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Diane M. Camberato, James J. Camberato, and Roberto G. Lopez

Chemical plant growth regulators (PGRs) are important tools in greenhouse ornamental crop production because growers must increasingly meet specifications for plant shipping and marketability. However, the role of water quality parameters such as pH or alkalinity (bicarbonate in this study) on final PGR solution pH is not well documented and could impact efficacy. We assessed the interaction of PGR type and concentration on the final spray solution pH when combined with carrier water of varying pH and bicarbonate concentration. Eleven PGRs commonly used in floriculture (ancymidol, benzyladenine, chlormequat chloride, daminozide, dikegulac-sodium, ethephon, flurprimidol, gibberellic acid, gibberellic acid/benzyladenine, paclobutrazol, and uniconazole) at three concentrations (low, medium, and high recommended rates for each product) were added to reverse osmosis (RO) carrier water adjusted to four pH (5.3, 6.2, 7.2, 8.2) levels or added to tap carrier water adjusted to four bicarbonate concentrations (40, 86, 142, 293 mg·L−1 of CaCO3). Resultant solution pH levels were measured. Plant growth regulators were categorized as acidic, neutral, or basic in reaction based on the change of the carrier water pH on their addition. Benzyladenine, chlormequat chloride, gibberellic acid, and gibberellic acid/benzyladenine acted as weak acids when added to RO water, whereas daminozide, ethephon, and uniconazole reduced final solution pH from 1.25 to 5.75 pH units. Flurprimidol and paclobutrazol were neutral in reaction with final solution pH being similar to that of the RO carrier water before their addition. Ancymidol and dikegulac-sodium were basic in reaction, increasing final solution pH in RO carrier water up to 2.3 units. There was an interaction between chlormequat chloride concentration and RO carrier water pH on change in pH. When added to tap carrier water, final solution pH increased for all except the stronger acids, daminozide, ethephon, and uniconazole, where it decreased up to 3.5 units, and benzyladenine, where it decreased 0.35 units at 40 mg·L−1 bicarbonate. There was an interaction between PGR concentration and bicarbonate concentration in tap carrier water for daminozide and ethephon. The magnitude of change in pH (final solution pH minus initial carrier water pH) with the addition of each PGR was greater for RO than for tap water containing 40 to 293 mg·L−1 bicarbonate for all 11 PGRs tested.

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Kellie J. Walters, Allison A. Hurt, and Roberto G. Lopez

Foliage annuals are primarily grown for the aesthetic appeal of their brightly colored, variegated, or patterned leaves rather than for their flowers. Once foliage annuals become reproductive, vegetative growth of many species diminishes or completely ceases and plants can become unappealing. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to quantify how growth and development during production and stock plant cutting yield of bloodleaf (Iresine herbstii), Joseph’s coat (Alternanthera sp.) ‘Brazilian Red Hots’ and ‘Red Threads’, Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus), and variegated potato vine (Solanum jasminoides) are influenced by photoperiod and night interruption (NI) lighting with or without far-red (FR) radiation. Photoperiods consisted of a 9-hour short day (SD) or a 9-hour SD extended to 10, 12, 13, 14, or 16 hours with red (R):white (W):FR light-emitting diode (LED) lamps (R:FR = 0.8) providing a total photon flux density (TPFD) of ≈2 µmol·m−2·s–1 of radiation. In addition, two treatments consisted of a 9-hour SD with a 4-hour NI from lamps containing the same R:W:FR or R:W LEDs (R:FR = 37.4). Bloodleaf plant and Joseph’s coat ‘Brazilian Red Hots’ and ‘Red Threads’ developed inflorescences or flowers under photoperiods ≤12 to 13 hours and were classified as obligate SD plants. Under LEDs providing R:W:FR radiation, stem elongation of reproductive bloodleaf and Joseph’s coat ‘Brazilian Red Hots’ and ‘Red Threads’ increased as photoperiod increased from 9 to 12 hours. In addition, stem elongation of bloodleaf, Joseph’s coat ‘Brazilian Red Hots’ and ‘Red Threads’, and Persian shield and growth index (GI = {plant height + [(diameter 1 + diameter 2)/2]}/2) of bloodleaf and Persian shield was significantly greater under NI with FR radiation than without FR radiation. Fewer or no cuttings were harvested from Joseph’s coat ‘Brazilian Red Hots’ and ‘Red Threads’ under photoperiods ≤12 or ≤13 hours, respectively. To prevent unwanted flowering of bloodleaf plant and Joseph’s coat, a photoperiod ≥14 hours or 4-hour NI must be maintained with LEDs providing either R:W or R:W:FR radiation, however; stem elongation is significantly reduced under R:W LEDs.

