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James E. Altland and Ka Yeon Jeong

Bagged potting mixes can be stored for weeks or months before being used by consumers. Some bagged potting mixes are amended with organic fertilizers such as poultry litter (PL), although there is little knowledge about how these and other organic fertilizers release in the substrate while in storage. The objective of this research was to determine nutrient availability from an organic PL fertilizer in a bagged potting substrate stored at different temperatures and with varying initial moisture content (IMC). The base substrate composed of 60 sphagnum peat : 30 bark : 10 perlite (by vol.) amended with 5.5 g·L−1 dolomitic limestone and 0.5 g·L−1 granular wetting agent. This base substrate was either not amended with additional fertilizer [nonfertilized control (NFC)] or amended with a PL fertilizer (microSTART60, 3N–0.9P–2.5K) in its original pelletized form (PL-P) or ground (PL-G), or an uncoated prill fertilizer (UPF, 15N–6.5P–12.5K). Substrates had IMCs of 25%, 45%, or 65% (by weight) and were stored at either 20 or 40 °C. The UPF treatment resulted in lower pH, higher electrical conductivity (EC), and higher percent recovered nitrogen (N) compared with other treatments, as was expected with a readily soluble fertilizer. Poultry litter particle size had no effect on any of the measured chemical properties of the stored substrates. Both PL fertilizer treatments resulted in pH similar to or lower than the NFC. The two PL fertilizers had higher EC throughout the experiment (1.59–2.76 mS·cm−1) than NFC (0.13–0.35 mS·cm−1). Poultry litter fertilizer provided a stable source of N in bagged potting mix over a range of IMC and storage temperatures, with little change in total N released over time.

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James E. Altland and Charles R. Krause

Pine bark (PB) is currently imported from southern U.S. states to nursery growers in the upper midwest and northeast United States. Alternatives to PB that are regionally abundant and sustainable are needed for nursery substrates. The objective of this research was to determine the influence of pine wood (PW), which consisted of chipped and hammermilled pine trees (excluding branches and needles) on substrate physical properties when substituted partially or wholly for PB in substrates typical of Ohio. Four cooperating nursery sites, each with unique substrates comprised primarily of PB, were recruited to use PW as a substitute for 0%, 50%, or 100% of the PB fraction in their substrate. All other physical and chemical amendments used traditionally at each site were incorporated. Physical properties including particle size distribution (PSD), air space (AS), container capacity (CC), total porosity (TP), unavailable water (UAW), bulk density (Db), and moisture characteristic curves (MCC) were determined for each substrate at each cooperator site. Pine wood was generally more coarse than all but one of the PB materials used by the four cooperating sites. Amendment with PW did not have any consistent or predictable effect on AS, CC, TP, or Db of the resultant substrates. Pine wood had little identifiable effect on plotted MCC, although it reduced calculated easily available water in one substrate. It was concluded that substitution of PB with PW can result in changes to substrate physical properties that might lead to irrigation management changes, but none of these changes were considered negative or drastic enough to cause physical properties to be outside of acceptable ranges.

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James E. Altland, James S. Owen Jr, and William C. Fonteno

Moisture characteristic curves (MCC) relate the water content in a substrate to the matric potential at a given tension or height. These curves are useful for comparing the water-holding characteristics of two or more soils or soilless substrates. Most techniques for developing MCC are not well suited for measuring low tensions (0 to 100 cm H2O) in coarse substrates used in container nursery production such as those composed of bark. The objectives of this research were to compare an inexpensive modified long column method with an established method for creating low-tension MCCs and then to determine the best model for describing MCCs of bark-based soilless substrates. Three substrates composed of douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) bark alone or mixed with either peatmoss or pumice were used to compare models. Both methods described differences among the three substrates, although MCC for each method differed within a substrate type. A four-parameter log-logistic function was determined to be the simplest and most explanatory model for describing MCC of bark-based substrates.

