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  • Author or Editor: Youbin Zheng x
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To select plant species and species combinations for northern climates, mats with different plant species and species combinations were constructed on a green roof plant production farm and later transported and installed on an urban rooftop. There were three treatments: two different planting combinations, which together consisted of 10 diverse plant species [both stonecrop (Sedum) species and nonstonecrop species], and a control, which consisted of 26 stonecrop species used for standard mat production. Growth measurements and observations were made at both sites and special attention was paid to the performance of species during the harvest, transportation, and installation stages, as well as during recovery postinstallation. All species but false rock cress (Aubrieta cultorum) were found to be suitable for extensive green roof applications in northern climates, although there were variations of suitability among the species. Good, mediocre, and poor interactions formed between numerous species, displaying different levels of compatibility. Finally, all species were considered appropriate for a mat production system; species that failed to germinate, species planted postinstallation, the frequently displaced rolling hens and chicks (Jovibarba sobolifera), and false rock cress were exceptions. Overall, many species in this study displayed successful, well-rounded growth. Based on results, species and species combinations were recommended for extensive green roofs in northern climates.

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The objectives of this study were to compare fertilizer rates and types to identify an optimum rate to maintain green roof vegetative coverage and encourage plant growth (i.e., plant performance) while minimizing the amount and concentration of nutrients leached from a green roof module system. Sedum-vegetated modules with no added fertilizer (control) were compared with modules fertilized with 5, 7.5, 10, 15, 20, 30, and 60 g·m−2 nitrogen (N) of 16N–2.6P–10K POLYON® Homogenous NPK plus Minors, 5–6 month controlled-release fertilizer (CRF), 5 g·m−2 N of a 2.9N–2.2P–2.3K fly-larvae processed chicken manure fertilizer (5-Sus), or 5 g·m−2 N of 4N–4P–4K Gaia Green All Purpose organic fertilizer (5-OR). The total amount and concentration of aluminum (Al), calcium (Ca), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), mercury (Hg), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), sodium (Na), NH4 +, nickel (Ni), NO3 , phosphorus (P), lead (Pb), sulfur (S), and zinc (Zn) in leachate as well as plant overall appearance, winter injury, vegetative coverage, shoot height, bloom duration, and leaf color of green roof modules were evaluated between July 2011 and Aug. 2012. A CRF fertilizer rate of 15 g·m−2 N maximized vegetative coverage and overall plant appearance while maintaining leachate quality within Ontario and Canadian guidelines for most of the measured elements. The amount of Zn in the CRF appeared to be higher than plant demand and the high amount and concentration of P in leachate was likely the result of release from the growing substrate. The 5-Sus fertilizer resulted in increased coverage the first spring and increased greenness soon after application compared with the same rate of CRF. Overall, 15 g·m−2 N of CRF was the best treatment based on vegetative coverage and plant growth in sedum-vegetated green roof modules.

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To determine whether supplemental blue light (B) or far-red light (FR) overnight can promote microgreen elongation to facilitate machine harvesting and improve microgreen quality and yield, two common microgreen species, mustard (Brassica juncea) and arugula (Eruca sativa), were grown in a greenhouse in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, during January 2019. Low-intensity (14 μmol·m−2·s−1) B or FR was applied to microgreens overnight from 1730 hr to 0630 hr, and no supplemental lighting (D) was used as a control. After 2 weeks of light treatments, B compared to D promoted stem elongation by 16% and 10%, respectively, and increased crop yield by 32% and 29%, respectively, in mustard and arugula. B compared to D also increased the cotyledon area in mustard and leaf mass per area in arugula and enhanced cotyledon color in both species despite having no effects on total chlorophyll, carotenoid, and phenolic contents. However, FR did not increase stem length or fresh weight compared with D, reduced plant height compared with B in both species, and reduced the cotyledon area in arugula. FR, compared with D and B, reduced the stem diameter and phytochemical contents of both species. Therefore, low-intensity B can be applied overnight for winter greenhouse microgreen production because of its beneficial effects on appearance quality and crop yield without negatively affecting nutritional quality.

