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Yun Kong, Xiangyue Kong and Youbin Zheng

Nondestructive estimation of individual shoot fresh weight (FW) from its measurable morphological traits is useful for a wide variety of purposes in pea shoot production. To predict individual shoot FW, nine regression models in total were developed, including two power models using stem diameter (SMD) or stem length (SML) as a variable, and seven linear models using part or all the following variables: SMD, SML, leaflet length (LL), leaflet width (LW), stipule length (SEL), and stipule width (SEW). Among the nine models, the 6-variable linear equation had the highest coefficient of determination, R 2 = 0.92, indicating it is most effective at explaining the variation in FW. The linear equations including only one variable, SMD or SML, were equally the least effective as nonlinear equations (i.e., power models). This finding suggests that there was a linear rather than nonlinear relationship between FW and the morphological variables. During stepwise regression, SEW and LW together were first removed from the 6-variable linear models without reducing the R 2, and then SEL, SMD, SML were further removed one-by-one, which reduced the R 2 from 0.92 to 0.90, 0.85, and 0.71, respectively. The result suggests that SMD, SML, SEL, and LL were the most important four predictor variables for multivariable linear regression models to estimate FW, an idea that was also supported by path analysis. For the four linear models with 1–4 predictor variables from stepwise regression, the prediction accuracy of FW was evaluated based on the agreement between the predicted and measured values using another independent dataset. The 4- and 3-variable linear models (i.e., FW = −1.437 + 0.276 SMD + 0.010 SML + 0.022 LL + 0.013 SEL and FW = −1.383 + 0.308 SMD + 0.011 SML + 0.030 LL, respectively) were selected for their more accurate prediction than 1- and 2-variable linear models and relatively simpler forms than a 6-variable linear model. Although the prediction accuracy can be potentially affected by air temperature, light conditions, and harvesting time, the multilinear regression model is an effective approach for estimating fresh weight of individual pea shoots using its measurable morphological traits.

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Youbin Zheng*, Thomas Graham, Stefan Richard and Mike Dixon

Pot gerbera (Gerbera jamesonii Var. `Shogun') plants were subirrigated with one of four nutrient solutions (10, 25, 50, and 100% of full strength) in order to determine whether currently used commercial nutrient solution concentrations can be reduced without negative impact on crop production. Nutrient concentration levels did not affect leaf area, flower number and appearance, and plant total dry weight. There were no significant differences in leaf chlorophyll content between the plants that received the 50 and 100% strength nutrient solutions. It is concluded that nutrient solution concentrations typically used in commercial greenhouse, for pot gerbera production, can be safely reduced by at least 50% without adversely affecting crop production. Nutrients accumulated in the top section of the growth substrate under all treatment levels; however, no phytotoxic effect was observed. Fertilizer inputs were reduced in the 50%, 25%, and 10% treatments by 54%, 75%, and 90% respectively. After 4 weeks recirculating, the quality of the nutrient solutions was still within acceptable limits.

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Diane Feliciano Cayanan, Mike Dixon, Youbin Zheng and Jennifer Llewellyn

The recycling of irrigation water may cause the dispersal of plant pathogens. Irrigation water disinfected with 2.4 mg·L−1 of free chlorine for 5 min was overhead-applied to 17 container-grown nursery plants for 11 weeks in a commercial nursery to evaluate the response of container-grown nursery plants to chlorine. No visual symptoms of injury or growth reduction were observed on the evergreen shrubs (Juniperus horizontalis, Thuja occidentalis, Buxus microphylla, Picea glauca, Rhododendron catawbiense, Taxus media, and Chamaecyparis pisifera), but there were visual injuries and/or growth reduction on some of the deciduous shrubs (Salix integra, Hydrangea paniculata, Prunus ×cistena, Weigela florida, Physocarpus opulifolius). Symptoms of anthracnose were reduced on Cornus alba plants treated with chlorinated water. The chlorine treatment did not affect leaf chlorophyll content. The chlorine treatment killed all fungi and oomycetes in the irrigation water (DNA multiscan). Although there were visible leaf injuries and growth reduction on some of the deciduous plants, chlorine injury did not render them unsalable. Results suggest that irrigation water treated with 2.4 mg·L−1 free chlorine for 5 min will effectively control the dispersal of common plant pathogens without reducing the market value of container-grown plants.