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James E. Altland, James S. Owen Jr., and Magdalena Z. Gabriel

An experiment was conducted to test the hypothesis that either pumice or plant roots maintain air space (AS) and porosity over time, or renders substrates more resistant to shrinkage. Treatment design was a 3 × 2 factorial with three substrate types and either presence or absence of a plant. The three substrates were composed of douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) bark alone or amended with 15% or 30% (by volume) pumice. Substrates were packed in aluminum cores to facilitate measurement of physical properties with porometers at the conclusion of the experiment. Half of the cores with each of the three substrate types were packed with a single plug of ‘Autumn Blush’ coreopsis (Coreopsis sp.) (Expt. 1) or ‘Blue Prince’ holly (Ilex ×meserveae) (Expt. 2). The remaining cores were maintained in the same production environment, but without a plant. Substrate physical properties were measured before the experiment and after 48 days for coreopsis plants and 382 days for holly. Both experiments had relatively similar responses despite using different crops and production times. Summarizing in general overall treatments, AS decreased, container capacity (CC) and total porosity (TP) increased, and bulk density remained constant over time. The presence of a plant in the core tended to exacerbate the decrease in AS and the increase in core capacity. Shrinkage was decreased by the presence of a plant, but only minimally.

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James E. Altland, James C. Locke, and Charles R. Krause

Cation exchange capacity (CEC) describes the maximum quantity of cations a soil or substrate can hold while being exchangeable with the soil solution. Although CEC has been studied for peatmoss-based substrates, relatively little work has documented factors that affect CEC of pine bark substrates. The objective of this research was to determine the variability of CEC in different batches of pine bark and determine the influence of particle size, substrate pH, and peat amendment on pine bark CEC. Four batches of nursery-grade pine bark were collected from two nurseries, and a single source of sphagnum moss was obtained, separated in to several particle size classes, and measured for CEC. Pine bark was also amended with varying rates of elemental sulfur and dolomitic limestone to generate varying levels of substrate pH. The CEC varied with pine bark batch. Part of this variation is attributed to differences in particle size of the bark batches. Pine bark and peatmoss CEC increased with decreasing particle size, although the change in CEC from coarse to fine particles was greater with pine bark than peatmoss. Substrate pH from 4.02 to 6.37 had no effect on pine bark CEC. The pine bark batch with the highest CEC had similar CEC to sphagnum peat. Amending this batch of pine bark with sphagnum peat had no effect on composite CEC.

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James C. Locke, James E. Altland, and Deanna M. Bobak

Nitrogen (N) fertilization recommendations to achieve optimum growth are well established for many floriculture crops. Although it has been shown that plant functions can recover from N deficiency in other crops, little research has investigated the threshold beyond which a bedding plant crop is recoverable. The objective of this research was to determine the effect of N deficiency on geranium chlorophyll content and growth and then to document the degree of recovery and recovery time from N deprivation. This was determined in two experiments by monitoring chlorophyll content and growth of seedlings grown in hydroponic culture in which the N source was removed and then restored after differing lengths of time. Summarizing across both experiments, chlorophyll and foliar N levels were shown to rebound quickly after N deprivation; however, growth was reduced after just 4 days compared with plants fed constantly. Geraniums grown without N for 4 to 12 days resulted in smaller, more compact plants with lower shoot–to-root ratios. Although foliar chlorophyll and N concentration recovered from longer periods in N growth solution, geranium growth was reduced and failed to completely recover for any plant receiving more than 2 days of N-free solution.

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Jennifer K. Boldt, James C. Locke, and James E. Altland

