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  • Author or Editor: Paul Fisher x
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The objective was to quantify the effect of substrate pH and micronutrient concentration on tissue nutrient levels in Petunia ×hybrida Hort. Vilm.-Andr. and Impatiens wallerana Hook. F. Plants were grown in 10-cm-diameter pots for 4 weeks in a 70% peat: 30% perlite medium amended with five lime rates to achieve substrate pH values ranging from pH 4.4 to 7.0. Plants were irrigated with (in mg·L-1) 210N-31P-235K-200Ca-49Mg. Micronutrients were applied as an EDTA (ethylenedinitrilotetraacetic acid) chelated micronutrient blend (C111), at 1×, 2×, and 4× concentrations of 0.50Fe-0.25Mn-0.025Zn-0.04Cu-0.075B-0.01Mo. Patterns of tissue concentrations across substrate pH differed from nutrient solubility in the medium, particularly with regard to Mn. Foliar N content decreased slightly as substrate pH increased, whereas foliar Ca, Mg, and S increased. Although foliar P and K varied with pH, there was no consistent trend between species. Foliar total Fe, ferrous Fe, and Cu decreased as substrate pH increased, whereas foliar Zn increased. Foliar Mn content decreased for both species as pH rose to 6.0, and then increased from pH 6.0 to 7.0. In contrast, Mn level in the substrate, measured in a saturated medium extract using deionized water as the extractant, decreased as pH increased from pH 4.4 to 7.0. Chlorophyll content decreased when the ratio of tissue Fe to Mn was <0.57 (impatiens) or <0.71 (petunia), or Fe was <106 (impatiens) or 112 (petunia) μg·g-1. SPAD chlorophyll index also declined in petunia with foliar Mn >42 μg·g-1. Increasing C111 increased foliar Cu, total Fe and ferrous Fe in both species, and B for impatiens, and partly compensated for reduced nutrient solubility at high pH.

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Nutrient uptake during adventitious root formation is not clearly understood, resulting in variable fertilization strategies in propagation and increased potential for nutrient deficiency or nutrient runoff. The objective was to quantify rooting response to fertility treatments and tissue nutrient concentration changes in response to basal or apical nutrient supply during three rooting phases in propagation of Petunia ×hybrida ‘Supertunia Royal Velvet’ and ‘Supertunia Priscilla’ stem tip cuttings. One of two treatments [a complete fertilizer solution (in mg·L−1) 56 NO3-N, 19 NH4-N, 13 phosphorus, 88 potassium, 39 calcium, 28 magnesium, 20 sulfur, 11 sodium, 1.1 iron, 0.5 manganese, 0.5 zinc, 0.25 copper, 0.29 boron, 0.1 molybdenum, and 0.01 aluminum] or clear tap water was applied to the cuttings. Tissue N–P–K concentrations declined as plant development increased from Stage 0 to 3 regardless of fertilizer treatment or location applied. Foliar application of N–P–K during propagation maintained tissue nutrient concentration at higher levels before Stage 2 (initial root emergence) compared with plants that received clear water only; however, overall, a decline in concentration was measured from Stage 1 to Stage 3. Measurable N–P–K uptake occurred during root development from the foliar and basal portions of the cuttings. Basal fertilizer applications resulted in increased root length and root number compared with plants treated with clear water. These results emphasize that nutrient uptake occurs from both the stem and foliar portion of Petunia cuttings, and nutrient availability at the stem base at root emergence improves root development.

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Unreacted residual limestone in the container substrate is key in buffering pH change over time. Our goal was to develop a substrate test protocol to measure residual lime [in units of CaCO3 equivalent (CCE)] by applying a strong mineral acid (HCl) to a substrate sample and measuring the evolved CO2 gas with a gasometric method based on a Chittick apparatus. In one experiment, CaCO3 was added to a substrate that had previously been neutralized to pH 7.35 with Ca(OH)2 so that there would be minimal CaCO3 reaction with the substrate at this high pH. The gasometric method was then used to estimate residual CCE. Measured CCE and applied CaCO3 were similar, indicating reliable CCE estimation. In a second experiment, a pH titration method was used to quantify the relationship between substrate-pH and milliequivalents of reacted base and provided an additional validation of the estimated reacted and residual CCE. The gasometric method demonstrated declining residual CCE over time as a dolomitic limestone reacted to raise substrate-pH and increasing residual CCE as applied CaCO3 concentration increased. Residual CCE in a substrate is an important property that should be considered for pH control and management in greenhouse crop production. Our results indicate that the gasometric system may be useful for optimizing lime application rate, lime source, or management of residual CCE during crop production.

