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Sreenivas Konduru and Michael R. Evans

Chemical properties of unprocessed coconut husks varied significantly between 11 sources tested. The pH was significantly different between sources and ranged from 5.9 to 6.9. The electrical conductivities were significantly different between sources and ranged from 1.2 to 2.8 mS·cm–1. The levels of Na, K, P, and Cl were significantly different between sources and ranged from 23 to 88, 126 to 236, 8 to 33, and 304 to 704 ppm, respectively. The B, Cu, Fe, Ni, S, Zn, Mn, and Mo levels were all significantly different between sources and ranged from nondetectable levels to 12.7 ppm. The NH4-N, NO3-N, Ca, and Mg levels were not significantly different between sources and ranged from 0.2 to 1.8, 0.2 to 0.9, 2.9 to 7.3, and nondetectable to 4.6 ppm, respectively. Coir dust produced by screening of waste grade coir through 13-, 6-, or 3-mm screens had significantly different bulk densities, air-filled pore space, water filled pore space and water-holding capacities compared to nonscreened waste grade coir. However, total pore space and total solids were not significantly affected by screening. Screen size did not significantly affect physical properties. Compression pressures used for formation of coir dust blocks significantly affected physical properties. Additionally, coir dust age significantly affected chemical properties.

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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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James N. Smith and Michael R. Evans

Vegetative 6-cm Euphorbia pulcherrima `Freedom' cuttings were placed in black 200-ml bottles containing humic acid solutions, nutrient solutions, or deionized water. Humic acid solutions were prepared using Enersol SC (American Colloid, Arlington Heights, Ill.). Concentrations of 500, 750, and 1000 mg/L humic acid were compared to solutions containing mineral element concentrations equivalent to those contained in humic acid solutions. After 4 weeks, 88%, 75%, and 88% of cuttings had rooted in the 500, 750, and 1000 mg/L humic acid solutions, respectively. Cuttings placed in nutrient controls or deionized water failed to form roots after 4 weeks. Average root fresh mass was 175, 80, and 72 mg for cuttings placed in 500, 750, and 1000 mg/L humic acid solution, respectively. Average number of roots formed per cutting ranged from 21 in the 500-mg/L solution to 6 in the 1000-mg/L solution. Average lengths ranged from 26 mm in the 500-mg/L to 12 in the 1000-mg/L solution. As humic acid concentration increased, average root fresh mass, average number of roots, and the length of the longest root significantly decreased.

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Michael R. Evans and Brent K. Harbaugh

Before being forced as potted plants, tubers of two Caladium ×hortulanum Birdsey cultivars were subjected to different methods of de-eyeing (terminal bud removal), either before or after 6 weeks of curing and storage. The cultivar Frieda Hemple (`FH'), a type with numerous buds that does not require de-eyeing, was less affected by deeyeing than `Fannie Munson' ('FM'), which has a single dominant bud and requires deeyeing. De-eyeing had little effect on `FH' development. For `FM', regardless of the time of de-eyeing, all treatments reduced height, increased the number of leaves, increased total leaf area, and reduced mean leaf area when compared to intact tubers. However, as the size of the tuber piece removed during de-eyeing increased, the variability within each treatment increased. Based on the results of this research, the best method of de-eyeing would be to destroy or remove the dominant terminal bud while removing as little of the surrounding tissue as possible. The time of de-eyeing can depend on producer preference, since the time of de-eyeing did not affect development significantly.

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Paolo Sambo, Franco Sannazzaro, and Michael R. Evans

Ground fresh rice (Oryza sativa) hull materials were produced by grinding whole fresh rice hulls and passing the resulting product through a 1-, 2-, 4- or 6-mm-diameter screen to produce a total of four ground rice products (RH1, RH2, RH4, and RH6, respectively). The physical properties and water release characteristics of sphagnum peatmoss (peat) and the four ground rice hull products were evaluated. All of the ground rice hull products had a higher bulk density (Bd) than peat, and as the grind size of the rice hull particle decreased, Bd increased. Peat had a higher total pore space (TPS) than all of the ground rice hull products except for RH6. As grind size decreased, the TPS decreased. Peat had a lower air-filled pore space (AFP) than all of the ground rice hull products and as the grind size of the rice hull products decreased, AFP decreased. Peat had a higher water holding capacity (WHC) than all of the ground rice hull products. Grind sizes RH4 and RH6 had similar WHC, whereas RH1 and RH2 had a higher WHC than RH4 and RH6. Peat, RH4, and RH6 had similar available water content (AVW), whereas RH2 had higher AVW than these materials and RH1 had the highest AVW. However, peat had the lowest AVW and easily available water (EAW) as a percentage of the WHC. The ground rice hull products RH1 and RH2 had the highest AVW and EAW of the components tested. Peat had the highest water content at container capacity. As pressure was increased from 1 to 5 kPa, peat released water more slowly than any of the ground rice hull products. The RH1 and RH2 ground hull products released water at a significantly higher rate than peat, but RH4 and RH6 released the most water over these pressures. For all rice hull products, most water was released between 1 and 2 kPa pressure. The rice hull products RH1 and RH2 had physical properties that were within recommended ranges and were most similar to those of peat.

