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  • Author or Editor: John A. Biernbaum x
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Two experiments were run to validate a “Nitrogen Calcium Carbonate Equivalence (CCE)” model that predicts potential fertilizer basicity or acidity based on nitrogen (N) form and concentration for floriculture crops grown with water-soluble fertilizer in containers with minimal leaching. In one experiment, nine bedding plant species were grown for 28 days in a peat-based substrate using one of three nutrient solutions (FS) composed of three commercially available water-soluble fertilizers that varied in ammonium to nitrate (NH4 +:NO3 ) ratio (40:60, 25:75, or 4:96) mixed with well water with 130 mg·L−1 calcium carbonate (CaCO3) alkalinity. Both the ammonium-nitrogen (NH4-N) content of the FS and plant species affected substrate pH. Predicted acidity or basicity of the FS for Impatiens walleriana Hook.f. (impatiens), Petunia ×hybrida E. Vilm. (petunia), and Pelargonium hortorum L.H. Bailey (pelargonium) from the Nitrogen CCE model was similar to observed pH change with an adjusted R 2 of 0.849. In a second experiment, water alkalinity (0 or 135.5 mg·L−1 CaCO3), NH4 +:NO3 ratio (75:25 or 3:97), and N concentration (50, 100, or 200 mg·L−1 N) in the FS were varied with impatiens. As predicted by the N CCE model, substrate pH decreased as NH4 + concentration increased and alkalinity decreased with an adjusted R 2 of 0.763. Results provide confidence in the N CCE model as a tool for fertilizer selection to maintain stable substrate pH over time. The limited scope of these experiments emphasizes the need for more research on plant species effects on substrate pH and interactions with other factors such as residual limestone and substrate components to predict pH dynamics of containerized plants over time.

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Two surveys were conducted to determine characteristics important in containerized edible flowers that could be sold in retail outlets. Self-selected participants at Bloomfest at Cobo Hall, Detroit, were assigned to one group that rated the importance of attributes such as color of pansy (Viola ×wittrockiana Gams. `Accord Banner Clear Mixture'), color combinations, container size, and price. Participants assigned to a second group rated color, color combinations, and container size. Flower color was allocated the most points in the purchasing decision (63% for the first group and 95% for the second), with a mixture of all three colors (blue, yellow, and orange) being the most desirable. Responses were subjected to Cluster Analysis (SPSS Inc., Chicago), which resulted in the formation of three distinct groups. The groups were labeled “Likely Buyer” (those who had eaten and purchased edible flowers before and rated characteristics of edible flowers favorably); “Unlikely Consumer” (those who had eaten edible flowers before and had rated characteristics of edible flowers unfavorably); and “Persuadable Garnishers” (those who had not eaten edible flowers before, but were very likely to purchase edible flowers for a meal's garnish).

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Two surveys were conducted to assess consumer and professional chefs' perceptions of three edible-flower species. Our objectives were to determine opinions, preferences, and uses of Viola tricolor L. `Helen Mount' (viola), Borago officinalis L. (borage), and Tropaeolum majus L. `Jewel Mix' (nasturtium). Flowers were grown using certifiable organic methods and chosen to reflect a variety of flower tastes, textures, and appearances. We quantified three attributes (taste, fragrance, and visual appeal) with a total of seven semantic, differential scales adapted from a scaling authority. The attributes were rated as: visual—“appealing”, “desirable,” and “very interested in tasting”; fragrance—“appealing” and “pleasant”; and taste—“tasty” and “desirable”. Garden Day participants were self-selected to evaluate and taste flowers from a consumer perspective. When asked to rate the three species on visual appeal and desire, no less than 76% of consumers awarded all flowers an acceptable rating. We found similar results when consumers answered questions regarding the taste of two of the three species. Results from this study support our hypothesis that customers would rate edible flower attributes highly and would be likely to purchase and serve the three species tested. Members of the Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Association participated in a similar survey. At least 66% of these chefs rated the three visual attributes and two fragrance attributes of viola and nasturtium acceptable. Chefs' ratings of the fragrance of borage as “appealing” and “pleasant” were higher than those of consumers, but the ratings were still low, 21% and 25%, respectively. Unlike consumers, chefs' ratings of the taste of viola as “appealing” and “desirable” were low (29% and 36%, respectively). We found some minor differences in ratings when groups were compared, using demographic variables as a basis for segmentation, indicating a homogenous marketing strategy may be employed.