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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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Transplanting of unrooted cuttings into trays filled with root substrate is an initial process in the production of rooted cuttings. There is potential for companies producing transplants to decrease production costs and increase profit margins by improving the labor efficiency of this process; however, benchmarking between firms is lacking. This study focused on benchmarking labor productivity for transplanting cuttings at young plant operations and identifying key factors that differentiate efficiency between businesses. Data were collected on the transplanting process of 14 U.S. young plant greenhouse companies during their peak production week in 2016. Companies surveyed included nine operations producing bedding plants (BPs) as the major type of transplant. The total weekly labor allocated to transplant cuttings averaged 2109 ± 449 hours (mean ± se) at a labor cost of $26,392 ± $5842 to transplant 1,316,111 ± 273,377 cuttings, resulting in a labor cost of $0.023 ± $0.003 per cutting. For steps within the process of assembling a transplanted tray of cuttings, receiving and handling unrooted cuttings was 3% of the total labor cost, filling trays with root substrate was 8%, inserting cuttings into the root substrate was 70%, supervising was 10%, and moving assembled trays to the greenhouse bench was 8%. The labor cost per cutting varied nearly 5-fold between growers, from $0.010 to $0.049, indicating potential for improved efficiency in higher cost locations. Differences in the labor cost between firms resulted from factors including the plant type produced in each location, with greater handling and grading required for tissue culture and herbaceous perennials compared with BP cuttings, and differences in the hourly labor cost to the business which ranged from $9.23 to $18.66 between locations. Although other factors such as training, available labor pool, and lean manufacturing optimization were observed to affect labor efficiency at individual locations, it was not possible to quantify these effects using the survey approach taken. Benchmarked figures can be used to highlight opportunities to improve labor efficiency and decrease production costs, and to evaluate return on investment for alternative labor-saving approaches including robotic transplanting.

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The objectives were to characterize and compare shrinkage (i.e., transplant loss) and growth of tissue-cultured blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) transplants acclimated in greenhouses or indoors under 1) different photosynthetic photon flux densities (PPFDs) (Expt. 1); or 2) spectral changes over time using broad-spectrum white (W; 400 to 700 nm) light-emitting diodes (LEDs) without or with red or far-red (FR) radiation (Expt. 2). In Expt. 1, ‘Emerald’ and ‘Snowchaser’ transplants were acclimated for 8 weeks under PPFDs of 35, 70, 105, or 140 ± 5 µmol·m‒2·s‒1 provided by W LED fixtures for 20 h·d−1. In another treatment, PPFD was increased over time by moving transplants from treatment compartments providing 70 to 140 µmol·m‒2·s‒1 at the end of week 4. Transplants were also acclimated in either a research or a commercial greenhouse (RGH or CGH, respectively). Shrinkage was unaffected by PPFD, but all transplants acclimated indoors had lower shrinkage (≤4%) than those in the greenhouse (15% and 17% in RGH and CGH, respectively), and generally produced more shoot and root biomass, regardless of PPFD. Growth responses to increasing PPFD were linear in most cases, although treatment effects after finishing were generally not significant among PPFD treatments. In Expt. 2, ‘Emerald’ transplants were acclimated for 8 weeks under constant W, W + red (WR), or W + FR (WFR) radiation, all of which provided a PPFD of 70 ± 2 μmol·m−2·s−1 for 20 h·d−1. At the end of week 4, a group of transplants from WR and WFR were moved to treatment compartments with W (WRW or WFRW, respectively) or from W to a research greenhouse (WGH), where another group of transplants were also acclimated for 8 weeks (GH). Shrinkage of transplants acclimated indoors was also low in Expt. 2, ranging from 1% to 4%. In contrast, shrinkage of transplants acclimated in GH or under WGH was 37% or 14%, respectively. Growth of indoor-acclimated transplants was generally greater than that in GH or under WGH. Although growth responses were generally similar indoors, plants acclimated under WFR had a higher root dry mass (DM) and longer roots compared with GH and WGH.

Open Access

Interest in hydroponic home gardening has increased in recent years. However, research is lacking on minimum inputs required to consistently produce fresh produce using small-scale hydroponic systems for noncommercial purposes. Our objectives were to 1) evaluate the effect of biweekly nutrient solution replacements (W) vs. biweekly fertilizer addition without a nutrient solution replacement (W/O) on final growth, yield, and nutrient uptake of hydroponic tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plants grown in a greenhouse, and 2) characterize growth over time in a greenhouse or an indoor environment using W. For each environment, ‘Bush Goliath’ tomato plants were grown for 12 weeks in 6.5-gal hydroponic systems. The experiment was replicated twice over time. In the greenhouse, plants were exposed to the following day/night temperature, relative humidity (RH), and daily light integral (DLI) in 2018 (mean ± SD): 31 ± 6/22 ± 2 °C, 67% ± 8%, and 32.4 ± 7 mol·m‒2·d‒1; and in 2019: 28 ± 6/22 ± 3 °C, 68% ± 5%, and 27.7 ± 6 mol·m‒2·d‒1. For both experimental runs indoors, the day/night temperature, RH, and DLI were 21 ± 2 °C, 60% ± 4%, and 20 ± 2 mol·m‒2·d‒1 provided by broadband white light-emitting diode lamps. The W/O treatment resulted in a higher-than-desired electrical conductivity (EC) and total nutrient concentration by the end of the experiment. In addition, compared with the W treatment, W/O resulted in less leaf area, more shoot growth, less water uptake, and similar fruit number—but increased blossom-end-rot incidence, delayed fruit ripening, and lower fruit fresh weight. Nonetheless, the final concentration of all nutrients was almost completely depleted at week 12 under W, suggesting that the applied fertilizer concentration could be increased as fruiting occurs. Surprisingly, shoot biomass, leaf area, and leaf number followed a linear trend over time in both environments. Nonetheless, given the higher DLI and temperature, greenhouse-grown plants produced 4 to 5 kg more of fruit than those grown indoors, but fruit from plants grown indoors were unaffected by blossom-end-rot. Our findings indicate that recommendations for nutrient solution management strategies should consider specific crop needs, growing environments, and production goals by home gardeners.

