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James E. Faust, Veronda Holcombe, Nihal C. Rajapakse, and Desmond R. Layne

Daily light integral (DLI) describes the rate at which photosynthetically active radiation is delivered over a 24-hour period and is a useful measurement for describing the greenhouse light environment. A study was conducted to quantify the growth and flowering responses of bedding plants to DLI. Eight bedding plant species [ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum L.), begonia (Begonia ×semperflorens-cultorum L.), impatiens (Impatiens wallerana L.), marigold (Tagetes erecta L.), petunia (Petunia ×hybrida Juss.), salvia (Salvia coccinea L.), vinca (Catharanthus roseus L.), and zinnia (Zinnia elegans L.)] were grown outdoors in direct solar radiation or under one of three shade cloths (50, 70 or 90% photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) reduction) that provided DLI treatments ranging from 5 to 43 mol·m–2·d–1. The total plant dry mass increased for all species, except begonia and impatiens, as DLI increased from 5 to 43 mol·m–2·d–1. Total plant dry mass of begonia and impatiens increased as DLI increased from 5 to 19 mol·m–2·d–1. Impatiens, begonia, salvia, ageratum, petunia, vinca, zinnia, and marigold achieved 50% of their maximum flower dry mass at 7, 8, 12, 14, 19, 20, 22, and 23 mol·m–2·d–1, respectively. The highest flower number for petunia, salvia, vinca, and zinnia occurred at 43 mol·m–2·d–1. Time to flower decreased for all species, except begonia and impatiens, as DLI increased to 19 or 43 mol·m–2·d–1. There was no consistent plant height response to DLI across species, although the shoot and flower dry mass per unit height increased for all species as DLI increased from 5 to 43 mol·m–2·d–1. Guidelines for managing DLI for bedding plant production in greenhouses are discussed.

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Jeffrey A. Anderson and Sonali R. Padhye

Although heat stress injury is known to be associated with membrane dysfunctions, protein structural changes, and reactions of activated forms of oxygen, the underlying mechanisms involved are poorly understood. In this study, the relationships between thermotolerance and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) defense systems, radical scavenging capacity [based on 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) reduction], and protein aggregation were examined in vinca [Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don `Little Bright Eye'], a heat tolerant plant, and sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus L. `Explorer Mix'), a heat susceptible plant. Vinca leaves were 5.5 °C more thermotolerant than sweet pea leaves based on electrolyte leakage analysis. Vinca leaf extracts were more resistant to protein aggregation at high temperatures than sweet pea leaf extracts, with precipitates forming at ≥40 °C in sweet pea and at ≥46 °C in vinca. Vinca leaves also had nearly three times greater DPPH radical scavenging capacity than sweet pea leaf extracts. Two enzymatic detoxifiers of H2O2, catalase (CAT) and ascorbate peroxidase (APOX), demonstrated greater activities in vinca leaves than in sweet pea leaves. In addition, CAT and APOX were more thermostable in vinca, compared with sweet pea leaves. However, tissue H2O2 levels did not differ between controls and tissues injured or killed by heat stress in either species, suggesting that H2O2 did not play a direct role in acute heat stress injury in vinca or sweet pea leaves. Greater thermotolerance in vinca, compared with sweet pea, was associated with greater DPPH radical scavenging capacity, indicating that AOS other than H2O2 may be involved in acute heat stress injury.

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John J. Sloan, Raul I. Cabrera, Peter A.Y. Ampim, Steve A. George, and Wayne A. Mackay

Organic and inorganic amendments are often used to improve chemical and physical properties of soils. The objective of this study was to determine how the inclusion of light-weight expanded shale in various organic matter blends would affect plant performance. Four basic blends of organic growing media were prepared using traditional or alternative organic materials: 1) 75% pine bark (PB) + 25% sphagnum peatmoss (PM), 2) 50% PB + 50% wastewater biosolids (BS), 3) 100% municipal yard waste compost (compost), and 4) 65% PB + 35% cottonseed hulls (CH). Light-weight expanded shale was then blended with each of these mixtures at rates of 0%, 15%, 30%, and 60% (v/v). Vinca (Catharanthus roseus), verbena (Verbena hybrida), and shantung maple (Acer truncatum) were planted into the growing media after they were transferred into greenhouse pots. Vinca growth was monitored for 3 months before harvesting aboveground plant tissue to determine total biomass yield and elemental composition. Verbena growth was monitored for 6 months, during which time aboveground plant tissue was harvested twice to determine total biomass yield. Additionally, aboveground vinca plant tissue was analyzed for nutrients and heavy metal concentrations. In the absence of expanded shale, verbena and shantung maple trees produced more aboveground biomass in the 50-PB/50-BS blends, whereas vinca grew more biomass in the pure compost blends. Inclusion of expanded shale in the various organic matter blends generally had a negative effect on plant growth, with the exception of shantung maple growth in the 65-PB/35-CH blend. Reduced plant growth was probably due to a lower concentration of nutrients in the growing media. Macro- and micronutrient uptake was generally reduced by addition of expanded shale to the organic growing media. Results suggest that organic materials that have been stabilized through prior decomposition, such as compost or PM, are safe and reliable growing media, but expanded shale offers few benefits to a container growing medium except in cases where additional porosity is needed.

