Seedlings are established in small growing containers to reduce cost of greenhouse space, while improving crop uniformity. These seedlings often are referred to as plugs. Vacuum seeders are used by larger growers to seed many flats per season (Bakos, 1983); however, individual growers, producing plants for their own use, may not be able to justify expensive seeding equipment. Several moderately priced vacuum seeders are available (Bartok, 1988). They consist of a metal tray with small drilled holes to hold the seed in place when a vacuum is applied to the tray from an external source. However, several problems with them exist. Seeds must be free of extraneous materials that might clog the small holes. A slight jarring of the plate, especially when the plate is turned upside down over the seed flat, may cause seeds to dislodge, resulting in unplanted cells in each flat. Also, different sizes of seeds and flats require completely different seeding plates and plate holders. A small grower may choose to seed flats by hand by placing seeds individually in each cell. This is feasible only for large-sized seeds or with pelleted seed. A simple, inexpensive, non-vacuum alternative design is presented and evaluated.
Charles W. Marr
Royal D. Heins, Nathan Lange, and Thomas F. Wallace Jr.
Ageratum, begonia, marigold, and salvia seedlings in plug cells were stored in coolers to determine the effects of temperature, light, and storage time on growth and forcing time of seedlings after transplanting, and to determine the optimum storage temperatures for each crop. Photosynthetic photon flux densities of 0, 1, and 5 μmol·m-2.s-1 were combined with temperatures of 0.0, 2.5, 5.0, 7.5, 10.0, and 12.5C to create 18 storage environments. Sample plants were removed from each treatment at 1-week intervals for 6 weeks, and were forced into flower. In all four species, temperatures of 0.0 and 2.5C caused chilling injury and then death as plants were stored for progressively longer periods. Storage at 0.0 and 2.5C also delayed flowering when chilling injury was not severe enough to cause death. In general, plants stored better in the light than in darkness. Darkness tended to limit the time seedlings could be stored, but for each crop, the addition of just 1 μmol·m-2.s-1 extended the storage durations to 6 weeks at one or more temperatures. Storage of all four species was possible for 6 weeks, but there were significant variations between the temperatures and storage durations each species could tolerate. Optimal temperatures were 5-7.5C for begonia, 5C for marigold, and 7.5C for salvia and ageratum.
C.E. Wieland, J.E. Barrett, C.A. Bartuska, D.G. Clark, and T.A. Nell
Salvia (Salvia splendens F.), vinca (Catharanthus roseus L.), and pansy (Viola × wittrockiana Gams.) were examined to determine efficacy of growth retardants for inhibiting stem elongation of seedlings in the plug stage and after transplanting to 10-cm pots. Studies on salvia showed plugs sprayed with single applications of ancymidol at 10 or 20 ppm, paclobutrazol at 30 or 60 ppm, or daminozide/chlormequat tank mix at 2500/1500 ppm inhibited plug elongation by 17% to 22%. Pansy plugs were sprayed either once or twice with ancymidol at 5, 10, or 15 ppm. Number of applications was statistically significant with two applications reducing elongation by an average of 35%, whereas a single application resulted in a 23% average reduction. Ancymidol concentration was significant in reducing stem elongation with increasing rates in pansy; however, the concentration and application time interaction was not significant. In both pansy and salvia, plant size at flowering was similar to controls after transplanting. Vinca plugs were sprayed with ancymidol at 5, 10, or 15 ppm either the 3rd week, 4th week, or both weeks after sowing. As ancymidol concentrations increased, plug height decreased, and the concentration effect was greater week 3 than at week 4. Two applications of ancymidol was most effective in retarding stem elongation (36%) followed by one spray the 3rd week (29%) and one spray during week 4 (20%).
Amy J. Compton and Paul V. Nelson
Soil and tissue standards and procedures have not been developed for plug seedlings. Turn-around time for foliar analysis is often adversely long for timely crop corrections. Visual assessment occurs after damage has occurred. Many plug growers have tried but abandoned soil testing due to erratic results. Of the three monitoring systems, soil testing offers the best potential, but can it be effectively refined for plugs? Petunias were grown in 288-plug trays under six fertilizer regimes. Fertilization or waterings were applied at 9:00 am, and 1 hour later, soil solutions were squeezed out and analyzed. Soil levels after fertilization and watering were too variable to inscribe a curve, while levels after fertilization formed a curve consistent with growth of the seedlings. Twice, soil samples were taken 1, 4, 8, and 24 hours after a fertilizer application. Some soil solution concentrations 1 and 4 hours after fertilization were 51 and 36 ppm for NH4-N, 46 and 32 ppm for PO4-P, and 147 and 84 ppm for NO3-N, respectively. Soil testing can be used for plug production, but samples must be taken after a fertilizer application and at a specified length after the application.
Edward F. Durner
Two- to three-week-old `Sweet Charlie' strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa Duch.) plug plants were conditioned [seven 9-hour short days without chilling (21 °C day/21 °C night) followed by seven 9-hour short days with chilling during the nyctoperiod (21 °C/12 °C night)] in September, then planted in a vertical hydroponic system for winter greenhouse production. Conditioned plugs produced significantly more fruit than did nonconditioned control plugs in January and February, but the difference was nonsignificant in March and April. Fruit yield increased linearly with height in the column (≈40 g/plant for every 30-cm increase in column height), probably because of increasing light level. When productivity is considered on an area basis (kg·m–2) and the column height effect on yield is accounted for, productivity over a 4.5-month period was 4.8 kg·m–2 for controls and 7.8 kg·m–2 for conditioned plugs. Conditioned plug plants offer the potential for increasing strawberry productivity and therefore the profitability of a winter greenhouse production system.