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Mary M. Gachukia and Michael R. Evans

Substrates were formulated by blending parboiled fresh rice (Oryza sativa) hulls (PBH) or perlite with sphagnum peat (peat) to produce root substrates (substrates) that contained 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, or 60% (by volume) PBH or perlite with the remainder being peat. After 0 (initial mixing), 4, or 8 weeks in a greenhouse environment, samples were taken and pH, electrical conductivity (EC), nitrate (NO3 ), ammonium (NH4 +), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) were determined. As the amount of PBH or perlite in the substrate was increased, the pH increased. After 0 and 8 weeks, the pH of substrates containing up to 30% PBH or perlite had a similar pH. However, the rate of pH increase at these sampling times was higher than that of perlite so that substrates containing 40% or more PBH had a higher pH than equivalent perlite-containing substrates. At the week 4 sampling period, all substrates containing PBH had a higher pH than equivalent perlite-containing substrates. For all sampling times, the difference in pH between equivalent PBH and perlite-containing substrates was not high enough to be of practical significance. For all sampling times, EC increased as the amount of perlite was increased. Depending upon sampling time, the EC decreased or remained unchanged as the amount of PBH was increased. For all sampling times and substrates, EC was within acceptable ranges for unused substrates. Substrates containing PBH had higher NO3 levels than equivalent perlite-containing substrates. The NH4 + level of the substrates decreased as the amount of PBH or perlite was increased. The levels of NO3 and NH4 + were within acceptable ranges for unused substrates. Substrate P and K increased as the amount of PBH in the substrate was increased, but the concentration of P and K remained unchanged or decreased as the amount of perlite was increased. None of the differences between equivalent PBH and perlite-containing substrates was high enough to be problematic with respect to crop production and all of the chemical parameters were within acceptable ranges for unused root substrates.

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Michael R. Evans and Mary M. Gachukia

Substrates were formulated by blending parboiled fresh rice (Oryza sativa) hulls (PBH) or perlite with sphagnum peat (peat) to produce root substrates (substrates) that contained 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, or 60% (by volume) PBH or perlite with the remainder being peat. After 0, 4, or 8 weeks in a greenhouse environment, samples were taken and calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), and boron (B) were determined. At all sampling times, substrates containing PBH had higher Ca concentrations than perlite-containing substrates. At all sampling times, Ca concentration decreased as the amount of perlite or PBH was increased, but the Ca concentration decreased at a higher rate in perlite-containing substrates than in PBH-containing substrates. After 0 weeks, perlite-containing substrates had higher Mg concentrations than equivalent PBH-containing substrates, but the opposite was true after 4 weeks. After 8 weeks, perlite- and PBH-containing substrates had similar concentrations of Mg. At all times, Mg concentration decreased as the amount of perlite or PBH was increased. Perlite substrates had higher concentrations of Fe than equivalent PBH substrates, and as the amount of perlite or PBH was increased, the amount of Fe decreased. PBH-containing substrates had higher concentrations of Mn than equivalent perlite-containing substrates, and as the amount of PBH was increased, the amount of Mn increased. Cu concentrations were significantly affected by sampling time, but at all sampling times, PBH-containing substrates had similar or higher Cu concentrations than equivalent perlite-containing substrates. Perlite substrates had higher concentrations of Zn than equivalent PBH substrates, and as the amount of perlite was increased, the amount of Zn increased. S and B were not significantly affected by substrate component or time. Secondary macro- and microelement concentrations of all substrates were within recommended levels for greenhouse crops except for Mn. Mn concentrations were within recommended ranges at up to 50% PBH. In most cases, PBH would be used at levels lower than 50%, but in cases where more than 50% PBH were used in the substrate, proper pH management may be important to prevent excessive Mn availability.

