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Denise L. Olson, Ronald D. Oetting, and Marc W. van Iersel

Coconut coir dust is being marketed as a soilless medium substitute for sphagnum peat moss that inhibits fungus gnat (Bradysia sp.) development. However, little information is available on the effects of coconut coir dust on Bradysia sp. In a laboratory study we examined the effect of substituting coconut coir dust for peat moss, with or without a food source, on the development of fungus gnats. An average of less than one adult emerged when 20 fungus gnat eggs were provided with pure or sterilized peat moss or coconut coir. A significantly higher number of adults (11.5-13) emerged when a food source of 1 g of yeast was added to either soilless potting medium type. The adults required up to 10 fewer days to emerge when food was provided, compared to sterilized and pure media, except for the pure peat moss. In a greenhouse study examining the effects of coir and peat at different textures and different moisture levels on fungus gnat survival, there were significant differences at the different levels of moisture. There was a higher population of larvae in the coarse medium containing peat. In the coir-based media, the fine-textured medium had the highest population level of fungus gnats. There were no significant effects on fungus gnat populations among the different levels of moisture within a medium type. However, there was a tendency for lower populations in the most moist and the driest media and the highest survival in the media that were maintained at 52.5% moisture. Plant growth was best in the media with the lowest number of fungus gnats (coarse coconut coir dust-based and fine and medium peat-based media). These results suggest that it is possible to select growing media that minimize fungus gnat populations, while optimizing plant growth. However, contrary to claims made by growing media producers, coconut coir dust does not necessarily inhibit fungus gnat development.

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Genhua Niu and Denise S. Rodriguez

Gaillardia aristata Foug. is a hardy, drought-tolerant perennial found throughout much of the United States. Little information exists on the salt tolerance of this plant when grown in various growing media. A study was conducted to characterize the response of G. aristata to three salinity levels (0.8, 2.0, or 4.0 dS/m) and four growing media: 1) 100% perlite; 2) 1 perlite: 1 Sunshine mix No. 4 (v/v); 3) 100% Sunshine mix No. 4; or 4) 1 Sunshine mix No. 4: 1 composted mulch (v/v). The type of medium influenced the dry weight of roots but not shoots, while salinity significantly influenced the dry weight of both shoots and roots. The dry weight of shoots was higher in plants irrigated with tap water (0.8 dS/m) compared to those irrigated with saline solution at 2.0 or 4.0 dS/m except for those grown in 100% Sunshine mix. The ratio of root to shoot dry weight was not influenced by salinity, but was highest in the plants grown in 100% perlite. Both medium and salinity affected plant height. Elevated salinity reduced plant height. Plants were taller when grown in 100% perlite and in 1 Sunshine mix: 1 composted mulch. However, plants had fewer lateral shoots when grown in 100% perlite or 1 Sunshine mix: 1 composted mulch. Some of the flower buds aborted when grown in 100% Sunshine mix or 1 perlite: 1 Sunshine mix compared to none in plants grown in 100% perlite or 1 Sunshine mix: 1 composted mulch. These results indicate that growth and morphology of G. aristata were affected by not only salinity, but also the type of medium.

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Michael Compton and Timothy Zauche

Lady slipper orchids have great potential as a perennial bedding plant in temperate-zone climates Unfortunately, many gardeners fear these species because of their high cost and perceived difficulties associated with growing plants outdoors. The former factor can be addressed by improving the production of plants at the wholesale level. Growers contest that sphagnum peat and coconut coir are poor organic addenda for these species due to their natural acidity. Anaerobic digestion-derived biosolids (ADB) are not acidic like sphagnum peat or coconut coir, and may be the perfect organic addendum for the culture of ladyslipper orchids. Hence, 3-year-old plants of showy (Cypripedium reginae) and yellow ladyslipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens) orchids were grown in soilless potting mixes containing vermiculite and perlite plus various concentrations and combinations of ADB and coconut coir. Plants were grown in the greenhouse at 70 ± 10 °F and received normal light and photoperiod during Summer 2005. Growth, as assessed by the dry weight of dormant stem tissue, of showy ladyslipper potted in media containing ADB was three- to four-times greater than those grown in media containing coconut coir. Growth was similar among yellow ladyslippers grown in media containing ADB or coconut coir due to the fact that these plants had produced all their stem growth for the season before the experiment was initiated. ADB has great potential as an organic addendum to horticultural growing media used for the culture of Cypripedium species. Use of anaerobic digester-derived biosolids in horticultural growing media is a protected intellectual property and available for license through the WiSys Technology Foundation.

