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  • Author or Editor: James Altland x
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Parboiled rice hulls (PBH) have been shown to be an effective mulch for weed control in container crops. As with other mulch products, there is concern that PBH mulch would interfere with nutrient delivery to the crop. The objective of this research was to determine the effect of PBH mulch on nutrient concentration of fertilized irrigation water as it passes through the mulch layer, and the subsequent effect on growth and nutrition of container-grown sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Parboiled rice hull mulch was placed in Buchner funnels at a depth of 0, 0.63, 1.25, or 2.50 cm. Irrigation was applied with a water-soluble fertilizer (20N–4.4P–16.6K) injected at a concentration of 100 mg·L−1 N. Filtrates were collected after passing through the PBH in the Buchner funnels and analyzed for nutrient concentration. In a separate study, sunflower in no. 3 containers were mulched with the same depths of PBH and irrigated with water fertilized similar to that in the funnel experiment. Parboiled rice hull mulch caused a temporary and slight decrease in NO3 and NH4 + concentration. Phosphate and K+ concentrations generally increased with each irrigation event. Calcium and Mg exhibited an inverse relationship where the PBH mulch decreased Ca and increased Mg concentrations in the filtrates. Despite these measured differences in the chemical properties of water passing through the mulch layer, there were no measurable differences in sunflower growth or physical appearance, and only minor and inconsequential differences in plant nutrient status. Rice hull mulches are likely to have very minor effects on container crop nutrition with no adverse effect on plant growth over a 6 week production cycle as used in this experiment.

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Silicon (Si) is a plant-beneficial element that can alleviate the effects of abiotic and biotic stress. Plants are typically classified as Si accumulators based on foliar Si concentrations (≥1% Si on a dry weight basis for accumulators). By this definition, most greenhouse-grown ornamentals are low Si accumulators. However, plants that accumulate low foliar Si concentrations may still accumulate high Si concentrations elsewhere in the plant. Additionally, screening cultivars for variability in Si uptake has not been investigated for low Si accumulator species. Therefore, the objective of this study was to assess cultivar variability in Si accumulation and distribution in petunia (Petunia ×hybrida). Eight cultivars (Supertunia Black Cherry, Supertunia Limoncello, Supertunia Priscilla, Supertunia Raspberry Blast, Supertunia Royal Velvet, Supertunia Sangria Charm, Supertunia Vista Silverberry, and Supertunia White Improved) were grown in a commercial peat-based soilless substrate under typical greenhouse conditions. They were supplemented with either 2 mm potassium silicate (+Si) or potassium sulfate (-Si) at every irrigation. Silicon supplementation increased leaf dry mass (4.5%) but did not affect total dry mass. In plants not receiving Si supplementation, leaf Si ranged from 243 to 1295 mg·kg−1, stem Si ranged from 48 to 380 mg·kg−1, flower Si ranged from 97 to 437 mg·kg−1, and root Si ranged from 103 to 653 mg·kg−1. Silicon supplementation increased Si throughout the plant, but most predominantly in the roots. Leaf Si in the 2 mm Si treatment ranged from 1248 to 3541 mg·kg−1 (173% to 534% increase), stem Si ranged from 195 to 654 mg·kg−1 (72% to 376% increase), flower Si ranged from 253 to 1383 mg·kg−1 (74% to 1082% increase), and root Si ranged from 4018 to 10,457 mg·kg−1 (593% to 9161% increase). The large increase in root Si following supplementation shifted Si distribution within plants. In nonsupplemented plants, it ranged from 51.2% to 76.8% in leaves, 8.2% to 40.2% in stems, 2.8% to 23.8% in flowers, and 1.2% to 13.8% in roots. In Si-supplemented plants, it ranged from 63.5% to 67.7% in leaves, 10.5% to 22.6% in roots, 9.4% to 17.7% in stems, and 1.6% to 9.6% in flowers. This study indicates that petunia, a low foliar Si accumulator, can accumulate appreciable quantities of Si in roots when provided supplemental Si.