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Michael R. Evans, Matt Taylor, and Jeff Kuehny

The vertical dry strength of rice hull containers was the highest of all containers tested. Plastic containers and paper containers had similar vertical dry strengths. Containers composed of 80% cedar fiber and 20% peat (Fertil), composted dairy manure (Cowpot), and peat had lower dry vertical dry strengths than the aforementioned containers but had higher vertical dry strengths than those composed of bioplastic (OP47), coconut fiber, and rice straw. Rice hull containers and paper containers had the highest lateral dry strengths. Rice straw, Cowpot, and plastic containers had similar dry lateral strengths, which were significantly higher than those of OP47, Fertil, coconut fiber, and peat containers. Highest dry punch strengths occurred with traditional plastic and Cowpot containers, while the lowest dry punch strengths occurred with OP47, Fertil, coconut fiber, peat, and rice straw containers. Plastic, rice hull, and paper containers had the highest wet vertical and lateral strengths. Plastic containers had the highest wet punch strength, while Fertil, Cowpot, and peat containers had the lowest wet punch strengths. When saturated substrate was placed into containers and the substrate surface and drainage holes were sealed with wax, plastic, OP47, and rice hull containers had the lowest rates of water loss per unit of container surface area, while peat, Fertil, and rice straw containers had the highest rates of water loss per unit of container surface area. The amounts of water required to produce a geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum) crop were significantly higher and the average irrigation intervals were shorter for peat, Fertil, coconut fiber, Cowpot, and rice straw containers than for traditional plastic containers. The amounts of water required to produce a geranium crop and the average irrigation intervals were similar among plastic, rice hull, and OP47 containers. Algal and fungal coverage on the outside container walls averaged 47% and 26% for peat and Fertil containers, respectively, and was higher than for all other containers tested, which had 4% or less algal and fungal coverage. After 8 weeks in the field, Cowpot containers had decomposed 62% and 48% in the Pennsylvania and Louisiana locations, respectively. Peat, rice straw, and Fertil containers decomposed 32%, 28%, and 24%, respectively, in Pennsylvania, and 10%, 9%, and 2%, respectively, in Louisiana. Coconut fiber containers had the lowest level of decomposition at 4% and 1.5% in Pennsylvania and Louisiana, respectively.

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Michael R. Evans and Mary M. Gachukia

Ten substrates were formulated by blending perlite or parboiled fresh rice hulls (PBH) to produce root substrates (substrates) that contained either 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, or 60% (by volume) perlite or PBH, with the remainder being sphagnum peatmoss. All substrates containing PBH had higher total pore space than substrates containing an equivalent amount of perlite. As the percentage perlite increased from 20% to 60%, the total pore space decreased. The total pore space increased as the amount of PBH increased to 50% and then decreased as the amount of PBH increased from 50% to 60%. The air-filled pore space was not different between substrates containing 20% perlite or PBH. However, the air-filled pore space was higher in PBH-containing substrates than in equivalent perlite-containing substrates when the amount of PBH or perlite was at least 40%. As the amount of perlite or PBH was increased, the air-filled pore space increased, but the rate of increase was higher for PBH-containing substrates. The 20% PBH-containing substrate had a higher water-holding capacity than the 20% perlite-containing substrate. However, at 30% or higher PBH, the PBH-containing root substrates had a lower water-holding capacity than equivalent perlite-containing substrates. As the percentage perlite or PBH was increased, the water-holding capacity decreased, but at a higher rate in PBH-containing substrates than in perlite-containing substrates. For all substrates except those containing 40% PBH or perlite, substrates containing PBH had lower bulk densities than equivalent perlite-containing substrates. The differences in bulk densities were not great enough to be of practical significance. Inclusion of PBH in the substrate provided for drainage and air-filled pore space as did perlite. However, less PBH would be required in a substrate to provide the same air-filled pore space as perlite when more than 20% perlite or PBH is used.

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Ramsey Sealy, Michael R. Evans, and Craig Rothrock

Pythium aphanidermatum, Pythium irregulare, Pythium ultimum, Phytophthora cinnomomi, Phytophthora nicotianae, Rhizoctonia solani, Fusarium oxysporum, and Thielaviopsis basicoli grew and eventually covered petri plates containing a nutrient solution alone, but they failed to grow in nutrient solutions containing 10% or higher levels of garlic extract or a fungicide control. When plugs containing the fungal organisms exposed to 10% garlic (Allium sativum) extract solution for 48 h were washed and transferred to fresh cornmeal agar (CMA) growth medium, only F. oxysporum displayed growth. However, growth of F. oxysporum was limited to no greater than 2 mm from the original inoculum plug. After a single application of a solution containing at least 35% garlic extract or two applications containing 25%, viable P. aphanidermatum could not be recovered from a peat-based root substrate. By contrast, after a single application of a solution containing 25% garlic extract or two applications of 10%, we were unable to recover viable P. aphanidermatum from a sand substrate. When peat treated with increasing concentrations of garlic extract was placed on CMA inoculated with P. aphanidermatum, the first visual sign of a zone of inhibition occurred for peat saturated with 30% garlic extract solution and the zone increased as the garlic extract concentration increased. By contrast, when sand treated with increasing concentrations of garlic extract was placed on CMA inoculated with P. aphanidermatum, the first visual sign of a zone of inhibition occurred when saturated with 10% garlic extract solution. Therefore, the garlic extract was found to be fungicidal against a broad range of soilborne fungal organisms, but the concentration required to kill the organisms varied depending on root substrate.