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Yusef S. Siraj-Ali, Harry K. Tayama, Thomas L. Prince, and Stephen A. Carver

, Encinitas, Calif., for then donation of rooted poinsettia cuttings and Sierra/Grace Co., Fogelsville, Pa., for their donation of growing media. Trade names arc used in this publication to provide specific information. Mention of a trade name does not

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Jonathan M. Frantz, James C. Locke, Dharmalingam S. Pitchay, and Charles R. Krause

An appropriate blend of growing media components increases water holding capacity and reduces irrigation frequency. Synthetic commercial materials, referred to as hydrogels, have remarkable hydrating properties, but can add significantly (about 15%) to the cost of growing media. The literature generally states that the physical characteristics of hydrogels, such as polyacrylamide (PAM), are altered by the presence of divalent cations (Ca2+ and Mg2+). Few studies, however, have simultaneously investigated plant growth and development and media characteristics on a daily basis throughout plant production. Thus, the mechanisms explaining the reported beneficial and/or detrimental effects from PAM incorporation remain hidden. In this study, canopy ground cover of two species [pansy (Viola ×wittrockiana Gams) and new guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri Bull)] was measured daily, from transplanting to marketable size, using digital imaging to determine growth differences of plants grown in media containing different amounts of PAM. Media water content was determined with time-domain reflectance probes every 10 minutes in media treatments. Total number of irrigation events, time between irrigation events, root development after 4 and 8 weeks of growth, flower number, flower longevity, and dry masses of the shoot were also measured. Scanning electron microscopy revealed significant structural differences in hydrated PAM depending on water quality. The pansy canopy coverage was significantly greater with hydrogels, and root growth early in production was enhanced with PAM. No such effect was observed for new guinea impatiens. Total flower numbers and flower longevity of new guinea impatiens decreased with increasing amount of PAM (16.7% or higher) in the media. PAM incorporation reduced the need for irrigation early in production for both species, but by the end of production, those new guinea impatiens plants were smaller (less shoot dry mass) and required irrigation as often as plants grown without PAM. This effect coincided with reduced media volume, air capacity, and total porosity in PAM-containing media. Theoretical analysis of the potential benefits from hydrogels confirms the potential benefit early in production with little to no benefit later in production and in post-production. These data will assist growers in determining if the benefits derived from the use of PAM justify the added cost of medium.

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Daniel I. Leskovar and Ronald R. Heineman

This study was conducted to investigate how irrigation systems alter root elongation, root morphology, shoot growth characteristics and yield of `TAM-M' jalapeno pepper seedlings. Transplants were grown in containerized trays (18 cm3/cell) for 6 weeks in a greenhouse in Spring 1991. Irrigation systems were: a) floatation (FI), b) 4-week floatation plus 2-week overhead (FI+OI); c) alternate floatation and overhead (FI/OI), and d) overhead (OI). The growing media was maintained between 50 and 20% of its water holding capacity. Between 20 and 41 days after seeding (DAS), FI and FI/OI transplants maintained a constant lateral root length increase. In both FI+OI and OI transplants, lateral root elongation response tended to a `plateau' at ≈ 31 DAS. However, between 31 and 41 DAS, OI transplants had a root growth compensation, increasing the number and length (33%) of basal roots. In FI+OI transplants, basal root growth compensation occurred later in the field. At planting, OI transplants had higher shoot/root ratio (S:R=5) and maintained a higher shoot water potential (ψ= -0.58 MPa) than FI transplants (S:R=3; ψ= -0.69 MPa), respectively. Overhead-irrigated transplants had higher early fruit yields than floatation-irrigated transplants, but total yields were unaffected.

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Ray A. Watson, Katrine A. Stewart, and Valentin Furlan

The effects of two mycorrhizal species (Glomus versiforme and Glomus intraradix) and a control on the growth of green pepper, Capsicum annuum, and lettuce, Lactuca sativa, seedlings have been evaluated using four types of growing media (Peatwool, Fafard bulk mix. Cornell mix and a compost based mix) and two types of containers, Cell Packs (125 cc volume) and Pro-Trays (65 cc volume) for green pepper and Cell Packs (125 cc volume) and Plug Flats (33 cc volume) for lettuce. The experiments were split plot randomized Complete block design with 6 blocks (lettuce) and 4 blocks (pepper). Seeds were sown directly into the containers of mycorrhizal inoculated media. All treatments received the same fertilizer regime.

