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W. Garrett Owen, Qingwu Meng, and Roberto G. Lopez

Under natural short days, growers can use photoperiodic lighting to promote flowering of long-day plants and inhibit flowering of short-day plants. Unlike traditional lamps used for photoperiodic lighting, low-intensity light-emitting diode (LED) lamps allow for a wide array of adjustable spectral distributions relevant to regulation of flowering, including red (R) and white (W) radiation with or without far-red (FR) radiation. Our objective was to quantify how day-extension (DE) photoperiodic lighting from two commercially available low-intensity LED lamps emitting R + W or R + W + FR radiation interacted with daily light integral (DLI) to influence stem elongation and flowering of several ornamental species. Long-day plants [petunia (Petunia ×hybrida Vilm.-Andr. ‘Dreams Midnight’) and snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus L. ‘Oh Snap Pink’)], short-day plants [african marigold (Tagetes erecta L. ‘Moonsong Deep Orange’) and potted sunflower (Helianthus annuus L. ‘Pacino Gold’)], and day-neutral plants [pansy (Viola ×wittrockiana Gams. ‘Matrix Yellow’) and zinnia (Zinnia elegans Jacq. ‘Magellan Cherry’)] were grown at 20/18 °C day/night air temperatures and under low (6–9 mol·m−2·d−1) or high (16–19 mol·m−2·d−1) seasonal photosynthetic DLIs from ambient solar radiation combined with supplemental high-pressure sodium lighting and DE LED lighting. Photoperiods consisted of a truncated 9-hour day (0800–1700 hr) with additional 1-hour (1700–1800 hr, 10 hours total), 4-hour (1700–2100 hr, 13 hours total), or 7-hour (1700–2400 hr, 16 hours total) R + W or R + W + FR LED lighting at 2 μmol·m−2·s−1. Days to visible bud, plant height at first open flower, and time to first open flower (TTF) of each species were influenced by DLI, lamp type, and photoperiod though to different magnitudes. For example, plant height of african marigold and potted sunflower at first open flower was greatest under R + W + FR lamps, high DLIs, and 16-hour photoperiods. Petunia grown under R + W lamps, high DLI, and 10- and 13-hour photoperiods were the most compact. For all species, TTF was generally reduced under high DLIs. For example, regardless of the lamp type, flowering of african marigold occurred fastest under a high DLI and 10-hour photoperiod. Flowering of petunia and snapdragon occurred fastest under a high DLI, R + W + FR lamps, and a 16-hour photoperiod. However, only under high DLIs, R + W or R + W + FR lamps were equally effective at promoting flowering when used to provide DE lighting. Our data suggest that under low DLIs, flowering of long-day plants (petunia and snapdragon) occurs more rapidly under lamps providing R + W + FR, whereas under high DLIs, flowering is promoted similarly under either R + W or R + W + FR lamps.

Open access

Joshua K. Craver, Krishna S. Nemali, and Roberto G. Lopez

Indoor production of bedding plant seedlings using sole-source radiation may present value in increasing uniformity and consistency compared with greenhouse production. However, information on physiological acclimation related to growth and photosynthesis in seedlings exposed to high-intensity blue radiation and elevated CO2 is limited. Seedlings of petunia (Petunia ×hybrida) ‘Dreams Midnight’ were exposed to red (peak = 660 nm):blue (peak = 451 nm) radiation ratios of 50:50 (R50:B50) or 90:10 (R90:B10) and radiation intensities of 150 or 300 µmol·m−2·s–1 under two CO2 regimes of 450 or 900 µmol·mol–1. Shoot dry mass (SDM), leaf area index (LAI), internode length, and whole-plant photosynthesis and light-use efficiency (LUE) responses to increasing radiation intensity were measured. In addition, leaf photosynthetic rate (A) was measured at ambient and supra-optimal CO2 concentrations for plants grown under 450 µmol·mol–1 CO2. Our results indicated growth (based on SDM, LAI, and internode length) was lowered for seedlings produced under R50:B50 compared with R90:B10. However, we observed an increase in whole-plant light-saturated photosynthesis (Ag,max) and whole-plant light saturation point (LSP) under R50:B50 compared with R90:B10. In addition, we observed lower LUE below and higher LUE above a radiation intensity of 500 µmol·m−2·s–1 in seedlings grown under R50:B50 compared with R90:B10. Based on our results, seedling growth was lowered under a high proportion of blue radiation mainly due to lower radiation interception (due to lower LAI and shorter internode length) and LUE of intercepted radiation at the intensities used. Higher Ag,max and LSP in R50:B50 compared with R90:B10 under higher radiation intensities was likely in part due to higher LUE. Further investigation revealed A was higher at both optimal and supra-optimal CO2 concentrations under R50:B50 compared with R90:B10, indicating a lack of stomatal effects of a higher proportion of blue radiation on carboxylation and LUE. We hypothesize that higher LUE in R50:B50 compared with R90:B10 under higher radiation intensities is due to improved photochemical quenching from increased biosynthesis of carotenoids and anthocyanins. The results from our study generated fundamental information on growth and photosynthetic responses to excess blue radiation, data that can be further used in optimizing plant production in controlled environments.

