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Jack A. Hartwigsen and Michael R. Evans

Cucumis sativus (cucumber), Pelargonium × hortorum (geranium), Tagetes patula (marigold), and Cucurbita pepo (squash) seed were sown into plug cells (5 ml volume) filled with a germination substrate containing peat, vermiculite, and perlite. After the seed were sown, the substrate was saturated with solution containing 0 (deionized water) 2500, or 5000 mg/L humic acid (HA). Additional treatments included seed which were sown into the substrate and saturated with nutrient solutions corresponding to the nutrient concentration of each humic acid solution. Seed were placed in a growth chamber and maintained at 22°C and under a 12-h photoperiod with a PPF of 275 μmol·m–2·s–1. After 10 d for cucumber and squash and 14 d for marigold and geranium, plants were harvested and root and shoot fresh mass recorded. Shoot fresh mass was not significantly affected by treatment for any of the species tested. Except for squash, root fresh mass was significantly increased by humic acid treatments. For cucumber, root fresh mass ranged from 0.24 g in deionized water to 0.34 g in 2500 and 5000 mg/L HA. Geranium root fresh mass ranged from 0.03 g in deionized water and 5000 mg/L HA to 0.05 g in 2500 mg/L HA. Marigold root fresh mass ranged from 0.02 g in deionized water to 0.03 g in 2500 and 5000 mg/L HA. Root fresh mass for nutrient controls were similar to those for deionized water.

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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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Andrew A. Waber and Michael R. Evans

Euphorbia pulcherrima `Freedom' (poinsettia) were grown in coir dust, sphagnum peat, and perlite at the following ratios (respectively) 20:0:80, 40:0:60, 60:0:40, 80:0:20, 0:20:80, 0:40:60, 0:60:40, and 0:80:20 (v/v) substrates. Days to anthesis were not significantly different between substrates. Heights were greater for plants produced in 80% coir compared to plants grown in 80% peat. Overall, plants grown in coir-based substrates were taller than plants grown in peat-based substrates. Plants grown in 60% coir had a greater number of lateral shoots, increased shoot fresh weight and increased bract area compared to plants grown in 60% peat. Overall, plants grown in coir-based substrates had greater shoot fresh weights compared to plants grown in peat-based substrates. Lilium longiflorum `Nellie White' (lily) plants were grown in 40:0:20:40, 0:40:20:40, 0:57:14:28, 0:73:9:18 (v/v sphagnum peat: coir dust: loam: perlite) substrates. As the proportion of coir in the substrate increased, height, and shoot and root fresh weights increased. Nodes to flower, days to flower, and number of flowers were not significantly affected by substrate.

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Michael R. Evans and Andrew A. Waber

Euphorbia pulcherrima `Freedom' (poinsettia) and Pelargonium ×hortorum `Pink Elite' (geranium) were grown in 75:25:0, 50:50:0, 27:75:0, 75:0:25 50:0:50, 25:0:75 (v/v sphagnum peat: 0.25-grade rubber: 0.10-grade rubber) substrates or in a 50 sphagnum peat: 30 perlite: 20 loam (v/v) standard greenhouse substrate. Geranium root and shoot fresh weights, height, and number of axillary shoots were reduced when grown in rubber-containing substrates compared to plants grown in the standard control. As the proportion of either grade of rubber increased, root and shoot fresh weights, height, and number of axillary shoots decreased. Flowering in geranium was delayed and the number of inflorescences reduced as the proportion of the 0.10-grade rubber increased. Plants grown in the 0.25-grade rubber failed to flower by the termination of the experiment. Poinsettia plants grown in rubber-containing substrates had reduced shoot fresh weight, height, number of bracts, and bract area compared to plants grown in the standard control. As the proportion of either grade of rubber increased, height, shoot fresh weight, number of bracts, and bract area decreased. Number of axillary branches was reduced in substrates containing 50% and 75% of the 0.10-grade rubber. Days to anthesis was unaffected by substrate.

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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.

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Michael R. Evans, Brian E. Jackson, Michael Popp, and Sammy Sadaka

The use of biochar as a soil amendment has fostered much attention in recent years due to its potential of improving the chemical, physical, and biological properties of agricultural soils and/or soilless substrates. The objective of this study was to evaluate the chemical properties of feedstocks, common in the southeast United States, and their resulting biochar products (after being torrefied) and determine if the chemical properties were within suitable ranges for growers to use the biochar products as root substrate components. Poultry litter biochar produced at 400 °C for 2 hours had a higher total phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), chloride (Cl), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), sodium (Na), and zinc (Zn) concentration than biochar made using the same process with mixed hard wood species, miscanthus (Miscanthus capensis), cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) gin trash, switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), rice (Oryza sativa) hull, and pine (Pinus sp.) shavings feedstocks. The pH of the biochar products ranged from 4.6 for pine shaving biochar to 9.3 for miscanthus biochar. The electrical conductivity (EC) ranged from 0.1 dS·m−1 for mixed hardwood biochar to 30.3 dS·m−1 for poultry litter biochar. The cation exchange capacity (CEC) of the biochar products ranged from a low of 0.09 meq/g for mixed hardwood biochar to a high of 19.0 meq/g for poultry litter biochar. The water-extractable nitrate, P, K, Ca, Mg, sulfate, boron, Cl, Cu, Fe, Mo, Na, and Zn were higher in poultry litter biochar than in all of the other types of biochar. The high EC and mineral element concentration of the poultry litter biochar would prevent its use in root substrates except in very small amounts. In addition, the high degree of variability in chemical properties among all of the biochar products would require users to know the specific properties of any biochar product they used in a soil or soilless substrate. Modifications to traditional limestone additions and fertility programs may also need to be tested and monitored to compensate for the biochar pH and mineral nutrient availability. Users should be aware that biochar products made from different feedstocks can have very different chemical properties even if the same process was used to manufacture them.