Open Access

The objective of this study was to quantify water volume and nutrient content leached during propagation of herbaceous cuttings in commercial greenhouses. Nutrient concentrations in the fertigation solution, substrate, tissue, and leachate were measured between Jan. and Mar. 2006 at eight greenhouse locations in Michigan, Colorado, New Hampshire, and New Jersey. Grower management of the timing and concentration of nutrients applied to vegetatively grown calibrachoa (Calibrachoa ×hybrida) or petunia (Petunia ×hybrida) liner trays varied among the eight locations, ranging from 0.5 to 80 mg·L−1 nitrogen (N) in week 1 and from 64 to 158 mg·L−1 N in week 4. Over a 4-week crop period, applied nutrients averaged 4.9 g·m−2 N, 0.8 g·m−2 phosphorus (P), and 5.8 g·m−2 potassium (K), and leached nutrients averaged 1.1 g·m−2 N, 0.3 g·m−2 P, and 1.6 g·m−2 K. Leaching of nutrients and irrigation water was highly variable among locations. Leached water volumes ranged from 4.5 to 46.1 L·m−2 over 4 weeks and contained 0.29 to 1.81 g·m−2 N, 0.11 to 0.45 g·m−2 P, and 0.76 to 2.86 g·m−2 K. The broad range in current commercial fertigation practices, including timing of nutrient supply, concentration of applied fertilizer, and leaching volume, indicate considerable potential to improve efficiency of water and fertilization resources during propagation and reduce runoff.

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Stem elongation of poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima Klotz.) was quantified using an approach that explicitly modelled the three phases of a sigmoidal growth curve: 1) an initial lag phase characterized by an exponentially increasing stem length, 2) a phase in which elongation is nearly linear, and 3) a plateau phase in which elongation rate declines as stem length reaches an asymptotic maximum. For each growth phase, suitable mathematical functions were selected for smooth height and slope transitions between phases. The three growth phases were linked to developmental events, particularly flower initiation and the first observation of a visible flower bud. The model was fit to a data set of single-stemmed poinsettia grown with vegetative periods of 13, 26, or 54 days, resulting in excellent conformance (R 2 = 0.99). The model was validated against two independent data sets, and the elongation pattern was similar to that predicted by the model, particularly during the linear and plateau phases. The model was formulated to allow dynamic simulation or adaptation in a graphical control chart. Model parameters in the three-phase function have clear biological meaning. The function is particularly suited to situations in which identification of growth phases in relation to developmental and horticultural variables is an important objective. Further validation under a range of conditions is required before the model can be applied to horticultural situations.

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Two experiments were completed to determine whether the form and concentration of iron (Fe) affected Fe toxicity in the Fe-efficient species Pelargonium ×hortorum `Ringo Deep Scarlet' L.H. Bail. grown at a horticulturally low substrate pH of 4.1 to 4.9 or Fe deficiency in the Fe-inefficient species Calibrachoa ×hybrida `Trailing White' Cerv. grown at a horticulturally high substrate pH of 6.3 to 6.9. Ferric ethylenediaminedi(o-hydroxyphenylacetic) acid (Fe-EDDHA), ferric ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid (Fe-EDTA), and ferrous sulfate heptahydrate (FeSO4·7H2O) were applied at 0.0, 0.5, 1.0, 2.0, or 4.0 mg ·L–1 Fe in the nutrient solution. Pelargonium showed micronutrient toxicity symptoms with all treatments, including the zero Fe control. Contaminant sources of Fe and Mn were found in the peat/perlite medium, fungicide, and lime, which probably contributed to widespread toxicity in Pelargonium. Calibrachoa receiving 0 mg Fe/L exhibited severe Fe deficiency symptoms. Calibrachoa grown with Fe-EDDHA resulted in vigorous growth and dark green foliage, with no difference from 1 to 4 mg·L–1 Fe. Using Fe-EDTA, 4 mg Fe/L was required for acceptable growth of Calibrachoa, and all plants grown with FeSO4 were stunted and chlorotic. Use of Fe-EDDHA in water-soluble fertilizer may increase the upper acceptable limit for media pH in Fe-inefficient species. However, iron and Mn present as contaminants in peat, irrigation water, or other sources can be highly soluble at low pH. Therefore, it is important to maintain a pH above 6 for Fe-efficient species regardless of applied Fe form or concentration, in order to avoid the potential for micronutrient toxicity.

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