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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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Arianna Bozzolo and Michael R. Evans

A top coat is a lightweight substrate component used in seed germination. The seeds are typically placed on a substrate such as peat and then the seeds are covered with a layer of the top coating substrate. The top coat serves to maintain adequate moisture around the seeds and to exclude light. Vermiculite and cork granulates (1 mm) were used as top coat substrates for seed germination to determine if cork granulates could be successfully used as an alternative to vermiculite. The cork granulates had a bulk density of 0.16 g·cm−3, which was higher than that of vermiculite that had a bulk density of 0.12 g·cm−3 . Cork granulates had an air-filled pore space of 22.7% (v/v), which was higher than vermiculite which was 13.2%. The water-holding capacity of vermiculite was 63.4% (v/v), which was higher than that of cork granulates that was 35.1%. Seeds of ‘Rutgers Select’ tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), ‘Dazzler Lilac Splash’ impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), ‘Orbital Cardinal Red’ geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum), ‘Better Belle’ pepper (Capsicum annuum), and ‘Cooler Grape’ vinca (Catharanthus roseus) were placed on top of peat and covered with a 4-mm top coating of either vermiculite or cork granulates. For tomato, impatiens, and vinca, days to germination were similar between seeds germinated using vermiculite and granulated cork as a top coat. Days to germination of geranium and pepper were significantly different with geranium and pepper seeds coated with cork granulates germinating 0.7 and 1.5 days earlier than those coated with vermiculite. For tomato, impatiens, and geranium, the number of seeds germinating per plug tray was similar between the top coats. Number of seeds germinating per tray for pepper and vinca were significantly different. Pepper had an average of 2.8 more seeds germinating per tray, and vinca had an average of 2.4 more seeds germinating per tray if seeds were germinated using granulated cork vs. vermiculite. For all species, dry shoot and dry root weights were similar for seedlings germinated using cork and vermiculite top coats.

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Clydette M. Alsup and Pamela B. Trewatha

Many homeowners have difficulty establishing ornamental gardens in shallow, rocky soils. “Gardening in a Bag” (planting directly into bags of topsoil) offers a viable alternative for growing many herbaceous ornamental plants. This study compares the growth and appearance of several herbaceous bedding plants using “Gardening in a Bag” versus “in the ground” planting methods. Twenty-five cultivars of Alternanthera dentata R. Br., ornamental pepper (Capsicum annuum var. annuum L.), dianthus (Dianthus barbatus L.), gazania [Gazania rigens (L.) Gaertn.], marigold (Tagetes patula L.), petunia (Petunia hybrida hort. ex E. Vilm.), salvia (Salvia splendens Sellow ex Schult.), peek-a-boo plant (Spilanthes oleracea L.), verbena (Verbena hybrida hort. ex Groenl. & Rümpler), and vinca [Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don] were evaluated in 2002 under the two planting methods: in the ground versus in bags of topsoil. Wave petunias, dianthus, vinca, and rose moss (Portulaca grandiflora Hook.) were evaluated using the same methods in 2003. All plants were mulched with 7.5 cm coarse sawdust. In 2002, the planting method had no effect on the average height for 16 of the 25 cultivars tested. Seven cultivars were taller when grown in the ground whereas two cultivars were shorter during that treatment. Planting method had no effect on average plant spread of 13 of the cultivars. Plant spread was greater for nine cultivars grown in bags, whereas three cultivars were wider when grown in the ground. Visual ratings of overall appearance were similar for 14 of the cultivars regardless of planting method. In 2003, performance of the five species was evaluated on 3 July, 29 July, and 5 Sept. Planting method did not affect growth and appearance of rose moss or vinca. The two petunia cultivars and the dianthus tended to be taller and wider and had more flowers when grown in the ground compared with growth in bags. Visual quality of the petunias and the dianthus was unaffected by planting method until September when the `Purple Wave' petunias and the dianthus grown in the ground received better ratings than plants grown in bags.

