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  • Author or Editor: Pablo Jourdan x
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Controlled-release fertilizers (CRFs) have not been extensively used in floricultural production, perhaps due to lack of grower experience and research-based information with their use in herbaceous plant production. Any information about the correct use of CRF should increase growers’ confidence in using this type of fertilizer. The objective of this research was to compare the growth and quality of bedding impatiens (Impatiens wallerana XTREME™ ‘Scarlet’) when grown with typical water-soluble fertilizer (WSF) and with different combinations of longevity and rates of a single formulation of CRF. The CRF 16N–3.9P–10K consisted of different longevities (3–4, 5–6, 8–9, or 12–14 months) and application rates (1.4, 3.4, 6.8, 10.2, or 13.6 kg·m−3). Plants were grown in the greenhouse, and consumer evaluations were performed at market maturity. Plant canopy cover, flower cover (FC), and shoot dry weight (DW) were also determined. Commercially acceptable plant quality was achieved with CRF application rates between 3.4 and 6.8 kg·m−3. At low CRF application rates, the faster release rate (shorter longevities) CRFs produced larger plants [DW and leaf canopy cover (LCC)] with greater flowering potential (FC) than slower release rate CRFs. At higher application rates, slower release rates (longer longevities) outperformed the faster release CRFs for the same parameters. CRF-grown plants were smaller than WSF plants when CRFs were applied at the lowest rates. No differences in any of the three variables measured were found when plants were grown at a rate of 6.8 kg·m−3 CRF of any longevity or with WSF. Growers should adjust CRF application rates according to CRF longevity.

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Breeding and development of ornamental woody plants for specific ideotypes will provide diverse choices to meet specific needs for natural and constructed landscapes. An F1 half-sib family analysis of Magnolia virginiana generated from controlled pollinations was implemented to identify potential juvenile selection strategies for two mature ideotypes: a compact and rounded shrub form (to 2.5 m tall and wide) and a single-stemmed, small tree form (to 4 m tall), both with abundant flowering. The 2-year test was conducted in a container nursery. Fourteen traits were measured in 2007 and 2008, including height at three intervals (July, August, and September), mean branch length and branch count, early and late flower production, collar sprout formation, stem diameter, and branch angle. There were significant differences between F1 half-sib families (P ≤ 0.0001) for all traits. Phenotypic and genetic correlations and narrow sense heritability were estimated for these traits. Phenotypic and genetic correlations showed favorable associations among branch count, caliper, and early flower production. These traits were used to form a selection index for a shrub ideotype. Also, there were positive phenotypic and genetic correlations between height and late flower production, which were both negatively correlated with collar sprout formation. These traits were used to form a selection index for the single-stemmed, small tree ideotype. Narrow sense heritabilities were high for most traits in 2007 but were lower in 2008. Results suggest that selection of phenotypes ranking highest for the traits of interest may yield the desired ideotypes. However, introduction of additional genetic variation through new germplasm accessions may be necessary to maintain breeding progress.

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Greenhouse growers must use water more efficiently. One way to achieve this goal is to monitor substrate moisture content to decrease leaching. A systems approach to irrigation management would include knowledge of substrate matric potentials and air-filled pore space (AS) in addition to substrate moisture content. To study the relationship between substrate moisture and plant growth, annual vinca (Catharanthus roseus L.) was subject to a 2 × 2 factorial combination of two irrigation treatments and two substrates with differing moisture characteristic curves (MCCs). A gravimetric on-demand irrigation system was used to return substrate moisture content to matric potentials of −2 or −10 kPa at each irrigation via injected drippers inserted into each container. Moisture characteristic curves were used to determine gravimetric water content (GWC), volumetric water content (VWC), and AS at target substrate matric potential values for a potting mix consisting of sphagnum moss and perlite and a potting mix consisting of sphagnum moss, pine bark, perlite, and vermiculite. At each irrigation event, irrigation automatically shut off when the substrate-specific weight of the potted plants associated with the target matric potential was reached. Irrigation was triggered when the associated weight for a given treatment dropped 10% from the target weight. VWC and AS differed between substrates at similar matric potential values. Irrigating substrates to −2 kPa increased the irrigation volume applied, evapotranspiration, plant size, leaf area, shoot and root dry weight, and flower number per plant relative to irrigating to −10 kPa. Fafard 3B had less AS than Sunshine LB2 at target matric potential values. Plants grown in Fafard 3B had greater leaf area, shoot dry weight, and root dry weight. Leachate fraction ranged from 0.05 to 0.08 and was similar across all treatment combinations. Using data from an MCC in conjunction with gravimetric monitoring of the container–substrate–plant system allowed AS to be determined in real time based on the current weight of the substrate. Closely managing substrate matric potential and AS in addition to substrate water content can reduce irrigation and leachate volume while maintaining plant quality and reducing the environmental impacts of greenhouse crop production.

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