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  • Author or Editor: Paul. R. Fisher x
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Our objective was to quantify the stem-elongation patterns of several Oriental and Asi-florum lily cultivars to develop graphical tracking charts where actual crop height can be compared visually against a target growth curve. Oriental lilies (`Mona Lisa' and `Stargazer') were grown in research greenhouses at Michigan State Univ. (MSU) during 1994 and 1995. Asi-florum lily cultivars (`Centurion', `LA-87', `Non-stop', `Salmon Queen', and `Salzburg') were grown at MSU in 1995. Plants received constant 20 °C from emergence to flower in 1995, and constant 15, 18, 21, 24, or 27 °C in 1994. Elongation of Oriental lily plants followed a sigmoid pattern. Oriental lily cultivars elongated rapidly after emergence until 60% of the relative time between dates of emergence and first open flower, at which time plants had achieved ≈82% (`Stargazer') or 85% (`Mona Lisa') of their final height; elongation then exhibited a plateau phase. In contrast to the Oriental lilies, Asi-florum cultivars consistently exhibited a more constant elongation rate throughout the growing period. Simplified graphical tracking curves were developed based on the patterns of elongation and were programmed into a computer decision—support system (`UNH FloraTrack'). The graphical tracking curves were tested by growing `Stargazer', `Mona Lisa', and four Asiflorum cultivars (`Donau', `Dream', `Moneymaker', `Spirit') at the Univ. of New Hampshire and MSU during 1997 to height specifications of 51 to 56 cm (including a pot height of 15 cm). Sumagic growth retardants were applied as a prebulb dip at 5 ppm and as a foliar spray at 3 ppm when plant height was above the target curve. Final height targets were achieved using this method. E-mail prf@hopper.unh.edu; phone, (603) 862-4525.

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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

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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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

Floriculture crop species that are inefficient at iron uptake are susceptible to developing iron deficiency symptoms in container production at high substrate pH. The objective of this study was to compare genotypes of iron-inefficient calibrachoa (Calibrachoa ×hybrid Cerv.) in terms of their susceptibility to showing iron deficiency symptoms when grown at high vs. low substrate pH. In a greenhouse factorial experiment, 24 genotypes of calibrachoa were grown in peat:perlite substrate at low pH (5.4) and high pH (7.1). Shoot dry weight, leaf SPAD chlorophyll index, flower index value, and shoot iron concentration were measured after 13 weeks at each substrate pH level. Of the 24 genotypes, analysis of variance (ANOVA) found that 19 genotypes had lower SPAD and 18 genotypes had reduced shoot dry weight at high substrate pH compared with SPAD and dry weight at low substrate pH. High substrate pH had less effect on flower index and shoot iron concentration than the pH effect on SPAD or shoot dry weight. No visual symptoms of iron deficiency were observed at low substrate pH. Genotypes were separated into three groups using k-means cluster analysis, based on the four measured variables (SPAD, dry weight, flower index, and iron concentration in shoot tissue). These four variables were each expressed as the percent reduction in measured responses at high vs. low substrate pH. Greater percent reduction values indicated increased sensitivity of genotypes to high substrate pH. The three clusters, which about represented high, medium, or low sensitivity to high substrate pH, averaged 59.7%, 42.8%, and 25.2% reduction in SPAD, 47.7%, 51.0%, and 39.5% reduction in shoot dry weight, and 32.2%, 9.2%, and 27.7% reduction in shoot iron, respectively. Flowering was not different between clusters when tested with ANOVA. The least pH-sensitive cluster included all four genotypes in the breeding series ‘Calipetite’. ‘Calipetite’ also had low shoot dry weight at low substrate pH, indicating low overall vigor. There were no differences between clusters in terms of their effect on substrate pH, which is one potential plant iron-efficiency mechanism in response to low iron availability. This experiment demonstrated an experimental and statistical approach for plant breeders to test sensitivity to substrate pH for iron-inefficient floriculture species.