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Genhua Niu, Denise S. Rodriguez, and Terri Starman

Bedding plants are extensively used in urban landscapes. As high-quality water supply becomes limited in many parts of the world, the use of recycled water with high salt levels for landscape irrigation is being encouraged. Therefore, information on salt tolerance of bedding plants is of increasing importance. Two experiments were conducted, one in a 25% light exclusion shadehouse in summer (Expt. 1) and the other in a greenhouse in winter (Expt. 2). Plants were irrigated with saline solution at electrical conductivities of 0.8, 2.8, 4.0, 5.1, or 7.4 dS·m−1 created by adding NaCl, MgSO4, and CaCl2 to tap water to simulate the composition of local reclaimed water. In Expt. 1, shoot dry weight (DW) at the end of the experiments was reduced in all species at 7.4 dS·m−1 compared with the control (0.8 dS·m−1). The magnitude of reduction varied with species and cultivars. The salinity thresholds of irrigation water in which growth reduction occurred were 4.0 dS·m−1 for angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia) cultivars and ornamental pepper (Capsicum annuum) ‘Calico’ and 4.0 to 5.1 dS·m−1 for helenium (Helenium amarum), licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolatum), and plumbago (Plumbago auriculata). Shoot DW and growth index of ornamental pepper ‘Black Pearl’ and vinca (Catharanthus roseus) ‘Rose’ decreased linearly as salinity increased. All plants survived in Expt. 1 regardless of treatment, except for ornamental pepper ‘Purple Flash’. No visual injuries were observed in Expt. 1 regardless of treatment. Leaf sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl) concentrations varied with species and treatments. Ornamental pepper ‘Black Pearl’ had the highest leaf Cl concentrations at higher salinities compared with other species and cultivars. Leaf Na concentrations in licorice plant and plumbago were in the range of 10 to 30 g·kg−1 DW, higher than those in other species. In Expt. 2, shoot DW was reduced by salinity treatments in ornamental pepper ‘Black Pearl’, plumbago, and angelonia but not in other species. The three ornamental peppers, ‘Black Pearl’, ‘Calico’, and ‘Purple Flash’, exhibited slight foliar injuries on some plants in Expt. 2 as a result of high salinity in the root zone in the highest salinity treatment. Ornamental pepper ‘Black Pearl’ was most sensitive to salinity stress. In general, the bedding plants tested in this study are moderately tolerant to salt stress and may be irrigated with saline water up to 4.0 dS·m−1 with little reduction in aesthetical appearance.

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Michael R. Evans and Douglas Karcher

When the substrate surface and drainage holes of feather fiber, peat, and plastic containers were sealed with wax, hyperbolic growth curves were good fits to cumulative water loss on a per container and per cm2 basis, with R 2 values ranging from 0.88 to 0.96. The effect of container type was significant as the differences in asymptotic maximum water loss (max) values for all container pairs were significant at P < 0.05 for both water loss per container and water loss per cm2. The predicted total water loss for peat containers was ≈2.5 times greater than feather containers, and the predicted water loss per cm2 for the peat container was ≈3 times greater than feather containers. Vinca [Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don.] `Cooler Blush' and impatiens (Impatiens walleriana Hook f.) `Dazzler Rose Star' plants grown in feather and peat containers required more water and more frequent irrigations than those grown in plastic containers. However, plants grown in feather containers required less water and fewer irrigations than plants grown in peat containers. The surface area of containers covered by algal or fungal growth was significantly higher on peat containers than on feather containers. No fungal or algal growth was observed on plastic containers. Additionally, primarily algae were observed on peat containers whereas most discoloration observed on feather containers was due to fungal growth. Dry feather containers had a higher longitudinal strength than dry plastic containers but a lower longitudinal strength than dry peat containers. Wet feather containers had higher longitudinal strength than wet peat containers but a similar longitudinal strength as wet plastic containers. Dry feather and plastic containers had similar lateral strengths and both had significantly higher lateral strength than dry peat containers. Wet feather containers had significantly lower lateral strength than wet plastic containers but had higher lateral strength than wet peat containers. Dry and wet plastic containers had higher punch strength than wet or dry peat and feather containers. Dry peat containers had significantly higher punch strength than dry feather containers. However, wet feather containers had significantly higher punch strength than wet peat containers. Decomposition of peat and feather containers was significantly affected by container type and the species grown in the container. When planted with tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum L.) `Better Boy', decomposition was not significantly different between the peat and feather containers. However, when vinca and marigold (Tagetes patula L.) `Janie Bright Yellow' were grown in the containers, decomposition was significantly higher for feather containers than for peat containers. Therefore, containers made from processed feather fiber provided a new type of biodegradable container with significantly improved characteristics as compared to peat containers.