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Ariana P. Torres, Michael V. Mickelbart, and Roberto G. Lopez

Well-established protocols exist for using the pour-through extraction method to estimate substrate pH and electrical conductivity (EC) values for small root volumes. However, little work has been done to test the accuracy and consistency of these measurements in large containers. Our objective was to determine if the amount of distilled water applied to #1, #3, #5, and #10 (2-, 8-, 11-, and 27-L media volume, respectively) containers would affect leachate pH and EC values or consistency of measurements. Boxwood (Buxus ×koreana ‘Green Velvet’) was selected for this study because it is a common container-grown nursery crop. Distilled water was poured evenly over the media surface in each container 1 h after irrigation to obtain a leachate volume of either 50 mL or 2.5% of media volume and leachate EC and pH were measured. Media pH values were 0.1 to 0.3 points higher when 50 mL leachate was collected, but the difference was only significant during the first 2 weeks of measurements. There were no consistent differences in pH over container sizes or leachate volume. Leachate EC values were similar when measured in leachate collected as 50 mL total volume or 2.5% of media volume in 8- and 11-L containers. However, in 27-L containers, obtaining 50 mL leachate resulted in higher EC values than when 2.5% media volume was obtained. Both pH and EC values obtained from 50-mL leachate fractions over container sizes were more consistent than when 2.5% of the media volume was collected. Growers should collect 50 mL of leachate to test media pH and EC regardless of container size.

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Veronica A. Hutchinson, Christopher J. Currey, and Roberto G. Lopez

Vegetatively propagated bedding plants are produced during the late winter and early spring when outdoor photosynthetic daily light integral (DLI) is low, especially in northern latitudes. Our objective was to quantify how propagation DLI influences subsequent growth and development of annual bedding plants. Cuttings of Angelonia angustifolia Benth. ‘AngelMist White Cloud’, Nemesia fruticans (Thunb.) Benth. ‘Aromatica Royal’, Osteospermum ecklonis (DC.) Norl. ‘Voltage Yellow’, and Verbena ×hybrida Ruiz ‘Aztec Violet’ were harvested and propagated in a glass-glazed greenhouse. After callusing (≈5 mol·m−2·d−1 for 7 days), cuttings of each species were placed under one of three different fixed-woven shadecloths providing ≈38%, 61%, or 86% shade or no shade with 16 h of supplemental light for 14 days. Rooted cuttings were then transplanted into 11-cm containers and grown in a common greenhouse of 21 ± 1 °C and DLI of ≈12 mol·m−2·d−1 to identify any residual effects on subsequent growth and development during the finish stage. As DLI during propagation increased, time to first open flower decreased for Angelonia, Nemesia, Osteospermum, and Verbena. For example, time to flower for Angelonia and Osteospermum was hastened by 23 and 19 days, respectively, as DLI during propagation increased from 1.2 to 12.3 mol·m−2·d−1. Our research can be used to predict growth and flowering under varying propagation DLIs for the cultivars of Angelonia, Nemesia, Osteospermum, and Verbena in the study.

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Diane M. Camberato, James J. Camberato, and Roberto G. Lopez

Four complete water-soluble fertilizer (WSF) formulations including micronutrients applied at 200 mg·L−1 nitrogen (N) at each irrigation [Peters Excel (21N–2.2P–16.5K), Daniels (10N–1.8P–2.5K), Peters Professional (15N–1.3P–20.8K), and Jack’s Professional (20N–1.3P–15.7K)] were compared with two controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) products (also containing micronutrients) substrate incorporated at transplant at a rate of 3000 g·m−3 of substrate [Osmocote Plus (15N–4P–9.9K, 90 to 120 days longevity at 21 °C) and Osmocote Bloom (12N–3.1P–15K, 60 to 90 days longevity at 21 °C)] in the greenhouse production of four commonly produced bedding plant species with high alkalinity irrigation water (pH 7.1, 280 mg·L−1 CaCO3 equivalent). Species included Argyranthemum frutescens (L.) Sch. Bip. ‘Madeira Cherry Red’ and iron-inefficient Calibrachoa Cerv. hybrid ‘Cabaret Pink Hot’, Diascia barberae Hook. f. ‘Wink Coral’, and Sutera cordata Roth ‘Abunda Giant White’. Additional treatments included a combination of 100 mg·L−1 Excel and 2100 g·m−3 Osmocote Plus and an Osmocote Plus treatment irrigated with reduced alkalinity water (acidified to pH 6.3, 92 mg·L−1 CaCO3 equivalent). Bedding plants were evaluated at the end of a finish or market stage (3 or 5 weeks depending on species) for shoot dry mass (SDM) and root dry mass (RDM), tissue nutrient concentrations, and visual quality rating (0 to 4). At 3 weeks, there were no significant differences in SDM and RDM between fertilizer treatments for any of the four species. Shoot dry mass significantly increased at 5 weeks in the WSF and combination treatments over the three CRF only treatments for Argyranthemum and over the non-acidified Osmocote Plus treatment only for Calibrachoa. At finish, 3 weeks for Sutera and Diascia and 5 weeks for Argyranthemum and Calibrachoa, visual quality rating for all species was lowest when using Osmocote Plus with or without acidified irrigation water compared with the WSF treatments, except the Daniels treatment in Argyranthemum, which also resulted in a low visual quality rating. Leaf tissue N for all species and phosphorus (P) for all except Diascia were below the recommended range for bedding plant crops in the CRF treatments, which was reflected by the lower substrate electrical conductivity (EC) for the CRF alone and combination treatments. Leaf tissue N and P were related to visual quality rating for all species, leaf tissue potassium (K) for Argyranthemum and Calibrachoa only, and leaf tissue iron (Fe) for Diascia only.