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Christopher J. Currey, Diane M. Camberato, Ariana P. Torres, and Roberto G. Lopez

Parboiled rice hulls have become a more common component of soilless growing substrates. While there have been reports that some organic substrate components reduce the efficacy of plant growth retardant (PGR) drenches, the influence of rice hulls on PGR drenches is unknown. ‘Callie Deep Yellow’ calibrachoa (Calibrachoa ×hybrid) and ‘Delta Orange Blotch’ pansy (Viola wittrockiana) were planted in containers filled with substrate containing (v/v) 80% peat and 20% perlite or parboiled rice hulls. After planting, 2.5-fl oz drenches containing deionized water or ancymidol, paclobutrazol, or uniconazole were applied to plants grown in each substrate. Plant growth retardants, but not substrate, affected growth rate, and final stem length of calibrachoa and plant height of pansy. There were no differences in regression model coefficients between substrates within PGR applications for plant height (pansy) or stem length (calibrachoa) over the course of the experiment. Paclobutrazol (2.0 or 4.0 ppm) and uniconazole (1.0 or 2.0 ppm), but not ancymidol (1.0 or 2.0 ppm) suppressed final stem length of calibrachoa. Final height of pansy was suppressed by each concentration of paclobutrazol and uniconazole and 2.0 ppm ancymidol, but not 1.0 ppm ancymidol. Based on these results, rice hulls did not reduce PGR drench efficacy when included as a substrate component comprising (v/v) 20% of a substrate.

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Joshua K. Craver, Joshua R. Gerovac, Roberto G. Lopez, and Dean A. Kopsell

Multilayer vertical production systems using sole-source (SS) light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can be an alternative to more traditional methods of microgreens production. One significant benefit of using LEDs is the ability to select light qualities that have beneficial impacts on plant morphology and the synthesis of health-promoting phytochemicals. Therefore, the objective of this study was to quantify the impacts of SS LEDs of different light qualities and intensities on the phytochemical content of brassica (Brassica sp.) microgreens. Specifically, phytochemical measurements included 1) total anthocyanins, 2) total and individual carotenoids, 3) total and individual chlorophylls, and 4) total phenolics. Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes), mustard (Brassica juncea ‘Garnet Giant’), and mizuna (Brassica rapa var. japonica) were grown in hydroponic tray systems placed on multilayer shelves in a walk-in growth chamber. A daily light integral (DLI) of 6, 12, or 18 mol·m−2·d−1 was achieved from SS LED arrays with light ratios (percent) of red:blue 87:13 (R87:B13), red:far-red:blue 84:7:9 (R84:FR7:B9), or red:green:blue 74:18:8 (R74:G18:B8) with a total photon flux from 400 to 800 nm of 105, 210, or 315 µmol·m−2·s–1 for 16 hours, respectively. Phytochemical measurements were collected using spectrophotometry and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Regardless of light quality, total carotenoids were significantly lower under increasing light intensities for mizuna and mustard microgreens. In addition, light quality affected total integrated chlorophyll with higher values observed under the light ratio of R87:B13 compared with R84:FR7:B9 and R74:G18:B8 for kohlrabi and mustard microgreens, respectively. For kohlrabi, with increasing light intensities, the total concentration of anthocyanins was greater compared with those grown under lower light intensities. In addition, for kohlrabi, the light ratios of R87:B13 or R84:FR7:B9 produced significantly higher anthocyanin concentrations compared with the light ratio of R74:G18:B8 under a light intensity of 315 µmol·m−2·s−1. Light quality also influenced the total phenolic concentration of kohlrabi microgreens, with significantly greater levels for the light ratio of R84:FR7:B9 compared with R74:G18:B8 under a light intensity of 105 µmol·m−2·s−1. However, the impact of light intensity on total phenolic concentration of kohlrabi was not significant. The results from this study provide further insight into the selection of light qualities and intensities using SS LEDs to achieve preferred phytochemical content of brassica microgreens.

