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Japanese beetles (JB), Popillia japonica Newman, are destructive, highly polyphagous herbivores that show a general preference for Rosaceous plants. Choice and nochoice feeding assays were conducted to determine the level of resistance among 10 taxa of Malus spp. Mill. Under no-choice conditions, M. baccata (L.) Borkh. `Jackii', M. × `Hargozam' Harvest Gold and M. transitoria (Balatin) Schneider `Schmitcutleaf' Golden Raindrops were highly resistant, with <2 cm2 leaf area consumed in 24 hours. M. × `Radiant' was highly susceptible, with 7.6 cm2 consumed, and the remaining six cultivars were intermediate. Under choice conditions, eight taxa were resistant with <10% defoliation, M. × `Red Splendor' was intermediate with 26%, and M. × `Radiant' was susceptible with 73% defoliation. Feeding responses to eight individual phenolics were tested in artificial diets over a range from 0 to 100 mm. Phloridzin, phloretin, naringenin, and catechin were all feeding deterrents, whereas quercetin and rutin were feeding stimulants. Chlorogenic acid stimulated feeding at low concentrations and deterred feeding at higher concentrations (i.e., a peak response). Kaempferol had no effect. Analysis of endogenous foliar phenolics showed considerable variation in concentrations among taxa. Stepwise multiple regression analysis identified phloridzin as the only endogenous phenolic that was significantly related to resistance under both choice and no-choice feeding conditions.

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Container-grown nursery crops generally require daily irrigation applications and potentially more frequent applications during the hottest part of the growing season. Developing management practices that make more efficient use of irrigation water is important for improving the sustainability of nursery crop production. Biochar, a byproduct of pyrolysis, can potentially increase the water-holding capacity and reduce water and nutrient leaching. In addition, the development of sensor-based irrigation technologies has made monitoring substrate moisture a practical tool for irrigation management in the nursery industry. The objective of this research was to determine the effect of switchgrass biochar on water and nutrient-holding capacity and release in container substrates of Buxus sempervirens L. × Buxus microphylla (‘Green Velvet’ boxwood) and Hydrangea paniculata (Pinky Winky® hardy hydrangea). Containers were filled with pine bark and amended with 0%, 10%, or 25% volume of biochar. Plants were irrigated when the volumetric water content (VWC) reached the water-buffering capacity set point of 0.25 cm3·cm−3. The sensor-based irrigation in combination with the low cost biochar substrate amendment increased substrate water-holding capacity and reduced irrigation requirements for the production of hydrangea, a high water use plant. Biochar application rate influenced irrigation frequency, which likely affected plant biomass for hydrangea, but boxwood dry weight was unaffected by biochar rate. Total irrigation applied was decreased by 32% in 10% biochar treatment without reducing hydrangea dry weight. However, in the 25% biochar treatment, total irrigation applied was reduced by 72%, whereas dry weight decreased by 50%. Biochar application reduced leaching volume and leaching fraction in both plants. Leachate analysis over the course of the 8-week experiment showed that the average mass of phosphate (PO4), potassium (K), and total carbon was greater in the leachate from containers that received 25% biochar compared with those receiving 0% or 10% biochar for both plant species. For hydrangea, mass of total nitrogen (TN) and nitrate (NO3) in leachate was not significantly affected by increasing the biochar rate. However, for boxwood, the mass of NO3 and TN was greater in the 25% biochar treatment leachate, whereas the mass of ammonium (NH4) was unaffected. In hydrangea, total nutrients lost from the containers was lower in biochar-amended containers (both 10% and 25% biochar) because of receiving a lower total volume of water. Amendment with biochar also affected concentration of phosphorus (P) and K, with the highest concentration in both leaf tissue and substrate from the 25% biochar application rate.

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Controlling irrigation using timers or manually operated systems is the most common irrigation scheduling method in outdoor container production systems. Improving irrigation efficiency can be achieved by scheduling irrigation based on plant water needs and the appropriate use of sensors rather than relying on periodically adjusting irrigation volume based on perceived water needs. Substrate amendments such as biochar, a carbon (C)-rich by-product of pyrolysis or gasification, can increase the amount of available water and improve irrigation efficiency and plant growth. Previous work examined two on-demand irrigation schedules in controlled indoor (greenhouse) environments. The goal of this study was to evaluate the impact of these on-demand irrigation schedules and hardwood biochar on water use and biomass gain of container-grown Hydrangea paniculata ‘Silver Dollar’ in a typical outdoor nursery production environment. Eighteen independently controlled irrigation zones were designed to test three irrigation schedules on ‘Silver Dollar’ hydrangea grown in pine bark amended with 0% or 25% hardwood biochar. The three irrigation schedules were conventional irrigation and two on-demand schedules, which were based on substrate physical properties or plant physiology. Conventional irrigation delivered 1.8 cm water in one event each day. The scheduling of substrate-based irrigation was based on the soilless substrate moisture characteristic curve, applying water whenever the substrate water content corresponding to a substrate water potential of –10 kPa was reached. The plant-based irrigation schedule was based on a specific substrate moisture content derived from a previously defined relationship between substrate moisture content and photosynthetic rate, maintaining the volumetric water content (VWC) to support photosynthesis at 90% of the maximum predicted photosynthetic rate. Total water use for the substrate-based irrigation was the same as for the conventional system; the plant-based system used significantly less water. However, plant dry weight was 22% and 15% greater, water use efficiency (WUE) was 40% and 40% greater, and total leachate volume was 25% and 30% less for the substrate-based and plant-based irrigation scheduling systems, respectively, than for conventional irrigation. The 25% biochar amendment rate reduced leachate volume per irrigation event, and leaching fraction, but did not affect total water use or plant dry weight. This research demonstrated that on-demand irrigation scheduling that is plant based or substrate based could be an effective approach to increase WUE for container-grown nursery crops without affecting plant growth negatively.