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Christopher J. Currey, Veronica A. Hutchinson, and Roberto G. Lopez

Cuttings of herbaceous annual bedding plants must be rooted in late winter and early spring when ambient outdoor photosynthetic daily light integrals (DLIs) are at seasonally low levels. We evaluated the effect of DLI during root development on growth, morphology, and quality of nine popular vegetatively propagated annual bedding plant species. Cuttings of Angelonia angustifolia Benth. ‘AngelMist White Cloud’, Argyranthemum frutescens (L.) Sch. Bip. ‘Madeira Cherry Red’, Diascia barberae Hook. f. ‘Wink Coral’, Lantana camara L. ‘Lucky Gold’, Nemesia fruticans (Thunb.) Benth. ‘Aromatica Royal’, Osteospermum ecklonis (DC.) Norl. ‘Voltage Yellow’, Scaevola L. hybrid ‘Blue Print’, Sutera cordata Roth. ‘Abunda Giant White’, and Verbena Ruiz ×hybrida ‘Aztec Violet’ were harvested and propagated in a glass-glazed greenhouse with 23 °C air and substrate temperature set points. After callusing (≈5 mol·m−2·d−1 for 7 days), cuttings of each species were placed under one of three different fixed-woven shade cloths providing ≈38%, 61%, or 86% shade or no shade with 16 h of supplemental light for 14 days. There were no clear trends across species for stem length in response to DLI. Stem caliper of Argyranthemum, Diascia, and Nemesia increased by 35%, 119%, and 89%, respectively, as DLI increased from 1.2 to 12.3 mol·m−2·d−1. Depending on species, total, shoot, and root dry mass increased by 64% to 465%, 50% to 384%, and 156% to 1137%, respectively, as DLI increased from 1.2 to 12.3 mol·m−2·d−1. The quality index, an objective, integrated, and quantitative measurement of rooted cutting quality, increased for all species by 176% to 858% as DLI increased from 1.2 to 12.3 mol·m−2·d−1. Our results indicate that providing a DLI of ≈8 to 12 mol·m−2·d−1 after callusing increases both growth and quality of rooted cuttings.

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Diane M. Camberato, Roberto G. Lopez, and Brian A. Krug

The holiday poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch.) is the number two potted flowering crop sold in the United States with a reported wholesale value of $146 million in 2010. Profitability is increasingly threatened as the cost to heat greenhouses has increased by over 90% in the last 10 years. As energy costs continue to increase and poinsettia prices remain relatively constant, growers are seeking cultivars that can be finished under reduced temperatures. Our objectives were to quantify how reduced temperature finishing (RTF) 2 weeks after the start of short days influences height, bract area index, and time to anthesis of poinsettia. Eight red poinsettia cultivars were selected based on their early response attributes (initiate and finish within 6 to 8 weeks), moderate to high vigor, and naturally large bracts. Rooted cuttings were grown at day/night temperature set points (12 h/12 h) of 24/19 °C until 15 Oct. and under a 16-h photoperiod consisting of natural daylengths with day-extension lighting until 1 Oct. On 15 Oct., plants were transferred to day/night temperatures (12 h/12 h) of 20/14, 21/17, or 24/19 °C. Time to anthesis from the start of short days was 60 and 55 days at 24/19 °C and 76 and 68 days at a reduced finishing temperature of 20/14 °C for ‘Prestige Early Red’ and ‘Early Orion Red’, respectively. Final height was not significantly influenced by RTF in either cultivar. Our results indicate that RTF is a viable option that greenhouse growers can use to help reduce energy costs of carefully selected poinsettia cultivars.