Open Access

Stability of substrate pH in container-grown crops is important for proper nutrient management. The objective of this research was to determine the pH buffering capacity of pine bark substrates as a function of particle size and compare those results to sphagnum peat. The weight equivalent of 100 cm3 for fine, medium, and coarse pine bark and sphagnum peat, either as a whole or partitioned into several particle size ranges, was placed in a 250-mL glass jar and filled with 100 mL of an acid or base solution ranging from 0 to 50 meq·L−1 in 10 meq·L−1 increments. After 24 hours, pH was measured. An experiment was also conducted in the greenhouse. The weight equivalent of 500 cm3 of sphagnum peat, fine pine bark, or coarse pine bark was filled into 10-cm plastic pots and irrigated with one of the following: tap water or 10 meq·L−1 of HCl, NaOH, H2SO4, or KHCO3 and with or without a water soluble fertilizer. Substrate pH was determined 4 and 8 weeks after potting using the pour-through method. In all experiments, sphagnum peat had less buffering capacity than pine bark against pH changes from acidic solutions, whereas pine bark had less buffering capacity than sphagnum peat to pH changes from basic solutions. Substrate pH buffering in pine bark increased with decreasing particle size, whereas pH buffering in sphagnum peat was less responsive to particle size. These results will help growers and substrate manufacturers understand how substrate components contribute to pH management during crop production.

Open Access

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) biomass is being evaluated as a potential alternative to pine bark as the primary potting component in containerized nursery crops. Substrates composed entirely of switchgrass have higher pH than what is considered desirable in container substrates. The objective of this research was to evaluate the influence of elemental S, sphagnum moss, and municipal solid waste compost (MSC) as amendments for reducing substrate pH and buffering it against large changes over time. Three experiments were conducted; the first two experiments were conducted using annual vinca (Catharanthus roseus ‘Pacifica Blush’) to quickly assess how pH was affected by the three amendments, and the final experiment was conducted with blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum ‘Duke’) to assess the long-term effects of substrate amendments. Summarizing across the three experiments, elemental S was effective in reducing substrate pH; however, rates 1 lb/yard3 or greater reduced pH below the recommended level of 5.5 and lower S rates did not maintain lowered pH over time. Sphagnum moss and MSC together at 20% and 10% (v/v), respectively, were effective at reducing substrate pH and buffering against change. Sphagnum moss and MSC provided the additional benefit of improving physical properties of the switchgrass substrates.

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Dolomitic lime (DL) is one of the most commonly used fertilizer amendments in nursery container substrates. It is used to adjust pH of pine bark substrates from their native pH, 4.1 to 5.1, up to about pH 6. However, additions of DL have been shown to be beneficial, inconsequential, or detrimental depending on the crop to which it is applied and irrigation water quality. Carbonate ions from DL cause a rate-dependent change in pH. Dolomitic lime can adjust pH of pine bark up to ≈6.5, after which there is little change regardless of how much additional DL is added. Changes in pH affect the rate of nitrification in pine bark substrates. The rate of nitrification can impact the quality of some plants that are sensitive to ammonium toxicity, as well as affect nitrogen leaching from containers. Changes in pH also affect micronutrient availability in pine bark substrates. Dolomitic lime provides an abundant source of calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) for plant uptake. However, the additional Ca and Mg might also suppress potassium uptake in plants.

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Bagged potting mixes can be stored for weeks or months before being used by consumers. Some bagged potting mixes are amended with controlled release fertilizers (CRFs). The objective of this research was to determine how initial substrate moisture content and storage temperature affect the chemical properties of bagged potting mix with CRF incorporated and stored for up to 180 days. The base substrate composed of 60 sphagnum peat: 30 bark : 10 perlite (by vol.) amended with 5.5 g·L−1 dolomitic limestone and 0.5 g·L−1 granular wetting agent. This base substrate was either not amended with additional fertilizer (control) or amended with 0.59 kg·m−3 N of a CRF (Osmocote 18N–1.3P–5K) that was either ground (CRF-G) or whole prills (CRF-P). Substrates had initial moisture contents (IMCs) of 25%, 45%, or 65% and were stored at temperatures of either 20 or 40 °C. IMC and fertilizer type affected pH, electrical conductivity (EC), and nutrient release. Substrate pH increased with increasing IMC due to greater lime reactivity. About 25% of N from CRF-G treatments was immobilized between 2 and 14 days of storage. Low moisture content of bags, due to low IMC or storage at 40 °C, reduced the rate of N release from CRF-P treatments. Substrate P was rapidly immobilized by microbial communities.