Open Access

To investigate plant growth and quality responses to different light spectral combinations, cabbage (Brassica oleracea L. var. capitata f. rubra), kale (Brassica napus L. ‘Red Russian’), arugula (Eruca sativa L.), and mustard (Brassica juncea L. ‘Ruby steak’) microgreens were grown in a controlled environment using sole-source light with six different spectra: 1) FL: cool white fluorescent light; 2) BR: 15% blue and 85% red light-emitting diode (LED); 3) BRFRL: 15% blue, 85% red, and 15.5 µmol·m−2·s−1 far-red (FR) LED; 4) BRFRH: 15% blue, 85% red, and 155 µmol·m−2·s−1 FR LED; 5) BGLR: 9% blue, 6% green, and 85% red LED; and 6) BGHR: 5% blue, 10% green, and 85% red LED. For all the light treatments, the total photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) was set at ≈330 µmol·m−2·s−1 under a 17-hour photoperiod, and the air temperature was ≈21 °C with 73% relative humidity (RH). At harvest, BR vs. FL increased plant height for all the tested species except arugula, and enlarged cotyledon area for kale and arugula. Adding high-intensity FR light to blue and red light (i.e., BRFRH) further increased plant height for all species, and cotyledon area for mustard, but it did not affect the fresh or dry biomass for any species. Also, BRFRH vs. BR increased cotyledon greenness for green-leafed species (i.e., arugula, cabbage, and kale), and reduced cotyledon redness for red-leafed mustard. However, BGLR, BGHR, and BRFRL, compared with BR, did not affect plant height, cotyledon area, or fresh or dry biomass. These results suggest that the combination of 15% blue and 85% red LED light can potentially replace FL as the sole light source for indoor production of the tested microgreen species. Combining high-intensity FR light, rather than low-level (≤10%) green light, with blue and red light could be taken into consideration for the optimization of LED light spectral quality in microgreen production under environmental conditions similar to this experiment.

Open Access

The objectives of the current study were to 1) determine the best topdressed controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) application rates for quality and growth of two nursery crops under temperate climate outdoor nursery production conditions in the Niagara region, Ontario, Canada, and 2) evaluate the nutrient status of the growing substrate following topdressing of two CRF types during the growing season. Fall-transplanted Goldmound spirea (Spiraea ×bumalda ‘Goldmound’) and Wine & Roses® weigela [Weigela florida (Bunge) A. DC. ‘Alexandra’] were grown in 2-gal (7.56 L) containers and topdressed on 7 May 2015 with Osmocote Plus 15N–3.9P–9.9K, 5–6 month CRF or Plantacote 14N–3.9P–12.5K, 6 month Homogeneous NPK with Micros. CRF was applied at rates of 1.5, 3.0, 4.5, 6.0, 7.5, and 9.0 g nitrogen (N)/pot for both species. The best plants at the end of the growing season (i.e., 23 Sept. 2015) were spirea at 3.0–4.5 and 3.0–6.0 g N/pot, and weigela at 3.0–4.5 and 6.0 g N/pot, with Osmocote and Plantacote, respectively. At CRF rates above these rates, the majority of plants showed no increase in growth or quality attributes. All weigela plants, despite CRF application rate, showed K deficiency symptoms during the study. Using marketable-size criteria and plant growth data over time, estimates of production timing are presented for fall-transplanted, spring-topdressed weigela and spirea. These estimates may assist growers in choosing CRF application rates to meet time-sensitive production goals. Early in the growing season, NO3-N and P concentrations in the growing substrate were highest at CRF rates ≥4.5 and ≥6.0 g N/pot, respectively, and P continued to be high in August and September at 9.0 g N/pot. NH3-N and K concentrations at all CRF application rates were greater early in the growing season and decreased over time. At high CRF rates toward the end of the growing season, concentrations of NO3-N, NH3-N, and P once again increased. Considering crop-specific CRF application rates and understanding changes in growing substrate nutrient status during the growing season may help nursery growers prevent negative environmental impacts from over-fertilizing.

