongation, hinder apical dominance, increase lateral branching, and abort flower buds and flowers. However, the efficacy of ETH can be reduced as the pH of the carrier water used to mix the spray solution or temperature increase. Therefore, our objective was to quantify how the efficacy of ethephon sprays is influenced by carrier water alkalinity (CaCO3; ALK) and the air temperature at application (TEMP). Young plants of verbena (Verbena peruviana) ‘Aztec Blue Velvet’, ivy geranium (Pelargonium ×peltatum) ‘Precision Pink’, and petunia (Petunia ×hybrida) ‘Easy Wave Neon Rose’ were transplanted into 11-cm-diameter containers and grown in a greenhouse with an average daily air temperature (ADT) set point of 21 °C. Before the ETH spray application(s), the ADT in each greenhouse compartment was changed from a set point of 21 °C to 14, 17, 20, 23, or 26 °C for ≈24 hours. Plants were sprayed with 0, 250, 500, or 750 mg·L−1 ETH mixed with carrier water containing ≈50, 150, or 300 mg·L−1 CaCO3 2 and 3 weeks (Expt. 1) or 1 or 2 weeks (Expt. 2) after transplant. Generally, high ALK had a negative effect on spray efficacy. For example, an increase in ALK from 50 to 300 mg·L−1 CaCO3 resulted in one and five fewer ivy geranium and verbena branches, respectively. In addition, as application TEMP increased above 23 °C, chemical efficacy generally decreased in all species. For instance, as ETH increased from 0 to 750 mg·L−1 across ALKs, inflorescence number of ivy geraniums increased from 7 to 18 at a TEMP of 23 °C, but was unaffected at 26 °C. Based on our results, we can conclude that both ALK and TEMP influence ETH efficacy and are additional factors for greenhouse growers to consider when making applications.