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Yield reduction resulting from high temperatures and tipburn are common issues during the summer for hydroponically grown lettuce using the nutrient–film technique (NFT). We investigated the yield and degree of tipburn of lettuce ‘Red Butter’, ‘Green Butter’, and ‘Red Oakleaf’ of the Salanova® series under different-solution electrical conductivity (EC) and pH levels. We also quantified the effect of foliar spray application of calcium chloride (CaCl2) on the yield and degree of tipburn using the lettuce cultivar Green Butter. For the EC experiment, the plants were grown at four EC levels (1.4, 1.6, 1.8, or 2.0 mS·cm–1) and a constant pH of 5.8. For the pH experiment, the plants were grown at and four pH levels (5.8, 6.0, 6.2, or 6.4) and a constant EC of 1.8 mS·cm–1. For the foliar spray experiment, CaCl2 was applied 1 week after transplanting into NFT channels at three different concentrations: 0, 200, 400, or 800 mg·L calcium (Ca). During the EC trial, the maximum yields were observed at or more than 1.8 mS·cm–1 for ‘Green Butter’ (263 ± 14 g/head) and ‘Red Butter’ (202 ± 8 g), and more than 1.6 mS·cm–1 for ‘Red Oakleaf’ (183 ± 6 g). The yield of ‘Green Butter’ was 75 g less at 1.4 mS·cm–1 compared with 1.8 mS·cm–1. Tipburn symptoms were less at 1.4 mS·cm–1 for ‘Green Butter’ whereas other cultivars were not highly susceptible. In pH trials, the maximum yield for all cultivars was found at pH 6.0 and 6.2. There were no differences in tipburn symptoms among all pH levels. The foliar spray treatment, twice a week at 400 or 800 mg·L–1 Ca, provided improved tipburn control, as the tipburn symptoms were minimal and the impact on yield was minor compared with reducing EC. This series of experiments found evidence in proper EC and pH management for optimum yield and tipburn control in NFT lettuce grown in summer conditions.

Open Access

Tatarian dogwood (Cornus alba) is an ornamental shrub with white fruits, creamy-white flowers, and red stems in fall through late winter and is widely used in residential landscape, public parks, and botanical gardens. Two greenhouse experiments were conducted to characterize the survival, morphological, aesthetic, and physiological responses of tatarian dogwood seedlings to salinity and drought stresses. In Expt. 1, tatarian dogwood seedlings grown in three soilless growing substrates (Metro-Mix 360, 560, and 902) were irrigated with a nutrient solution at an electrical conductivity (EC) of 1.2 dS·m−1 (control) or saline solution (by adding calculated amount of sodium chloride and calcium chloride) at an EC of 5.0 or 10.0 dS·m−1 once per week for 8 weeks. Results showed that substrate did not influence the growth of tatarian dogwood seedling. All plants irrigated with saline solutions at an EC of 10.0 dS·m−1 died, whereas those irrigated with saline solutions at an EC of 5.0 dS·m−1 exhibited severe foliar salt damage with an average visual score of 1.0 (on a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 = dead and 5 = excellent without foliar salt damage). Compared with the control, saline solutions at an EC of 5.0 dS·m−1 reduced plant height and shoot dry weight (DW) by 50.8% and 55.2%, respectively. Relative chlorophyll content [soil plant analysis development (SPAD) reading], chlorophyll fluorescence (Fv/Fm), and net photosynthesis rate (Pn) also decreased when plants were irrigated with saline solutions at an EC of 5.0 and 10.0 dS·m−1. Leaf sodium (Na+) concentration of tatarian dogwood seedlings irrigated with saline solutions at an EC of 5.0 and 10.0 dS·m−1 increased 11 and 40 times, respectively, compared with the control, whereas chloride (Cl-) concentration increased 25 and 33 times, respectively. In Expt. 2, tatarian dogwood seedlings were irrigated at a substrate volumetric water contents (volume of water/volume of substrate, VWC) of 15%, 20%, 25%, 30%, 35%, 40%, or 45% using a sensor-based automated irrigation system for 60 days. Results showed that drought stress decreased plant growth of tatarian dogwood seedlings with a reduction of 71%, 85%, and 87% in plant height, leaf area, and shoot DW, respectively, when VWC decreased from 45% to 15%, but all plants survived at all VWC treatments. Significant reductions of photosynthesis (Pn), stomatal conductance (g S), transpiration rate (E), and water potential were also found in plants at a VWC of 15%, compared with other VWCs. However, SPAD readings and Fv/Fm of tatarian dogwood seedlings were similar among the VWCs. In conclusion, tatarian dogwood seedlings were sensitive to the salinity levels tested in this study but could survive at all tested substrate volumetric water contents and exhibited resistance to drought conditions.