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Sensor-based feedback control irrigation systems have been increasingly explored for greenhouse applications. However, the relationships between microclimate variation, plant water usage, and growth are not well understood. A series of trials were conducted to investigate the microclimate variations in different greenhouses and whether a soil moisture sensor-based system can be used in monitoring and controlling irrigation in greenhouse crop productions. Ocimum basilicum ‘Genovese Gigante’ basil and Campanula portenschlagiana ‘Get Mee’ bellflowers were monitored using soil moisture sensors for an entire crop cycle at two commercial greenhouses. Significant variations in greenhouse microclimates were observed within the two commercial greenhouses and within an older research greenhouse. Evaporation rates were measured and used as an integrated indicator of greenhouse microclimate conditions. Evaporation rates varied within all three greenhouses and were almost double the lowest rates within one of the greenhouses, suggesting microclimates within a range of greenhouses. Although these microclimate variations caused large variations in the growing substrate water contents of containers within the greenhouses, the growth and quality of the plants were unaffected. For example, no significant correlations were observed between the growth of bellflower plants and the average volumetric water content (VWC), minimum VWC, or maximum VWC of the growing substrate. The change in VWC at each irrigation (ΔVWC), however, was positively correlated with the fresh weight, dry weight, and growth index (GI) of the bellflowers. For basil, no significant correlations were observed between plant growth and ΔVWC. This suggests that sensor-based feedback irrigation systems can be used for greenhouse crop production when considerations are given to factors such as the magnitude of microclimate variation, crop species and its sensitivity to water stress, and growing substrate.

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To facilitate machine harvest for labor savings, the height of microgreens needs to reach ≈5 cm. Recent studies indicate that monochromatic blue light (B) can promote stem elongation similar to far-red light (FR). To examine whether nighttime B treatments can promote plant elongation without compromising yield and quality, mustard (Brassica juncea) and arugula (Eruca sativa) microgreens were grown under different light-emitting diode (LED) lighting regimes in a growth chamber. The 16-hour daytime lighting comprised 20% B and 80% red light (R), and had a total photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) of 300 µmol·m–2·s–1 at canopy level. During the 8-hour nighttime, the plants were exposed to the following treatments: 1) dark (D) as one control; 2) 4 hours of B at 40 µmol·m–2·s–1 followed by 4 hours of darkness (40B-D); 3) 4 hours of darkness followed by 4 hours of B at 40 µmol·m–2·s–1 (D-40B); 4) 8 hours of B at 20 µmol·m–2·s–1 (20B); 5) 8 hours of B + FR, and each of them at 20 µmol·m–2·s–1 (20B20FR); and 6) 8 hours of FR at 20 µmol·m–2·s–1 (20FR) as another control. The plants were harvested after 11 days of treatment. Nighttime B treatments (40B-D, D-40B, and 20B), compared with D, increased plant height by 34% and 18% for mustard and arugula, respectively, with no difference among the three B treatments. The combination of B and FR (20B20FR), compared with B alone, further increased plant height by 6% and 15% for mustard and arugula, respectively, and showed a similar promotion effect as 20FR. Plant height did not meet the machine harvest requirement for both species with the D treatment, but did so for mustard with the nighttime B treatments and for arugula with the 20B20FR treatment. There was no difference in biomass among all treatments except that 20B, compared with D, increased the fresh weight (FW) of arugula by 12%, showing a similar promotion effect as 20FR. Despite a greater promotion effect on elongation than B alone, 20FR reduced the leaf index compared with D. However, B alone or the 20B20FR treatment increased leaf thickness compared with D, and increased chlorophyll content index (CCI), leaf index, dry matter content, and leaf thickness to varying degree with species, compared with 20FR. Overall, nighttime B alone, or its combination with FR, promoted microgreen elongation without compromising yield and quality.