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Michael R. Evans, Harold F. Wilkins, and Wesley P. Hackett

Exogenous foliar spray applications of gibberellic acid (GA3) applied at 7- or 14-day intervals providing 50 or 125 μg per plant inhibited long-day (LD) floral initiation in poinsettia [Euphorbia pulcherrima (Willd. ex. Klotzsch)]. Periodic application of GA3 resulted in an additional number of nodes being produced by the plant before floral initiation equivalent to the number of nodes over which GA3 was applied. Further, GA, application eliminated the nodal position dependence of the long-day node number (LDNN) of axillary meristems observed in control plants. It was concluded that GA3 application inhibited the inclusion of nodes into the LDNN count and thus inhibited ontogenetic aging of the meristem. Exogenous application of GA, also inhibited LD floral initiation, while application of GA4 had no effect. Application of GA7 delayed LD floral initiation, but plants did initiate cyathia by the termination of the experiment. All gibberellins increased the average internode lengths similarly. The gibberllin-biosynthesis inhibitors chlormequat and paclobutrazol had no effect on LD floral initiation when applied as single or multiple foliar sprays or as soil drenches, although heights and internode lengths were reduced by application of the inhibitors. The LDNN of plants grown at 31C was significantly higher than of plants grown at 16, 21, or 26C. All plants eventually initiated cyathia regardless of temperature. When plants were grown under a range of day/night temperatures, an increase in the LDNN occurred only when plants were grown at 31C during the day. Chemical names used: 2-chloroethyl-trimethyl-ammonium chloride (chlormequat); (+/-)-(R*,R*)-β -(4-chlorophenyl)methyl-α -(1,1-dimethylethyl)-1-H-1,2,4-triazole-1-ethanol (paclobutrazol).

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Michael R. Evans, Sreenivas Konduru, and Robert H. Stamps

Physical properties differed significantly among five Philippine-produced coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) coir dust sources. Bulk densities ranged from 0.04 to 0.08 g·cm–3. Air-filled pore space, water-filled pore space, and total pore space ranged from 9.5% to 12.6%, 73.0% to 80.0%, and 85.5% to 89.5% (v/v), respectively. Total solids accounted for 10.5% to 14.5% of total volume, and water-holding capacities ranged from 750% to 1100% of dry weight. Significant differences existed in particle size distribution, with the largest differences occurring for particle sizes <8.0 mm and 0.25 to 0.50 mm in diameter. Chemical properties were determined for 12 sources from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, or Indonesia. The pH and electrical conductivities ranged from 5.6 to 6.9 and 0.3 to 2.9 mS·cm–1, respectively, and were significantly different among sources. No significant differences occurred among samples with respect to Fe, Mn, Zn, B, Cu, NH4-N, and Mg concentrations. Coir dust samples contained Fe, Mn, Zn, B, and Cu at 0.01 to 0.07 mg·L–1. The levels of NH4-N and Mg were 0.1 to 0.2 and 1.0 to 7.4 mg·L–1, respectively. Significant differences occurred between sources for Ca, Na, and NO3-N, with levels (mg·L–1) ranging from 1.0 to 24.3, from 22.3 to 88.3, and from 0.4 to 7.0, respectively. The widest ranges occurred in K (19 to 948 mg·L–1) and Cl (26 to 1636 mg·L–1). Sources differed with respect to cation exchange capacities, with values ranging from 38.9 to 60.0 meq/100 g.

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Michael R. Evans, Harold F. Wilkins, and Wesley P. Hackett

The poinsettia [Euphorbia pulcherrima (Willd. ex. Klotzsch)] is a short-day plant (SDP) for floral initiation that will also initiate floral structures (cyathia) under long days (LD) after the apical meristem produces a cultivar-dependent number of nodes (long-day node number). Leaf removal, root restriction, and air layering failed to affect the long-day node number (LDNN) of the apical meristem. Repeated rooting of shoots, which resulted in the removal of nodes, did not affect the total number of nodes initiated by the apical meristem before floral initiation, although the number of nodes intact on the plant at the time of floral initiation was reduced. Reciprocal grafting of axillary buds of `Eckespoint Lilo' and `Gutbier V-14 Glory' plants did not affect the LDNN of the grafted meristem since the LDNN was the same as for nongrafted buds of the same cultivar. Further, grafting axillary buds from different positions along the main axis that differed in LDNN did not affect the LDNN of the grafted meristems. On the basis of these results, it was concluded that LD floral initiation in poinsettia is a function of the ontogenetic age of the meristem and that the LDNN represents a critical ontogenetic age for floral initiation to occur under LD.