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Laser-guided variable-rate intelligent spray technology is anticipated to reduce pesticide use in production of crops and safeguard the environment. However, the ability of this technology to effectively control insect pests and diseases of crops must be validated before it becomes part of integrated pest management programs. Abilities of three different intelligent sprayers were tested to control pest insects and plant diseases at one fruit farm and two ornamental nurseries in Ohio during three consecutive growing seasons. The same sprayers with disabled intelligent functions were used as conventional constant-rate applications for comparisons. Test crops were apple (Malus pumila), peach (Prunus persica), blueberry (Vaccinium sect. Cyanococcus), black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis), crabapple (Malus sp.), maple (Acer sp.), birch (Betula sp.), and dogwood (Cornus florida). There were five insects and six diseases total involved in the investigations in the fruit farm and two nurseries. The field tests showed the intelligent spray applications reduced pesticide and foliar fertilizer use by ≈30% to 65% on average during the 3-year experiments. At the same time, intelligent spray technology was similar or more effective than conventional spray technology when controlling insects and diseases on a variety of crops. These results demonstrated that intelligent spray technology was environmentally friendly and more effective for control of insect and disease pests in fruit farms and ornamental tree nurseries.

Open Access

Nursery and greenhouse producers, research and extension faculty, and representatives from allied fields collaborated to formulate a renewed vision to address water issues affecting growers over the next 10 years. The authors maintained the original container irrigation perspective published in “Strategic vision of container nursery irrigation in the next ten years,” yet broadened the perspective to include additional challenges that face nursery crop producers today and in the future. Water availability, quality, and related issues continue to garner widespread attention. Irrigation practices remain largely unchanged due to existing irrigation system infrastructure and minimal changes in state and federal regulations. Recent concerns over urbanization and population growth, increased climate variability, and advancements in state and federal regulations, including new groundwater withdrawal limitations, have provided an inducement for growers to adopt efficient and innovative practices. Information in support of the overarching issues and projected outcomes are discussed within.

Open Access

The green industry has identified the use of biodegradable containers as an alternative to plastic containers as a way to improve the sustainability of current production systems. Field trials were conducted to evaluate the performance of four types of 1-gal nursery biocontainers [keratin (KR), wood pulp (WP), fabric (FB), and coir fiber (Coir)] in comparison with standard black plastic (Plastic) containers on substrate temperature, water use, and biomass production in aboveground nurseries. Locations in Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, and Texas were selected to conduct experiments during May to Oct. 2012 using ‘Green Velvet’ boxwood (Buxus sempervirens × B. microphylla) and ‘Dark Knight’ bluebeard (Caryopteris ×clandonensis) in 2013. In this article, we were focusing on the impact of alternative container materials on hourly substrate temperature variations and plant growth. Substrate temperature was on an average higher (about 6 °C) in Plastic containers (about 36 °C) compared with that in WP, FB, and Coir containers. However, substrate temperature in KR containers was similar to Plastic. Substrate temperature was also influenced by local weather conditions with the highest substrate temperatures recorded in Texas followed by Kentucky, Mississippi, and Michigan. Laboratory and controlled environment trials using test containers were conducted in Kentucky to evaluate sidewall porosity and evaporation loss to confirm field observations. Substrate temperature was similar under laboratory simulation compared with field studies with the highest substrate temperature observed in Plastic and KR, intermediate in WP and lowest in FB and Coir. Side wall temperature was higher in Plastic, KR, and FB compared with WP and Coir, while side wall water loss was greatest in FB, intermediate in WP and Coir, and lowest in plastic and KR. These observations suggest that the contribution of sidewall water loss to overall container evapotranspiration has a major influence on reducing substrate temperature. The porous nature of some of the alternative containers increased water use, but reduced heat stress and enhanced plant survival under hot summer conditions. The greater drying rate of alterative containers especially in hot and dry locations could demand increased irrigation volume, more frequent irrigation, or both, which could adversely affect the economic and environmental sustainability of alternative containers.