Open Access

An elongated stem has beneficial effects on microgreen production. Previous studies indicate that under 24-hour light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, monochromatic blue light, compared with red light, can promote plant elongation for some species. The objective of this study was to investigate whether shortened photoperiod can change blue vs. red light effects on elongation growth. The growth and morphology traits of arugula (Brassica eruca, ‘Rocket’), cabbage (Brassica oleracea, unknown variety name), mustard (Brassica juncea, ‘Ruby Streaks’), and kale (Brassica napus, ‘Red Russian’) seedlings were compared during the stage from seeding to cotyledon unfolding under two light quality × two photoperiod treatments: 1) R, monochromatic red light (665 nm) and 2) B, monochromatic blue light (440 nm) using continuous (24-hour light/0-hour dark) or periodic (16-hour light/8-hour dark) LED lighting. A photosynthetic photon flux density of ≈100 μmol·m−2·s−1 and an air temperature of ≈22 °C was used for the preceding treatments. After 7 to 8 days of lighting treatment, regardless of photoperiod, B promoted elongation growth compared with R, as demonstrated by a greater stem extension rate, hypocotyl length, or petiole length in the tested microgreen species, except for mustard. The promotion effects on elongation were greater under 24- vs. 16-hour lighting in many cases. Among the tested species, mustard showed the lowest sensitivity in elongation response to B vs. R, which was independent of photoperiod. This suggests that the blue-light-promoted elongation is not specifically from 24-hour lighting, despite the varying promotion degree under different photoperiods or for different species. The elongation growth promoted by blue LED light under a photoperiod of either 24 hours or 16 hours can potentially benefit indoor production of microgreens.

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This study compared the effect of fertilizer rates and types on plant performance and leached nutrients for an installed sedum-vegetated green roof mat system. Sedum-vegetated mats in non-fertilized plots (control) were compared with plots fertilized with 16N–2.6P–10K plus Minors 5–6 month controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) at 5, 10, 15, or 20 g·m−2 nitrogen (N) or 5 g·m−2 N of a fly-larvae processed chicken manure (Sus). Plot overall appearance was among the highest for 10 g·m−2 N in Mar., May, June, and July 2012, whereas 15 and 20 g·m−2 N resulted in the highest winter injury ranking in Mar. 2012. Vegetative coverage was highest for 10 and 15 g·m−2 N in Oct. 2011 but did not differ among treatments in 2012. Sedum spp. composition within plots remained closest to the original when fertilized at 10 g·m−2 N. Of all species, S. acre flowered for the longest duration and flowered longer in 10 g·m−2 N than 15 g·m−2 N or Sus. Leaf greenness of S. acre for 5, 10, 15, and 20 g·m−2 N was higher than the control in May 2012. Leached amounts of NH4 +, NO3 , potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), sodium (Na), iron (Fe), and aluminum (Al) did not differ among treatments, and cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), mercury (Hg), nickel (Ni), and lead (Pb) were not detected. All nutrients but NO3 in all plots and zinc (Zn) in the 5 g·m−2 N (CRF and Sus) and control plots were leached at levels above target nutrient loss thresholds. Among fertilizer types, Sus leached more phosphorus (P) without greater plant performance compared with 5 g·m−2 N CRF. A fertilizer rate of 10 g·m−2 N is recommended to benefit plant performance of this green roof system. However, in the first year after installation, to prevent negative environmental impacts resulting from initial substrate fertility, no fertilizer (CRF or Sus) is needed for this green roof system.

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Controlled application of drought can increase secondary metabolite concentrations in some essential oil-producing crops. To evaluate the effects of drought on cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) inflorescence dry weight and cannabinoid content, drought stress was applied to container-grown cannabis plants through gradual growing substrate drying under controlled environment. Fertigation was withheld during week 7 in the flowering stage until midday plant water potential (WP) was approximately −1.5 MPa (drought stress threshold). This occurred after 11 days without fertigation. A well-irrigated control was used for comparison. Leaf net photosynthetic rate (Pn), plant WP, wilting (leaf angle), and volumetric moisture content (VMC) were monitored throughout the drying period until the day after the drought group was fertigated. At the drought stress threshold, Pn was 42% lower and plant WP was 50% lower in the drought group than the control. Upon harvest, drought-stressed plants had increased concentrations of major cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) by 12% and 13%, respectively, compared with the control. Further, yield per unit growing area of THCA was 43% higher than the control, CBDA yield was 47% higher, ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) yield was 50% higher, and cannabidiol (CBD) yield was 67% higher. Controlled drought stress may therefore be an effective horticultural management technique to maximize both inflorescence dry weight and cannabinoid yield in cannabis, although results may differ by cannabis cultivar or chemotype.

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