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Catherine S.M. Ku and David R. Hershey

Geranium `Yours Truly' in 15-cm diameter plastic pots were greenhouse-grown as single pinched plants in a completely randomized design. Plants were irrigated with 300 mg/liter N from 20N-4.4P-16.6K with leaching fractions (LF) of 0, 0.1, 0.2, and 0.4. There were 24 irrigations during the 8-week study. Plants with LF of 0.2 and 0.4 had 46% greater leaf area, 40% greater top fresh weight, and 37% greater top dry weight than plants with LF of 0 and 0.1. By week 5 the leachate electrical conductivity (EC) for LF of 0.1, 0.2, and 0.4 had increased from about 3 dS/m initially to 12, 8, and 4 dS/m, respectively. At harvest, medium ECe was 7, 4, 3, and 2 dS/m for LF of 0, 0.1, 0.2, and 0.4, respectively. At harvest, medium pH was the same in the top, middle, and bottom thirds of the pot. At harvest medium ECe with LF of 0.1, 0.2, and 0.4 was 47, 68, and 60% lower in the bottom two-thirds of the pot than in the top third. With a LF of 0 the medium ECe was not lower in the bottom of the pot. Minimizing the LF for potted geraniums substantially reduced plant growth.

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Mark V. Yelanich and John A. Biernbaum

`V-14 Glory' poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch) were fertilized at every irrigation with solutions containing 7, 14, or 28 mol N/m3 at four leaching fractions (LFs) of 0, 0.1 to 0.2, 0.3 to 0.4, or 0.5 to 0.6 or with subirrigation. The N applied ranged from 44 to 464 mmol/pot applied over 12 to 25 irrigations. Medium NO3-N and K concentrations and electrical conductivity were highest at the highest fertilizer concentration and lowest LF throughout cropping. Phosphorous concentration in the medium declined until week 12, when phosphoric acid was added for pH adjustment. Subsequently, medium P concentration was highest in treatments with the highest LF. Final shoot height, plant dry mass, and leaf area decreased as fertilizer concentration increased. Highest fresh mass, bract area, and shoot: root ratio were obtained with 14 or 28 mol N/m3 and a 0.55 LF or with 7 mol N/m3 and a 0.15 LF. Leaf N concentration was lower with subirrigation than with surface application. Leaf P and Mg were lower at higher LFs or with subirrigation, but leaf K was not influenced by the treatments.

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Jesse R. Quarrels and Steven E. Newman

A leaching frame was constructed to detect residual plant growth regulators in media. The table was 0.9 × 1.8 m and designed to hold 40 10-cm diameter by 30-cm PVC cylinders. Each cylinder was cut lengthwise in half and resealed with duct tape. Rooted cuttings of `Freedom' poinsettias were planted into each cylinder using two media combinations: 2 vermiculite: 2 peat moss: 1 pine bark and 2 vermiculite: 1 peat moss: 2 pine bark (by volume). Four growth regulator treatments were applied to the medium two weeks after transplanting: control, 0.25 mg paclobutrazol, 0.25 mg uniconazole, and 0.125 mg paclobutrazol applied as spike. After plant growth was recorded, the cylinders were removed and sliced lengthwise. Snapdragon plugs were then transplanted into the medium along the length of the cylinder to determine if any residual paclobutrazol remained. Paclobutrazol and uniconazole reduced stem length. The presence of pine bark in the media reduced the effect of the plant growth regulators.

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T.E. Bilderback

Research reports documenting phosphorus leaching from soilless container media has changed commercial nursery phosphorus fertilizing practices. However, rhododendron growers are concerned that phosphorus levels are adequate as plants begin setting flower buds in July and August. Medium solution of 10 to 15 ppm P are recommended. Five replicated leachate samples were collected from 6 phosphate sources for 11 weeks following surface application to 2 container grown rhododendron cultivars. Each fertilizer source wax blended to an analysis of 14.0N-11.2P-5.0K except a 14.0N-0P-5.0K control. Phosphate sources included Diammonium Phosphate, Triple superphosphate, Sulfur coated Diammonium Phosphate, Sulfur coated triple superphosphate, and a commercial rhododendron sulfur coated fertilizer. With the exception of control, all treatment leachate phosphorus levels ranged from 180 to 145 ppm two days and 85 to 75 ppm one week after application. All sources ranged from 45 to 10 ppm weeks 2-5 and were lower than 10 ppm weeks 7-11. Leachate levels of the control were below 10 ppm at all sample times. Bud set and foliar P levels were different among phosphate treatments, but growth index measurements were not significant.

