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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.

Free access

Domestic production of ginger (Zingiber officinale) and turmeric (Curcuma longa) rhizomes is increasing. The objective of this study was to compare growth and rhizome yield of these crops using different container volumes and planting densities. Two greenhouse experiments that lasted 28 weeks each were conducted. In Expt. I, one sprouted rhizome of a single ginger variety (Bubba Blue) and four turmeric varieties (Hawaiian Red, BKK, White Mango, and Black) were transplanted into either small (1.5 gal) or large (13.3 gal) round containers. In Expt. II, either one or three sprouted rhizomes of two ginger varieties (Bubba Blue and Madonna) and two turmeric varieties (Indira Yellow and Hawaiian Red) were transplanted into either large (13.3 gal) or medium (3.9 gal) round containers. In Expt. I, there were an increase in plant growth and yield with increasing container volume, as both crops produced more than double the shoot, root, and rhizome fresh weight (FW) when grown in large compared with small containers. In Expt. II, rhizome yield of ginger was 44% higher in medium than large containers, and container volume did not affect yield in turmeric. Total dry weight (DW) was higher in plants grown in the larger container volume in both species in Expt. I, and turmeric only in Expt. II. However, ginger in Expt. II had an 18% higher plant DW in the medium compared with the large container. The higher density in Expt. II increased yield and biomass production per container compared with the lower density, regardless of variety and container volume. Overall, net revenue per container was higher in Expt. II than Expt. I because of the higher rhizome yield. In Expt. I, the higher yield of ginger compared with turmeric increased sales revenue of this species, despite a lower sales price per kilogram. In contrast, the higher yield of turmeric in Expt. II resulted in higher sales revenue and net revenue per container compared with ginger. Based on our results, medium containers could be used to minimize material and space costs for ginger and turmeric production under the conditions evaluated in our study.

Open Access

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.

Free 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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Greenhouse propagation of unrooted plant cuttings is characterized by short container cell height and high irrigation frequency. These conditions can result in high moisture level and low air content in soilless container substrates (“substrates”), causing delayed growth of adventitious roots and favoring root disease. The objective of this study was to quantify and compare substrate water and air relations for three propagation substrates (peat, rockwool, and phenolic foam) that varied widely in physical characteristics using four methods: 1) evaporation method with a tensiometer, 2) frozen column method, 3) gravimetric analysis, and 4) X-ray computed tomography (CT) analysis. Moisture retention curves based on evaporation (1) and the frozen column (2) resulted in differences for peat, but similar curves for rockwool and foam. The frozen column method was simple and low cost, but was constrained by column height for peat, which had a higher water potential compared with the other two substrates. Substrate porosity analysis at container capacity by gravimetric or CT methods were similar for volumetric water and air content (VWC and VAC) in rockwool and foam, but differed for peat for VWC and VAC. Gravimetric analysis was simple, rapid, and low cost for whole-cell analysis, but CT further quantified spatial water and air relations within the cell and allowed visualization of complex water and air relations in an image. All substrates had high water content at container capacity ranging from 67% to 91% VWC with 5% to 11% VAC in the short propagation cells, emphasizing the need for careful irrigation management.

Open Access

The objectives were to 1) compare growth and yield of different ginger (Zingiber officinale) and turmeric (Curcuma longa) propagules grown under two photoperiods (Expt. 1); and 2) evaluate whether their growing season could be extended with night interruption lighting (NI) during the winter (Expt. 2). In Expt. 1, propagules included 1) micropropagated tissue culture (TC) transplants, 2) second-generation rhizomes harvested from TC transplants (2GR), and 3) seed rhizomes (R). Plants received natural short days (SDs) or NI providing a total photon flux density (TPFD) of 1.3 µmol·m−2·s−1. Providing NI increased number of new tillers or leaves per plant, rhizome yield (i.e., rhizome fresh weight), and dry mass partitioning to rhizomes in both species. There was no clear trend on SPAD index in response to photoperiod or propagative material. Although TC-derived plants produced more tillers or leaves per plant, 2GR ginger and R turmeric produced a higher rhizome yield. In Expt. 2, seed rhizomes of ginger and turmeric were grown under five treatments with different photoperiods and/or production periods: 1) 20 weeks with NI (20NI), 2) 24 weeks with NI (24NI), 3) 28 weeks with NI (28NI), 4) 14 weeks with NI + 10 weeks under natural SDs (24NISD), and 5) 14 weeks with NI + 14 weeks under natural SDs (28NISD). NI provided a TPFD of 4.5 µmol·m−2·s−1. Lengthening the production period and providing NI increased rhizome yield and crude fiber content in both species. SPAD index decreased when plants were exposed to natural SDs at the end of the production period (NISD treatments). Results demonstrate the potential to overcome winter dormancy of ginger and turmeric plants with NI, enabling higher rhizome yield under natural SDs.