Cell volume had no significant effects on green pepper fresh weight, dry weight, stem diameter, leaf area or leaf number but the lettuce Cell Pack plants had significantly higher fresh and dry weights, more leaves and higher leaf area. The Fafard Bulk and the Compost mix gave significantly higher fresh and dry weights than did the other two media for both green pepper and lettuce. Mycorrhizal species did not influence plant growth with the exception of leaf area in green peppers and shoot dry weight in lettuce.

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Ray A. Watson, Katrine A. Stewart, and Valentin Furlan

The effects of two mycorrhizal species (Glomus versiforme and Glomus intraradix) and a control on the growth of green pepper, Capsicum annuum, and lettuce, Lactuca sativa, seedlings have been evaluated using three types of growing media (Fafard bulk mix, Cornell mix and a compost based mix) and two types of containers, Cell Packs (125 cubic cm volume) and Pro-Trays (65 cubic cm volume) for green pepper and Cell Packs (125 cubic cm volume) and Plug Flats (33 cubic cm volume) for lettuce. The experiments used a split plot randomized complete block design with 4 blocks, and were carried out in a double-poly greenhouse in 1991. Supplemental lighting was provided by HPS lights with a 16 hour photoperiod. Seeds were sown directly into the containers of mycorrhizal inoculated media. All treatments received the same fertilizer regime. Plants in the higher volume cells were larger than those in the smaller volume cells for both pepper and lettuce. The Fafard Bulk Mix and the Compost mix gave larger plants than did the Cornell mix for both crops. An additional experiment examining the effect of light type on mycorrhizal transplant growth and development is underway and will be presented.

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Jeff B. Million, James E. Barrett, Terril A. Nell, and David G. Clark

A broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis L.) seedling bioassay was used to measure paclobutrazol activity and distribution in two growing media following drench or subirrigation applications. The bioassay exhibited a saturation-type response curve for paclobutrazol concentrations up to 1000 μg·L-1 in solution and 100 μg·L-1 in the media. The concentration of paclobutrazol required to achieve one-half of the maximum observed bioassay activity was 3-fold as high in bark-based commercial potting medium as in a peat-based medium. Less than 2% of applied paclobutrazol leached out during the drench application despite the collection of up to 50 mL of leachate per 120 mL of the solution (1000 μg·L-1) that was applied per 15-cm pot. Immediately following drench application, paclobutrazol concentrations in both media were highest in the uppermost 2.5 cm and decreased downward. By 3 weeks after treatment, drench-applied paclobutrazol had moved into lower depths. Distribution of paclobutrazol was limited to the bottom 2.5 cm of media when applied as a subirrigation soak. Chemical name used: (±)-(R*,R*)-β-[(4-chlorophenyl)methyl]-α-(1,1-dimethyl)-1H-1,2,4-triazole-1-ethanol (paclobutrazol).

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Jack W. Buxton and Wenwei Jia

Cabbage seed was germinated and grown to transplanting size in a 98-cell tray using an automatic irrigation system based on the principle of maintaining a constant water table (CWT) relative to the growing medium in transplant trays. Seedlings obtained a nutrient solution from a capillary mat with one end suspended in a trough containing the solution. The distance between the nutrient solution surface and the transplant tray bottom was regulated with a water level controller. The nutrient solution was resupplied from a larger reservoir. A polyester material on top of the capillary mat allowed solution movement to the roots but prevented root penetration into the mat. The water table placement below the tray determined the water content in the growing medium. Seedling growth was evaluated using two growing media combined with two water table placements. Excellent quality seedlings were produced; the CWT irrigation system satisfactory provided water and nutrients for the duration of the crop. The only problems observed were dry cells, less than 2%, because of no media–mat contact and algae growth on the media surface using the higher water table. The CWT irrigation system is adaptable to existing greenhouse vegetable transplant production systems. It is automatic and can provide a constant optimum amount of moisture for seedling growing. It can be adjusted for phases of seedling growing such as more water during germination and can create water stress near transplanting time to either harden off or hold plants because of unfavorable planting conditions.