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Do consumers prefer certain combinations of edible-flower species and colors over other assortments? Two hundred and sixteen people were self-selected for a survey at a Michigan flower show to rate 15 photographs of edible flowers arranged in 0.24-L, clear, plastic containers. Each container had either an individual species or combinations of Viola tricolor L. `Helen Mount' (viola), Borago officinalis L. (borage), and Tropaeolum majus L. `Jewel Mix' and `Tip Top Apricot' (nasturtium). To determine what color(s) of nasturtium participants would prefer, containers held either orange and crimson, peach and cream, or a combination of all four flower colors. Participants rated photographs using a semantic differential on a 7-point Likert scale (7 being the highest rating) based on their likelihood to purchase each container of edible flowers to serve to family and friends in a meal. Participants were asked an additional 21 questions regarding their attitudes about edible flowers, gardening habits, dining habits, and several demographic questions. Responses were subjected to conjoint analysis (SPSS Inc., Chicago). The addition of other species to nasturtium (viola, borage, viola, and borage) had a greater relative importance (53%) than the color of the nasturtium (47%). A mixture of all four nasturtium colors (peach, cream, orange, and crimson) was awarded the highest utility (0.091). Peach and cream nasturtiums or containers that did not contain any nasturtium flowers at all were least preferred (-0.070 and -0.083 utilities, respectively). Mean ratings that participants assigned to containers of edible flowers supported these utilities. The container assigned the highest mean rating included nasturtiums of all four colors, yet 66% were unlikely to purchase any container with 10% insect damage. Differences in preferences were noted using selected demographic characteristics such as age, gender, and income.

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A small suction lysimeter tube (SLT) was used to extract media solution samples for twelve pot plant species in peat-based media subirrigated with 50, 100, or 200 mg · liter-1 N and K2O. Media samples from different pots were also tested using the saturated media extract (SME) procedure. Sample solution pH, EC, NO3 --N and K+ were measured with Cardy flat electrode meters. Averaged over crops, solution pH was similar for SLT and SME (after extraction) at each N concentration. The mean (12 crops × 3 reps at each N level) SME and SLT solution EC and K+ concentrations were similar for samples collected from the 50 and 100 mg · liter-1 N treatments. NO3 --N values were lower with the SLT than SME method at 50 mg·liter-1 N. SLT levels for EC, NO3 --N, and K+ were 27, 39, and 24% higher than SME values for samples collected from the 200 mg·liter-1 N treatments. Sample variation between replicates and between methods for the single pot samples was unacceptable. More testing is needed with SME and SLT samples from the same pot and composite samples from several pots, but SLT sampling is fast, nondestructive, simple, and economical at $6-7 per tube.

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The measurement of evaporation and transpiration from container-grown crops is labor intensive and expensive if measurements are made by periodic weighing of the plants with electronic scales. Thin-beam load cells (LCL-816G, Omega Engineering) measured with a datalogger provides a method of making continuous mass measurements over time. Four load cells were tested to determine the feasibility for use in greenhouse studies. The sensors were calibrated to an electronic scale at a range of air temperatures. The electrical signal (μV) was a linear function of mass from 0 to 816 g. The change in mass per change in electrical signal (i.e. the slope) was the same for all four load cells (1.26 g ·μV-1), however the absolute electrical signal (the intercept) was unique for each sensor (-246 to + 101 g). The effect of temperature on sensor output was unique for each sensor in terms of both the magnitude and direction of change. A two-point calibration of mass performed at a range of temperatures is required to properly use thin-beam load cells to continuously measure evapotranspiration of container-grown crops.

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