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Christopher J. Currey, Roberto G. Lopez, Vijay K. Rapaka, James E. Faust, and Erik S. Runkle

After postharvest shipping, the lower leaves of zonal geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum) cuttings often turn chlorotic and necrotic during rooting in a propagation environment. Our objective was to quantify the efficacy of spray applications of the plant growth regulators (PGRs) benzyladenine (BA) and/or gibberellic acid (GA) at various stages in propagation to reduce lower-leaf senescence and evaluate effects on subsequent rooting. In Expt. 1, cuttings of ‘Patriot White’ geraniums were harvested and treated with BA (2.5 or 5.0 mg·L−1), BA + GA4+7 (2.5 or 5.0 mg·L−1 each), or GA3 (0.5 or 2.0 mg·L−1) either before or after a 2-day storage period simulating commercial shipping. Post-shipment application of all PGRs eliminated leaf yellowing compared with cuttings treated pre-shipment, but rooting was inhibited. In Expt. 2, the promotion of rooting from a rooting hormone preceding treatment with BA (1.25 to 5.0 mg·L−1), BA+GA4+7 (1.25 to 5.0 mg·L−1 each), or GA3 (0.25 to 2.0 mg·L−1) was evaluated on ‘Patriot White’ geranium cuttings after a 2-day simulated shipping. Applying rooting hormones increased the percentage of fully rooted cuttings treated with BA and/or GA from 16.4% to 51.8%. In Expt. 3, cuttings of different geranium cultivars from a commercial producer varied in susceptibility and suppression of leaf yellowing after BA + GA4+7 applications. We conclude that foliar applications of BA + GA4+7 can suppress lower-leaf senescence and rooting during propagation of some geranium cultivars, and the inhibition of rooting can be at least partially overcome with an application of rooting hormone.

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Christopher J. Currey, Roberto G. Lopez, Brian A. Krug, Ingram McCall, and Brian E. Whipker

The objective of this research was to quantify how flurprimidol substrate drenches applied to ‘Nellie White’ easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum) affected height at flowering, time to flower, and flower number. In Expt. 1, size 9/10 ‘Nellie White’ easter lilies were treated with a 4-fl oz drench applied to the surface of the substrate when shoots were ≈3 inches tall providing 0.0, 0.02, 0.04, 0.08, 0.16, or 0.24 mg flurprimidol per pot or 0.03 or 0.06 mg uniconazole per pot. In Expt. 2, size 10/12 ‘Nellie White’ easter lilies were treated with 4-fl oz drenches applied to the surface of the substrate when shoots were ≈3 inches tall providing 0.0, 0.01, 0.02, 0.04, 0.06, or 0.08 mg flurprimidol per pot. In Expt. 1, plants treated with flurprimidol or uniconazole were up to 38.9 cm (59%) shorter than untreated plants, while time to flower and flower number remained unaffected by plant growth retardant (PGR) treatments. In Expt. 2, as the amount of flurprimidol increased from 0.01 to 0.08 mg/pot, plant height was suppressed linearly (r2 = 0.63), by up to 23.2 cm (28%), while time to flower and flower number remained unaffected. Additionally, the chemical cost for drenches containing flurprimidol is less than the cost of uniconazole required to achieve comparable height control. Flurprimidol substrate drenches appear to be an effective and economical alternative to control easter lily height.

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Tanya J. Hall, Jennifer H. Dennis, Roberto G. Lopez, and Maria I. Marshall

In June to Oct. 2008, a U.S. floriculture survey was conducted to examine the factors affecting growers' willingness to adopt sustainable practices. The factors affecting adoption of sustainable practices were evaluated in five areas: environmental regulations, customer value, growers' attitudes toward sustainability, age, and operation size. A logistic regression model was used to examine factors affecting growers' adoption of sustainable practices. Nearly two-thirds (65.2%) of respondents thought sustainability was very important to the environment. Similarly, more than half (63%) of the respondents had sustainable practices in their operations. Although respondents had positive attitudes toward sustainability and the environment, these positive attitudes alone were unable to predict adoption behaviors. The two most important factors that affected adoption of sustainable practices were the concerns about implementation and the risk perceived by growers. Neither perceived customer value nor the stringency of state regulations affected the adoption of sustainable practices. The results from this study provide original insight into growers' views of sustainability and identify the educational assistance needed by growers to overcome the factors affecting their adoption of sustainable practices.