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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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In current horticultural practice, potential acidity or basicity of fertilizers is estimated using Pierre's method (PM) expressed in calcium carbonate equivalents (CCE) per unit weight of fertilizer. PM was developed using mineral field soil systems and may be inaccurate for quantifying fertilizer acidity in containerized plant production given the widespread use of soilless substrates and fertigation. The PM-predicted acidity of an ammonium-based fertilizer was compared against experimental data obtained when ‘Ringo’ geraniums [Pelargonium ×hortorum (Bailey. L.H.)] and ‘Super Elfin’ impatiens [Impatiens wallerana (Hook. F.)] were grown in 70% peat:30% perlite (v:v) limed with either hydrated limestone only (HL) or a combination of carbonate and hydrated limestone (CHL). Plants in 10-cm-diameter (0.35 L) containers were top-irrigated with a total of 2.0 L over 6 weeks using a 15.2N–1.9P–12.6K fertilizer [100% of nitrogen (N) as NH4-N] applied with each irrigation at 100 mg N/L without leaching. According to PM, 61.8 meq of fertilizer acidity was applied per liter of substrate. During the experiment, the pH of the substrate decreased from 7.05 to 4.41 for the HL substrate and from 7.14 to 5.13 for the CHL substrate. A corresponding drop in substrate-pH was observed when 37.1 (HL) or 43.3 (CHL) meq of CCE from 0.5 N HCl was applied per liter of substrate in a laboratory titration of the same substrates without plants. Gasometric analysis of residual carbonate at Day 0 and at the end of the experiment quantified change in CHL substrate alkalinity with time, resulting in an estimated 30.7 meq of neutralized alkalinity. Using an electroneutrality approach that assumed anion uptake (NO3 , P2O5 ) was basic, and cations (NH4 +, K+) were potentially acidic, nutrient analysis of the substrate at the beginning and end of the experiment estimated that an average 48.5 meq of acidity was contributed by the fertilizer. Experimentally measured acidity values were 13.1 to 31.1 meq·L−1 of substrate lower for HL and CHL than those expected from PM, suggesting PM overestimated the amount of fertilizer acidity applied to the substrate. These results support the need for an alternative method to predict fertilizer acidity for plant production in soilless substrates.

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A wide range of water-treatment technologies is used to control waterborne microbial problems in greenhouse and nursery irrigation. An online modified Delphi survey was carried out to identify the perceived key attributes that growers should consider when selecting among water-treatment technologies and to characterize a list of 14 technologies based on those same attributes. The expert panel consisted of ornamental plant growers (n = 43), water-treatment industry suppliers (n = 28), and research and extension faculty (n = 34). The survey was delivered to the expert panel in two rounds. Response rate was 59% and 60% for the first and second rounds, respectively. Growers identified control of plant disease, algae, and biofilm as primary reasons for adopting technologies, whereas mandatory regulation was not a major reason for adoption. All 23 attributes (related to cost, system size, control of microorganisms, chemistry, ease of use, and regulation) were perceived to be important when selecting between water-treatment technologies. Injectable sanitizing chemicals such as chlorination were considered to have low capital cost, unlike technologies that required installation of more complex equipment, such as heat treatment, hydrogen peroxide, ozone, reverse osmosis, or ultraviolet radiation. Filtration (excluding membrane filtration) was the only technology not perceived to be effective to control microorganisms. Filtration and copper were not considered effective to control human food-safety pathogens. Ozone was rated the highest as a technology that removes or oxidizes agrochemicals. Chemical water treatments, as opposed to physical water treatments, were perceived to be sensitive to water quality parameters and to have residual effect through the irrigation. Chlorine gas was perceived to be the only technology for which regulatory permission would be an obstacle. All technologies were perceived to be effective in water with low electrical conductivity (EC) or in solutions containing water-soluble fertilizers. This survey documents perceived attributes of water-treatment technologies, which are most useful where experimental data are not yet available. Research and outreach needs were highlighted by cases where perceived attributes differed from available experimental data or where there was a lack of consensus between experts.

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Commercial production of Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum Thunb.) requires precise temperature control to ensure that the crop flowers in time for Easter sales. The objective of this project was to develop and validate a greenhouse decision-support system (DSS) for producing Easter lily to predetermined height and flower date specifications. Existing developmental models were integrated with a knowledge-based system in a DSS to provide temperature recommendations optimized for Easter lily scheduling and height control. Climate data are automatically recorded in real time by linking the DSS to a greenhouse climate control computer. Set point recommendations from the DSS can be manually set or automatically implemented in real time. Potential benefits of the project include improved crop quality and the transfer, validation, and integration of research-based models. The DSS was implemented at several research and commercial locations during the 1994 Easter lily season. DSS recommendations were compared with the strategies of experienced growers. The system design, implementation, production results, quality of recommendations, and potential are discussed.

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