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Marc van Iersel

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch) were grown in pots filled with 1.5 L of soilless growing medium and subirrigated daily with a fertilizer solution containing N at 210 mg·L-1 [electrical conductivity (EC) = 1.5 dS·m-1] for 128 days. After production, plants were placed in a whole-plant photosynthesis system and the effects of applying different volumes of water (0, 0.75, 1.5, and 3 L) to the top of the pots were quantified. Leaching with 0.75, 1.5, or 3 L of water reduced the EC in the top and middle layers of the growing medium. Applications of 0.75 or 1.5 L of water significantly increased the EC in the bottom third of the pots, where most of the root growth occurred. However, even in these treatments the EC in the bottom layer was only 2.6 dS·m-1 (saturated medium extraction method), which is well within the recommended range. The 0.75- and 1.5-L treatments also reduced the respiration rate of the plants by 20%, but none of the treatments had a significant effect on the photosynthesis of the plants. Regression analysis indicated a negative correlation between the EC of the bottom layer of the growing medium and dark respiration, while the EC of the top and middle layer had no significant effect on respiration. Although top watering can increase the EC in the bottom layer of the growing medium, this effect is unlikely to be large enough to cause significant plant stress and damage.

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James E. Altland, Charles H. Gilliam, James H. Edwards, and Gary J. Keever

Selected fertilizer treatments were applied to vinca (Catharanthus roseus `Peppermint Cooler') in the landscape to determine their effect on growth and nutrient leaching. In plots 0.9 m × 2.3 m, inorganic fertilizers were applied as either a single application of 4.9 g N/m2 pre-plant, or a split application with 4.9 g N/m2 applied pre-plant followed by application of 2.45 g N/m2 at 8 and 12 weeks after planting (WAP). Inorganic fertilizers included 15N–0P–12.6K granular fertilizer, Osmocote 14N–6.0P–11.6K, and Osmocote 17N–3.0P–10.1K controlled-release fertilizers. Three different organically based fertilizers were applied pre-plant and were composed of recycled newspaper amended with animal manures (chicken, beef cattle, or dairy) and adjusted with (NH4)2SO4 to achieve C:N ratios of either 20:1 or 30:1. A standard industry treatment of 13N–5.6P–10.9K (4.9 g N/m2) incorporated pre-plant and 17N–3.0P–10.1K (4.9 g N/m2) topdressed post-plant was also included. Leachates, collected with lysimeters, from inorganic fertilizer plots had lower levels of total N (NO3 + NH4 +) compared to organically based fertilizer plots through 8 WAP. Of the inorganic fertilizer plots, those receiving 15N–0P–12.6K granular fertilizer had higher total N levels at 1, 2, and 4 WAP than other inorganic fertilizer plots. Total N in leachates declined over the study and by 12 WAP were similar among all treatments. Vinca treated with organically based fertilizers (C:N 20:1) had the highest foliar color ratings through 8 WAP; however, color ratings declined thereafter and by 16 WAP had the lowest ratings. Plants treated with organically based fertilizers had greater shoot dry weights 20 WAP and larger growth indices 8 and 20 WAP.

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M.K. Schon and M. Peggy Compton

Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus L. `Vetomil') were grown in rockwool or perlite to evaluate these media for efficient hydroponic cucumber production under Florida greenhouse conditions. Plants were grown using a double-stem training method, and the frequency of irrigations was controlled by a weighing lysimeter for each treatment. In Expt. 1, plants were grown in rockwool with 29% or 17% leaching fraction (LF) and in perlite with a 17% LF. Nitrogen, P, and K concentrations in the complete nutrient solution were 175, 50, and 180 mg·L−1, respectively. In Expt. 2, N, P, and K concentrations were increased to 225, 60, and 225 mg·L−1, respectively. Other nutrient concentrations and LFs remained as in Expt. 1. In Expt. 1, yields (fruit count and total fruit mass) were higher from plants grown in rockwool at 29% LF than from plants grown in rockwool or perlite at 17% LF. However, in Expt. 2, when nutrient concentrations were higher, total fruit mass was greater from plants grown at the lower LF, although there was no difference in fruit number. In both experiments, cucumber yield did not differ when grown at the same LF in either rockwool or perlite. Electrical conductivity (EC) and pH of the nutrient solution from the growing bags were not affected when LFs were decreased. In Expt. 1, the pH and EC ranged from 6.1 to 7.0 and from 0.9 to 1.6 mS·cm−1, respectively, across all treatments. In Expt. 2, pH and EC ranged from 5.3 to 6.9 and from 0.6 to 2.5 mS·cm−1, respectively, across all treatments.