Free access

Tanya J. Hall, Roberto G. Lopez, Maria I. Marshall, and Jennifer H. Dennis

In recent years, the commercial greenhouse industry has begun to implement sustainable production practices. However, floriculture certification programs for sustainable production practices are a relatively new phenomenon in the United States. Between July and Oct. 2008, a commercial floriculture grower survey was conducted to determine potential barriers to sustainable floriculture certification. Using a logistic regression model, seven potential areas were evaluated: risk, profitability, economic viability, prior experience, education, operation size, and customer types. Although respondents had positive attitudes toward sustainability and had adopted sustainable practices, respondents had little knowledge and interest in U.S. certification.

Free access

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

Multilayer vertical production systems using sole-source (SS) lighting can be used for the production of microgreens; however, traditional SS lighting methods can consume large amounts of electrical energy. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) offer many advantages over conventional light sources, including high photoelectric conversion efficiencies, narrowband spectral light quality (LQ), low thermal output, and adjustable light intensities (LIs). The objective of this study was to quantify the effects of SS LEDs of different light qualities and intensities on growth, morphology, and nutrient content of Brassica microgreens. Purple kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea L. var. gongylodes L.), mizuna (Brassica rapa L. var. japonica), and mustard [Brassica juncea (L.) Czern. ‘Garnet Giant’] were grown in hydroponic tray systems placed on multilayer shelves in a walk-in growth chamber. A daily light integral (DLI) of 6, 12, or 18 mol·m−2·d−1 was achieved from commercially available SS LED arrays with light ratios (%) of red:green:blue 74:18:8 (R74:G18:B8), red:blue 87:13 (R87:B13), or red:far-red:blue 84:7:9 (R84:FR7:B9) with a total photon flux (TPF) from 400 to 800 nm of 105, 210, or 315 µmol·m−2·s−1 for 16 hours. Regardless of LQ, as the LI increased from 105 to 315 µmol·m−2·s−1, hypocotyl length (HL) decreased and percent dry weight (DW) increased for kohlrabi, mizuna, and mustard microgreens. With increasing LI, leaf area (LA) of kohlrabi generally decreased and relative chlorophyll content (RCC) increased. In addition, nutrient content increased under low LIs regardless of LQ. The results from this study can help growers to select LIs and LQs from commercially available SS LEDs to achieve preferred growth characteristics of Brassica microgreens.

Open access

Kellie J. Walters, Bridget K. Behe, Christopher J. Currey, and Roberto G. Lopez

Controlled environment (CE) food crop production has existed in the United States for many years, but recent improvements in technology and increasing production warranted a closer examination of the industry. Therefore, our objectives were to characterize historical trends in CE production, understand the current state of the U.S. hydroponics industry, and use historical and current trends to inform future perspectives. In the 1800s, CE food production emerged and increased in popularity until 1929. After 1929, when adjusted for inflation (AFI), CE food production stagnated and decreased until 1988. From 1988 to 2014, the wholesale value of CE food production increased from $64.2 million to $796.7 million AFI. With the recent increase in demand for locally grown food spurring an increase in CE production, both growers and researchers have been interested in using hydroponic CE technologies to improve production and quality. Therefore, we surveyed U.S. hydroponic food crop producers to identify current hydroponic production technology adoption and potential areas for research needs. Producers cited a wide range of technology utilization; more than half employed solely hydroponic production techniques, 56% monitored light intensity, and more than 80% monitored air temperature and nutrient solution pH and electrical conductivity. Additionally, the growing environments varied from greenhouses (64%), indoors in multilayer (31%) or single-layer (7%) facilities, to hoop houses or high tunnels (29%). Overall, producers reported managing the growing environment to improve crop flavor and the development of production strategies as the most beneficial research areas, with 90% stating their customers would pay more for crops with increased flavor. Lastly, taking historical data and current practices into account, perspectives on future hydroponic CE production are discussed. These include the importance of research on multiple environmental parameters instead of single parameters in isolation and the emphasis on not only increasing productivity but improving crop quality including flavor, sensory attributes, and postharvest longevity.