Silicon (Si) is a plant beneficial element associated with the mitigation of abiotic and biotic stresses. Most greenhouse-grown ornamentals are considered low Si accumulators based on foliar Si concentration. However, Si accumulates in all tissues, and there is little published data on the distribution of Si in plants. This knowledge may be critical to using Si to mitigate tissue-specific plant stresses, e.g., pathogens. Therefore, we quantified Si accumulation and distribution in petunia (Petunia ×hybrida Hort. Vilm.-Andr. ‘Dreams Pink’), a low Si accumulator, and sunflower (Helianthus annuus L. ‘Pacino Gold’), a high Si accumulator. Plants were grown in a sphagnum peat: perlite substrate amended with 0% (−Si) or 20% (+Si) parboiled rice hulls for 53 (petunia) or 72 days (sunflower). Aboveground dry weight was greater in nonamended petunia (13%) and sunflower (18%), compared with rice hull–amended plants, but days to flower was unaffected. Sunflowers grown in the rice hull–amended substrate had the greatest Si concentration in leaves (10,909 mg·kg−1), whereas roots (895 mg·kg−1), stems (303 mg·kg−1), and flowers (252 mg·kg−1) had lower, but similar Si concentrations. In petunia, Si concentration was greatest in leaves (2036 mg·kg−1), then roots (1237 mg·kg−1), followed by stems (301 mg·kg−1), and flowers (247 mg·kg−1). The addition of rice hulls to the substrate increased Si concentration in sunflower 414% in roots, 512% in flowers, 611% in stems, and 766% in leaves. By contrast, Si concentration in petunia increased only 7% in flowers, 105% in stems, and 115% in leaves, but increased 687% in roots. In rice hull–amended sunflowers, the distribution of Si was 91% in leaves, 3% in stems, 3% in roots, and 3% in flowers, and in petunia, it was 72% in leaves, 17% in stems, 6% in roots, and 5% in flowers.

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Magdalena Zazirska Gabriel, James E. Altland, and James S. Owen Jr

Douglas fir [Pseudotsuga menziesii Mirb. (Franco)] bark (DFB), sphagnum peatmoss, and pumice are the most common substrate components used in the Oregon nursery industry. The objective of this study was to document the effect of peat and pumice addition on the physical and hydrological properties of DFB soilless substrates. A secondary objective was to determine if measured properties of mixed soilless substrates can be accurately predicted from the known properties of the individual components. Treatment design was a 3 × 3 factorial with three rates each of sphagnum peatmoss and pumice (0%, 15%, and 30% by vol.) added to DFB. The resulting nine substrates were measured for total porosity, air space, container capacity, and bulk density using porometers. Moisture characteristic curves were generated by measuring water content along a continuous column. Adding pumice to DFB decreased total porosity, container capacity, available water, and water-buffering capacity but increased bulk density. Adding peatmoss to DFB increased total porosity, container capacity, and available water but decreased air space and bulk density. Comparison of predicted values against measured values indicated that bulk density could be predicted reliably; however, all other physical properties could not be accurately predicted.

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Raul I. Cabrera, James E. Altland, and Genhua Niu

Scarcity and competition for good quality and potable water resources are limiting their use for urban landscape irrigation, with several nontraditional sources being potentially available for these activities. Some of these alternative sources include rainwater, stormwater, brackish aquifer water, municipal reclaimed water (MRW), air-conditioning (A/C) condensates, and residential graywater. Knowledge on their inherent chemical profile and properties, and associated regional and temporal variability, is needed to assess their irrigation quality and potential short- and long-term effects on landscape plants and soils and to implement best management practices that successfully deal with their quality issues. The primary challenges with the use of these sources are largely associated with high concentrations of total salts and undesirable specific ions [sodium (Na), chloride (Cl), boron (B), and bicarbonate (HCO3 ) alkalinity]. Although the impact of these alternative water sources has been largely devoted to human health, plant growth and aesthetic quality, and soil physicochemical properties, there is emergent interest in evaluating their effects on soil biological properties and in natural ecosystems neighboring the urban areas where they are applied.

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Adam Newby, James E. Altland, Charles H. Gilliam, and Glenn Wehtje

Experiments were conducted in Auburn, AL, and Aurora, OR, to evaluate herbicides for pre-emergence liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha) control. Granular pre-emergence herbicide efficacy varied by location and product. Summarizing across all experiments, flumioxazin and oxadiazon provided the most effective control in Alabama, whereas flumioxazin and oxyfluorfen + oryzalin provided the most effective control in Oregon. Sprayed quinoclamine provided pre-emergence liverwort control, but efficacy and duration of control were reduced compared with granular herbicides.