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Michela Farneselli, David W. Studstill, Eric H. Simonne, and Bob Hochmuth

The quantitative assessment of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) leaching below the root zone of vegetable crops grown with plasticulture (called load) may be done using deep (150-cm) soil samples divided into five 30-cm long subsamples. The load is then calculated by multiplying the NO3-N concentration in each subsample by the volume of soil (width × length × depth, W × L × D) wetted by the drip tape. Length (total length of mulched bed per unit surface) and depth (length of the soil subsample) are well known, but W is not. In order to determine W at different depths, two dye tests were conducted on a 7-m deep Lakeland fine sand using standard plasticulture beds. Dye tests consisted in irrigating for up to 38 and 60 hours (11,756 and 18,562 L/100 m of irrigation, respectively), digging transverse sections of the raised beds at set times and taking measurements of D and W at every 30-cm. Most dye patterns were elliptic elongated. Maximum average depths were similar (118 and 119 cm) for both tests despite differences in irrigation duration and physical proximity of both tests (100 m apart in the same field). Overall, D response (cm, both tests combined) to irrigation volume (V) was quadratic (Dcomb.avg = –2 × 10–7V2 + 0.008V + 34), and W responses (applying maximum and average values, Wmax and Wmean) to D (cm) were linear (Wmax = –0.65D+114: Wmean = –0.42D + 79). Predicted Wmax were 104, 84, 64, 44, and 25 cm at 30-cm depth increments. These preliminary values may be use for load calculations, but are likely to over-estimate load as they were determined without transpiring plants and may need to be adjusted for different soil types.

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Kathryn S. Hahne and Ursula K. Schuch

Velvet mesquite [Prosopis velutina Woot., Syn.: P. juliflora (Swartz) DC. var. velutina (Woot.) Sarg.] has become more popular in arid landscapes of the southwestern U.S., but little information on N requirements during the seedling stage is available. In addition to optimize growth of seedlings, minimizing N in runoff during production is an important consideration. Experiments were conducted to determine how biomass production and N leaching were affected first by different ratios of ammonium and nitrate N in sand culture and second by different N concentrations when seedlings were grown in two substrates. Mesquite seedlings produced the greatest biomass after 120 days when fertigated with a solution of 33 NO3 : 67 NH4 +. Loss of N through leachate was 40% greater when NH + 4 comprised two thirds or more compared to one third or none in the fertigation solution. Nitrogen in leachate was highest after 16 weeks of treatment, coinciding with the reduced growth rate of seedlings. The second experiment utilized either sand or commercial growing media and a fertigation solution of 33 NO3 : 67 NH4 +. Fertigation with 200 mg·L–1 N after 60 days in either substrate produced greatest biomass, while rates of 25, 50, or 100 mg·L–1 N produced about half of that biomass. With few exceptions, less N in either form was found in leachate when seedlings were grown in media and were fertigated with the two higher N rates compared to seedlings grown in sand at the two higher N rates. Plant morphology, biomass accumulation, photosynthate allocation, and the fate of N in the growing substrate and in leachate were strongly affected by the choice of growing substrate.

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S.J. Breschini and T.K. Hartz

Trials were conducted in 15 commercial fields in the central coast region of California in 1999 and 2000 to evaluate the use of presidedress soil nitrate testing (PSNT) to determine sidedress N requirements for production of iceberg and romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.). In each field a large plot (0.2-1.2 ha) was established in which sidedress N application was based on presidedress soil NO3-N concentration. Prior to each sidedress N application scheduled by the cooperating growers, a composite soil sample (top 30 cm) was collected and analyzed for NO3-N. No fertilizer was applied in the PSNT plot at that sidedressing if NO3-N was >20 mg·kg-1; if NO3-N was lower than that threshold, only enough N was applied to increase soil available N to ≈20 mg·kg-1. The productivity and N status of PSNT plots were compared to adjacent plots receiving the growers' standard N fertilization. Cooperating growers applied a seasonal average of 257 kg·ha-1 N, including one to three sidedressings containing 194 kg·ha-1 N. Sidedressing based on PSNT decreased total seasonal and sidedress N application by an average of 43% and 57%, respectively. The majority of the N savings achieved with PSNT occurred at the first sidedressing. There was no significant difference between PSNT and grower N management across fields in lettuce yield or postharvest quality, and only small differences in crop N uptake. At harvest, PSNT plots had on average 8 mg·kg-1 lower residual NO3-N in the top 90 cm of soil than the grower fertilization rate plots, indicating a substantial reduction in subsequent NO3-N leaching hazard. We conclude that PSNT is a reliable management tool that can substantially reduce unnecessary N fertilization in lettuce production.