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In 2014, the Southern Nursery Integrated Pest Management (SNIPM) Working Group published both print and electronic versions of IPM for Shrubs in Southeastern U.S. Nursery Production: Volume I. Five hundred print books (of 3000 copies) were distributed to commercial ornamental growers and extension educators in return for their participation in a follow-up survey. The survey was administered to determine the value of book contents, savings that growers realized from using the book, perceived value of the book had users been asked to pay for it, and demographic information. The survey response rate was 46.2%, with respondents from 18 states. Of 243 respondents, 194 (79.8%) had used the book. Entomology information was most used and most useful, followed by plant pathology, weed science, and cultural information. Collective savings attributed to book use totaled $408,832/year for the 194 nurseries that used the book. Applying the use rate (79.8%) identified in this survey, this represents $5.62 million in savings per year for the 3000 printed books, of which 2394 are estimated to have been used. Savings varied by the type and size of operation. Larger operations had greater savings per year. Container growers saved $44.15/acre and field growers $28.37/acre. The price that growers were willing to pay for the book also varied by operation type and size. Extension educators and growers were willing to pay an average of $41.20, with an additional $0.063/acre for container growers and $0.126/acre for field growers. Return on investment for the U.S. Department of Agriculture grant funding for the project was $187.60 per dollar of funding. This survey demonstrates that collaborative efforts can produce high-value deliverables with significant regional and/or national impact.

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To optimize pesticide applications to the canopies of deciduous perennial crops, spray volume should be adjusted throughout the year to match the changes in canopy volume and density. Machine-vision, computer-controlled, variable-rate sprayers are now commercially available and claim to provide adequate coverage with decreased spray volumes compared with constant-rate sprayers. However, there is little research comparing variable- and constant-rate spray applications as crop characteristics change throughout a growing season. This study evaluated spray volume, spray quality (e.g., coverage and deposit density), and off-target spray losses of variable- and constant-rate sprayers across multiple phenophases in an apple (Malus domestica) orchard and a grape (Vitis vinifera) vineyard. The variable-rate sprayer mode applied 67% to 74% less volume in the orchard and 61% to 80% less volume in the vineyard. Spray coverage (percent), measured by water-sensitive cards (WSC), was consistently greater in the constant-rate mode compared with the variable-rate mode, but in many cases, excessive coverage (i.e., over-spray) was recorded. The variable-rate sprayer reduced off-target losses, measured by WSC coverage, up to 40% in the orchard and up to 33% in the vineyard. Spray application deposit densities (droplets per square centimeter) on target canopies were typically greater in variable-rate mode. However, the deposit densities were confounded in over-spray conditions because droplets coalesced on the WSC resulting in artificially low values (i.e., few, very large droplets). Spray efficiencies were most improved early in the growing season, when canopy density was lowest, demonstrating the importance of tailoring spray volume to plant canopy characteristics.

Open Access

Containers made from natural fiber and recycled plastic are marketed as sustainable substitutes for traditional plastic containers in the nursery industry. However, growers’ acceptance of alternative containers is limited by the lack of information on how alternative containers impact plant growth and water use (WU). We conducted experiments in Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Texas to test plant growth and WU in five different alternative containers under nursery condition. In 2011, ‘Roemertwo’ wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) were planted in three types of #1 (≈1 gal) containers 1) black plastic (plastic), 2) wood pulp (WP), and 3) recycled paper (KF). In 2012, ‘Green Velvet’ boxwood (Buxus sempervirens × B. microphylla siebold var. koreana) was evaluated in 1) plastic, 2) WP, 3) fabric (FB), and 4) keratin (KT). In 2013, ‘Dark Knight’ bluebeard (Caryopteris ×clandonensis) was evaluated in 1) plastic, 2) WP, and 3) coir fiber (Coir). Plants grown in alternative containers generally had similar plant growth as plastic containers. ‘Roemertwo’ wintercreeper had high mortality while overwintering in alternative containers with no irrigation. Results from different states generally show plants grown in fiber containers such as WP, FB, and Coir used more water than those in plastic containers. Water use efficiency of plants grown in alternative containers vs. plastic containers depended on plant variety, container type, and climate.

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Three, 2-day hands-on experiential learning workshops were presented in three southeastern United States cities in June 2014, by the Southern Nursery Integrated Pest Management (SNIPM) working group. Attendees were provided 4 hours of instruction including hands-on demonstrations in horticultural management, arthropods, plant diseases, and weeds. Participants completed initial surveys for gains in knowledge, skills, and abilities as well as their intentions to adopt various integrated pest management (IPM) practices after the workshop. After 3 years, participants were again surveyed to determine practice adoption. Respondents changed their IPM practice behavior because of attending the workshops. Those returning the survey set aside more time to scout deliberately for pests, plant diseases, and weeds; used a standardized sampling plan when scouting; and adopted more sanitation practices to prevent plant disease. Fewer horticultural management practices were adopted than respondents originally intended. Future emphasis should be placed on using monitoring techniques to estimate pest emergence, for example, traps and pheromone lures, as well as plant phenology and record keeping. However, more work is needed to highlight both the immediate and long-term economic benefits of IPM practice adoption in southeastern U.S. nursery production.

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