Open Access

Douglas fir [Pseudotsuga menziesii Mirb. (Franco)] bark (DFB), sphagnum peatmoss, and pumice are the most common substrate components used in the Oregon nursery industry. The objective of this study was to document the effect of peat and pumice addition on the physical and hydrological properties of DFB soilless substrates. A secondary objective was to determine if measured properties of mixed soilless substrates can be accurately predicted from the known properties of the individual components. Treatment design was a 3 × 3 factorial with three rates each of sphagnum peatmoss and pumice (0%, 15%, and 30% by vol.) added to DFB. The resulting nine substrates were measured for total porosity, air space, container capacity, and bulk density using porometers. Moisture characteristic curves were generated by measuring water content along a continuous column. Adding pumice to DFB decreased total porosity, container capacity, available water, and water-buffering capacity but increased bulk density. Adding peatmoss to DFB increased total porosity, container capacity, and available water but decreased air space and bulk density. Comparison of predicted values against measured values indicated that bulk density could be predicted reliably; however, all other physical properties could not be accurately predicted.

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Silicon (Si) is a plant beneficial element associated with the mitigation of abiotic and biotic stresses. Most greenhouse-grown ornamentals are considered low Si accumulators based on foliar Si concentration. However, Si accumulates in all tissues, and there is little published data on the distribution of Si in plants. This knowledge may be critical to using Si to mitigate tissue-specific plant stresses, e.g., pathogens. Therefore, we quantified Si accumulation and distribution in petunia (Petunia ×hybrida Hort. Vilm.-Andr. ‘Dreams Pink’), a low Si accumulator, and sunflower (Helianthus annuus L. ‘Pacino Gold’), a high Si accumulator. Plants were grown in a sphagnum peat: perlite substrate amended with 0% (−Si) or 20% (+Si) parboiled rice hulls for 53 (petunia) or 72 days (sunflower). Aboveground dry weight was greater in nonamended petunia (13%) and sunflower (18%), compared with rice hull–amended plants, but days to flower was unaffected. Sunflowers grown in the rice hull–amended substrate had the greatest Si concentration in leaves (10,909 mg·kg−1), whereas roots (895 mg·kg−1), stems (303 mg·kg−1), and flowers (252 mg·kg−1) had lower, but similar Si concentrations. In petunia, Si concentration was greatest in leaves (2036 mg·kg−1), then roots (1237 mg·kg−1), followed by stems (301 mg·kg−1), and flowers (247 mg·kg−1). The addition of rice hulls to the substrate increased Si concentration in sunflower 414% in roots, 512% in flowers, 611% in stems, and 766% in leaves. By contrast, Si concentration in petunia increased only 7% in flowers, 105% in stems, and 115% in leaves, but increased 687% in roots. In rice hull–amended sunflowers, the distribution of Si was 91% in leaves, 3% in stems, 3% in roots, and 3% in flowers, and in petunia, it was 72% in leaves, 17% in stems, 6% in roots, and 5% in flowers.

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