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W. Garrett Owen, Alyssa Hilligoss, and Roberto G. Lopez

Production and market value of U.S. grown specialty cut flowers has increased over the past several years due to stem quality issues related to long-distance transport, regional proximity to market centers, and consumer’s willingness to purchase locally. Cut flowers are traditionally grown in field or greenhouse environments; however, high tunnels provide an alternative production environment and a number of cultural and economic advantages. Specialty cut flower species ‘Campana Deep Blue’ bellflower (Campanula carpatica), bells of ireland (Moluccella laevis), ‘Bombay Firosa’ celosia (Celosia cristata), ‘Amazon Neon Purple’ dianthus (Dianthus barbatus), ‘Fireworks’ gomphrena (Gomphrena pulchella), ‘Vegmo Snowball Extra’ matricaria (Tanacetum parthenium), and ‘Potomac Lavender’ snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) were planted in both field and high tunnel environments during the late season (early summer) in the midwestern United States. Compared with field production, high tunnel production yielded 9.1 stems/m2 (75%) for bells of ireland and 9.5 cm (15%), 16.8 cm (16%), 6.7 cm (44%), and 6.3 cm (19%) longer stems for bells of ireland, celosia, gomphrena, and matricaria, respectively. Additionally, stem length and caliper was greatest for high tunnel–grown bells of ireland, celosia, and dianthus. Our results indicate that late-season planting and production in a high tunnel is suitable for most of the species we investigated.

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Christopher J. Currey, Roberto G. Lopez, and Neil S. Mattson

Energy accounts for one of the largest costs in commercial greenhouse (GH) production of annual bedding plants. Therefore, many bedding plant producers are searching for energy efficient production methods. Our objectives were to quantify the impact of growing annual bedding plants in an unheated high tunnel (HT) compared with a traditional heated GH environment at two northern latitudes. Ten popular bedding plants [angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia), vinca (Catharanthus roseus), celosia (Celosia argentea), dianthus (Dianthus chinensis), geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum), petunia (Petunia ×hybrida), french marigold (Tagetes patula), viola (Viola ×cornuta), snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), and osteospermum (Osteospermum ecklonis)] were grown both in an unheated HT and a glass-glazed GH with an 18 °C temperature set point beginning on 1 Apr. 2011 at both Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) and Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN). Although seven of the species exhibited a delay in flowering in the HT as compared with the heated GH, there were no differences in days to flower (DTF) for geranium, osteospermum, and viola grown at Cornell and viola at Purdue. The remaining species exhibited delays in flowering in the HT environment, which varied based on species. At Purdue, several species were lost because of a cold temperature event necessitating a second planting. For the second planting, osteospermum was the only species grown that flowered significantly later in the HT; 7 days later than the GH-grown plants. Production of cold-tolerant annuals in unheated or minimally heated HTs appears to be a viable alternative for commercial producers aiming to reduce energy costs.

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Joshua K. Craver, Jennifer K. Boldt, and Roberto G. Lopez

High-quality young plant production in northern latitudes requires supplemental lighting (SL) to achieve a recommended daily light integral (DLI) of 10 to 12 mol·m−2·d−1. High-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps have been the industry standard for providing SL in greenhouses. However, high-intensity light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures providing blue, white, red, and/or far-red radiation have recently emerged as a possible alternative to HPS lamps for greenhouse SL. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to 1) quantify the morphology and nutrient concentration of common and specialty bedding plant seedlings grown under no SL, or SL from HPS lamps or LED fixtures; and 2) determine whether SL source during propagation or finishing influences finished plant quality or flowering. The experiment was conducted at a commercial greenhouse in West Lafayette, IN. Seeds of New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri ‘Divine Blue Pearl’), French marigold (Tagetes patula ‘Bonanza Deep Orange’), gerbera (Gerbera jamesonii ‘Terracotta’), petunia (Petunia ×hybrida ‘Single Dreams White’), ornamental millet (Pennisetum glaucum ‘Jester’), pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Hot Long Red Thin Cayenne’), and zinnia (Zinnia elegans ‘Zahara Fire’) were sown in 128-cell trays. On germination, trays were placed in a double-poly greenhouse under a 16-hour photoperiod of ambient solar radiation and photoperiodic lighting from compact fluorescent lamps providing a photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) of 2 µmol·m−2·s−1 (ambient conditions) or SL from either HPS lamps or LED fixtures providing a PPFD of 70 µmol·m−2·s−1. After propagation, seedlings were transplanted and finished under SL provided by the same HPS lamps or LED fixtures in a separate greenhouse environment. Overall, seedlings produced under SL were of greater quality [larger stem caliper, increased number of nodes, lower leaf area ratio (LAR), and greater dry mass accumulation] than those produced under no SL. However, seedlings produced under HPS or LED SL were comparable in quality. Although nutrient concentrations were greatest under ambient conditions, select macro- and micronutrient concentrations also were greater under HPS compared with LED SL. SL source during propagation and finishing had little effect on flowering and finished plant quality. Although these results indicate little difference in plant quality based on SL source, they further confirm the benefits gained from using SL for bedding plant production. In addition, with both SL sources producing a similar finished product, growers can prioritize other factors related to SL installations such as energy savings, fixture price, and fixture lifespan.