Open Access

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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Nursery and greenhouse growers have an important role to play in conserving water resources. Many technologies are available to help growers conserve water. Yet, within the industry, there may be varying levels of knowledge about a specific strategy, along with inconsistent adoption and continued use. An understanding of these factors can be incorporated into educational programming for this audience. This study evaluated the reported knowledge level of U.S. greenhouse and nursery growers about eight specific water conservation technologies and then explored the rate at which growers had adopted and continued or discontinued their use. Technologies were ranked from high to low adoption rate, beginning with drip irrigation, rainwater capture, water reuse, and microirrigation, followed by soil moisture sensors, climate-based irrigation, subirrigation, and finally an irrigation audit. Overall, greater levels of knowledge corresponded to both greater adoption and continued use of a technology. Other factors, such as economic cost and technical feasibility are undoubtedly important. Findings highlight an opportunity to focus educational programs on the systems-based strategies that are beneficial to growers, but growers are least knowledgeable about to increase adoption of effective water conservation methods that currently have low levels of grower implementation.

Free access

The objective of this study was to compare strategies using water-soluble fertilizers (WSF) and controlled-release fertilizers (CRF) to provide adequate nutrition during both production and consumer phases of petunia (Petunia ×hybrida). Strategies included a CRF with a second prill coating (DCT) that delayed initial nutrient release, compared with a conventional single-coated CRF (OSM) and WSF. Rooted cuttings of petunia were grown for 42 days in trade 1-gal (2.84-L) containers (the “production phase”) with WSF only, a low rate of combined WSF and substrate-incorporated OSM, or low and high label rates of WSF and top-dressed (TD) OSM (WSF + OSM TD), WSF and substrate-incorporated DCT (WSF + DCT), OSM, or a commercial blend of substrate-incorporated OSM and DCT (OSM + DCT). By the end of production phase after 42 days, all fertilizer strategies tested produced horticulturally acceptable plants in terms of chlorophyll index and number of flowers. In a subsequent “consumer phase,” plants were maintained in containers or were transplanted into a landscape and irrigated with clear water for 98 days. Plant performance [number of flowers, SPAD chlorophyll index, dry weight, and tissue nitrogen (N) level] was greater during the consumer phase in treatments with high rates of CRF compared with WSF only or lower rates of CRF. On the basis of nutrient release in a sand substrate without plants at 10, 21, or 32 °C, the DCT had delayed nutrient release compared with single-coated CRF. The release rates of all CRF products and the duration of the delay in release from DCT were temperature dependent. A partial budget found that the lowest cost treatment was WSF only at $0.02/container. Comparing at high application rates, using WSF + DCT ($0.085/container) was more expensive than incorporated OSM ($0.05/container) and had a similar cost to WSF + OSM TD ($0.084/container). The greatly improved consumer performance for plants with residual fertilizer compared with WSF provides an opportunity to add value and profitability if a slightly higher sales price could be obtained. Several fertilizer strategies are available depending on material and labor cost and availability and preferred crop management style.

Full access

There are many water treatment technologies available to the nursery and greenhouse industry, but this sector has been somewhat hesitant to adopt them. An online survey was used to evaluate nursery and greenhouse growers’ knowledge, implementation, and continued use of 12 water treatment technologies. Less than 24% of the growers had used a water treatment technology. The knowledge level was low overall, and fewer than one in four growers had implemented all 12 technologies. However, most growers who had implemented 10 of the 12 technologies continued to use them. The results imply water treatment technologies available for this group are somewhat unknown and underused, thereby implying that there is a need to increase awareness of these innovations and highlight the opportunity for growers to advocate for treatment technology use among their peers.

Open Access