Ki-yun Jung, Yu-Jin Park, and Jung-Myung Lee
Cultivation of grafted tomatoes has been sharply increased in recent years. Millions of grafted seedlings were grown in California as well as other parts of the world, and the need for high quality grafted tomato seedlings is also rapidly growing. Since the price of grafted plug seedlings are 3–4 times higher than the nongrafted ones, production and commercial distribution of double-stemmed plugs, even though slightly more expensive than the single-stemmed plugs, will greatly cut down the expenses needed to purchase grafted seedlings. Several methods of producing double-stemmed grafted plug seedlings are presented and the advantages as well as the disadvantages of these methods will be fully discussed. Brushing or painting lanolin paste containing thidiazuron at 100–500 ppm to the lower node of the decapitated scion is effective in fast-growing cherry, whereas inducing double stems from the cotyledonary node of grafted scions appeared to be more practical for ordinary tomatoes for table use. Methods of grafting, especially in relation with machine grafting, will be discussed.
C.C. Pasian and M.A. Bennett
Some transplanted crops, like tomato and marigolds, tend to stretch very early after germination, especially if grown in low light environments. By the time growers apply growth regulators (PGRs), the stretching of the hypocotyl has already occurred and sprays are ineffective. Seeds of marigold `Bonanza Gold' and tomato `Sun 6108' were soaked for 6, 16, and 24 h in paclobutrazol solutions of 0, 500, and 1000 ppm. After imbibition, seeds were dried for 24 h before sowing in plugs. Sixteen, 26, and 36 days after sowing, seedling height and percent emergence were measured. Increasing concentrations of PGR and time of imbibition produced shorter seedlings. Tomato seedling heights measured 36 days after sowing were 1.9, 1.5, and 1.7 cm when imbibed in water for 6, 16, and 24 h, respectively. When PGR was used at 500 ppm, seedling heights were: 1.4, 1.2, and 1.2 cm, respectively. Similar reductions were observed for marigolds. It was hypothesized that some seeds have coats that are impermeable to PGRs. These impermeable coats might serve as PGR carriers, delivering the chemical into the growing medium of the plug cell. When the root emerges from the seed, it absorbs the growth regulator. These preliminary results indicate that this method of PGR application may be feasible and could benefit plug growers of marigold and other ornamental plant species prone to early stretching (e.g., cosmos).
Amy J. Compton and Paul V. Nelson
Many plug seedling growers complain about the inadequacy of substrate testing as a measure of nutritional status because results are too variable. We conducted two experiments to test a model system of sampling substrate at a set time after fertilization. Petunias (Petunia×hybrida Hort. ex Vilm. var. multiflora `Primetime White') were grown in 288-cell plug trays. Six fertilizer regimes were used consisting of a factorial arrangement of three fertilizer cycles (at each, every other, and every third irrigation) and two leaching fractions (0% and 20%). Fertilizer or water was applied at 0900 HR daily, and then 24 hours later in Expt. 1, and 1 hour later in Expt. 2, substrate solutions were sampled and analyzed. Samples taken after waterings were used to assess the dilution and leaching effects of water on substrate nutrient concentrations. In Expt. 2, additional substrate samples were taken at various hours after fertilizing to test the effect of plant depletion of the substrate. Substrate nutrient concentration curves constructed from data drawn at a fixed time after fertilizations, but not after waterings, were logical and could be interpreted. When data from a fixed time after fertilizations and waterings were plotted together, the curves could not be interpreted. Data from samples taken at various hours after fertilization in Expt. 2 revealed large reductions in concentrations, often after only 4 hours. Overall, leaching and dilution effects from watering in combination with the increased time span from fertilizing to sampling resulted in nutrient concentrations that could not be interpreted. Substrate testing can be effective for plug seedling production, but samples need to be taken 1 to 2 hours after fertilizations.
Tim D. Davis
Plugs of Zinnia elegans Jacq. `California Giant' and Tagetes erecta L. `Golden Climax' and `Grange Lady' were treated with foliar sprays of uniconazole solutions at 0, 5, 25, or 50 mg·liter-1 (spray volume = 120 ml·m-2). Ten days later individual plants were transplanted to OS-liter pots for evaluation of subsequent growth and flowering. All uniconazole treatments reduced height 10 days after application; the extent of reduction depended on uniconazole spray concentration. With zinnia, only the 50-mg·liter-1 foliar spray caused undesirable stunting for at least 1 month after transplanting. None of the uniconazole treatments affected time to anthesis for zinnia. With both marigold cultivars, all uniconazole treatments reduced growth the 2 weeks following transplanting. The highest concentration reduced marigold shoot growth during this period to 25% to 30% of untreated controls. Between 2 and 4 weeks after transplanting growth of all uniconazole-treated marigolds recovered to levels similar to the control. Time to anthesis was increased by the 50 mg·liter-1 treatment for both marigold cultivars. These results suggest that foliar sprays of uniconazole at 5 to 25 mg·liter-1 can control plug height during production without adversely affecting subsequent growth and flowering. with both zinnia and marigold, a single GA3 foliar spray of 100 mg·liter-1 at transplanting partially reversed the adverse post-production effects of the 50 mg·liter-1 uniconazole foliar spray.
David R. Dreesen and Robert W. Langhans
Uniformity of growth response of impatiens (Impatiems wallerana Hook. f.) plug seedlings was examined in four identical growth rooms. Differences among growth rooms for dry weight, height, and leaf area of 10- to 24-day-old seedlings were generally not significant. During six experiments over 6 months, an individual growth room was maintained under contant baseline environmental conditions. Differences in growth response over time appear to be related to nutrition and irradiance levels. For three experiments with nearly identical irradiance, temperature, and nutrition levels, dry weight and height growth differences over time were only rarely significant. These results illustrate that rather unsophisticated growth rooms can provide consistent growth response over time among experimental units.