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Michael R. Evans and David L. Hensley

A biodegradable container made from processed waste poultry feathers was developed, and plant growth was evaluated in plastic, peat, and feather containers. Under uniform irrigation and fertilization, dry shoot weights of `Janie Bright Yellow' marigold (Tagetes patula L.), `Cooler Blush' vinca [Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don.] and `Orbit Cardinal' geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum L.H. Bailey) plants grown in feather containers were higher than for those grown in peat containers, but lower than those grown in plastic containers. Container type did not significantly affect dry shoot weights of `Dazzler Rose Star' impatiens (Impatiens walleriana Hook.f.). `Better Boy' tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum L.) dry shoot weights were similar when grown in peat and feather containers. Feather containers were initially hydrophobic, and several irrigation cycles were required before the feather container walls absorbed water. If allowed to dry, feather containers again became hydrophobic and required several irrigations to reabsorb water from the substrate. Peat containers readily absorbed water from the substrate. Substrate in peat containers dried more rapidly than the substrate in feather containers. Plants grown in peat containers often reached the point of incipient wilting between irrigations, whereas plants grown in feather containers did not. This may have been a factor that resulted in higher dry shoot weights of plants grown in feather containers than in peat containers. Tomato plants grown in feather containers had higher tissue N content than those grown in plastic or peat containers. The availability of additional N from the feather container may also have been a factor that resulted in higher dry shoot weights of plants grown in feather containers than in peat ones. Under non-uniform irrigation and fertilization, dry shoot weights of impatiens and vinca grown in feather containers were significantly higher than those of plants grown in plastic or peat containers. When grown under simulated field conditions, geranium dry shoot weights were significantly higher for plants initially grown in feather containers than for those initially grown in peat containers. Container type did not significantly affect dry shoot weights of vinca when grown under simulated field conditions. As roots readily penetrated the walls of both feather and peat containers, dry root weights of vinca and geranium were not significantly affected by container type when grown under simulated field conditions.

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Michael R. Evans and Maryanne Gachukia

Ten substrates were formulated by blending perlite or parboiled fresh rice hulls (PFH) at 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, or 60% (v/v) with sphagnum peat. After 6 weeks, NH4 + concentrations were not significantly different among substrates containing perlite and those containing equivalent amounts of PFH. Nitrate concentrations were significantly higher in the 40% perlite substrate than in the 40% PFH substrate, but there were no significant differences in NO3 - concentrations among the remaining substrates containing equivalent amounts of PFH or perlite. When tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) was grown in the substrates for 5 weeks, tissue N concentrations were not significantly different between equivalent perlite and PFH-containing substrates. Non-parboiled fresh rice hulls produced organically contained a higher number of viable weed seeds than non-parboiled fresh rice hulls produced conventionally. No weed seeds germinated in the PFH. `Better Boy' tomato, `Bonanza Yellow' marigold (Tagetes patula L. French M.), `Orbit Cardinal' geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum L.H. Bailey), `Cooler Blush' vinca (Catharanthus roseus L.G. Don), `Dazzler Rose Star' impatiens (Impatiens walleriana Hook. f.), and `Bingo Azure' pansy (Viola ×wittrockiana Gams) were grown in sphagnum peat-based substrates containing perlite or PFH at 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, 30%, 35%, or 40% (v/v). Dry root weights of vinca and geranium were not significantly different among plants grown in the substrates. Tomato plants grown in 10%, 15%, 25%, 30%, and 35% PFH had significantly higher dry root weights than those grown in equivalent perlite-containing substrates. Impatiens grown in 35% PFH had higher dry root weights than those grown in 35% perlite. Marigold grown in 20% perlite had higher dry root weights than those grown in 20% PFH. However, there were no significant differences in impatiens or marigold dry root weights among the remaining substrates containing equivalent amounts of PFH or perlite. Dry root weights of pansy grown in 10%, 20% 25%, 35%, and 40% perlite were not significantly different from those grown in equivalent PFH-containing substrates. Across substrates, root dry weights of impatiens, marigold, and pansy grown in perlite-containing substrates were not significantly different from those grown in PFH-containing substrates. No significant difference in dry shoot weights of vinca, geranium, impatiens, and marigold occurred between equivalent perlite and PFH-containing substrates. Tomato plants grown in 20% to 40% perlite had significantly higher dry shoot weights than those grown in equivalent PFH-containing substrates. However, dry shoot weights of tomato grown in 10% to 15% perlite were not significantly different from those grown in equivalent PFH-containing substrates. Dry shoot weights of pansy grown in 10%, 25%, 30%, 35%, and 40% perlite were not significantly different from those grown in equivalent PFH substrates.