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Victoria Ann Surrage, Claudia Lafrenière, Mike Dixon and Youbin Zheng

Six individual growing substrate components were selected. From the individual components, 35 growing substrates were constructed. Preliminary analyses, which included pH, electrical conductivity, and macro- and micronutrient concentrations, combined with environmental and cost implications were conducted to identify which substrates had the appropriate properties for growing tomatoes. From the 35 combinations, four growing substrates were chosen as having preferred properties required for organic greenhouse tomato production. A 22-week growth experiment was performed to determine if any of the selected substrates could improve the marketable yield of tomatoes when compared with rockwool (RW) under greenhouse conditions. The greenhouse crop used for this experiment was Lycopersicon esculentum ‘beefsteak’ tomato, cultivar Matrix F1 Hybrid. Within the experiment, Forterra Royal GRO 1 (GRO 1; coconut coir/vermicompost) and Forterra Royal GRO 2 (GRO 2; aged pine bark/coconut coir/vermicompost) attained significantly higher marketable yields per plant compared with the plants grown in RW. A similar trend was seen in the incidence of Blossom End Rot (BER) with GRO 1 and GRO 2 having reduced numbers of BER incidences per plant when compared with RW. In conclusion, the addition of vermicompost to organic growing substrates is beneficial for tomato growth and yield.

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Youbin Zheng, Linping Wang, Diane Feliciano Cayanan and Mike Dixon

To determine the nutrient solution copper (Cu2+) level above which Cucumis sativus L. (cucumber, cv. LOGICA F1) plant growth and fruit yield will be negatively affected, plants were grown on rockwool and irrigated with nutrient solutions containing Cu2+ at 0.05, 0.55, 1.05, 1.55, and 2.05 mg·L−1. Copper treatment began when plants were 4 weeks old and lasted for 10 weeks. During this 10-week period, plants were harvested at 3 weeks (short-term) and 10 weeks (long-term) after the start of Cu2+ treatment. Neither visible leaf injury nor negative Cu2+ effect was observed on plant growth (leaf number, leaf area, leaf dry weight, and stem dry weight) after 3 weeks of continuous Cu2+ treatment. However, after 10 weeks of continuous Cu2+ application, cucumber leaf dry weight was significantly reduced by Cu2+ levels 1.05 mg·L−1 or greater; leaf number, leaf area, and stem dry weight were significantly reduced by Cu2+ levels 1.55 mg·L−1 or greater. Copper (Cu2+ levels 1.05 mg·L−1 or greater) also caused root browning. Some plants under the 2.05 mg·L−1 Cu2+ treatment started to wilt after 6 weeks of continuous Cu2+ treatment. Copper treatment did not result in any change in leaf greenness until after Week 9 from the start of the treatments. There was no sign of a negative Cu2+ effect on cucumber fruit numbers after the first 2 weeks of production, but plants under the highest Cu2+ concentration treatment (2.05 mg·L−1) gradually produced fewer cucumber fruit than the control (0.05 mg·L−1) and eventually resulted in lower cucumber yield. Nutrient solution can be treated with 1.05 mg·L−1 of Cu2+ in cucumber production greenhouses; however, it is not recommended to use Cu2+ concentrations 1.05 mg·L−1 or greater continuously long-term (more than 3 weeks). When applying Cu2+, it is suggested that cucumber roots be examined regularly because roots are a better indicator for Cu2+ toxicity than leaf injury.

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Eric R. Rozema, Robert J. Gordon and Youbin Zheng

Certain ions such as Na+ and Cl can accumulate in recirculating greenhouse nutrient solutions and can reach levels that are damaging to crops. An option for the treatment of this problem is phytodesalinization with Na+ and Cl hyperaccumulating plants that could be added to existing water treatment technologies such as constructed wetlands (CWs). Two microcosm experiments were conducted to evaluate eight plant species including Atriplex prostrata L. (triangle orache), Distichlis spicata (L.) Greene (salt grass), Juncus torreyi Coville. (Torrey’s rush), Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud. (common reed), Spartina alterniflora Loisel. (smooth cordgrass), Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani (C.C. Gmel.) Palla (softstem bulrush), Typha angustifolia L. (narrow leaf cattail), and Typha latifolia L. (broad leaf cattail) for their Na+ and Cl accumulation potential. An initial (indoor) experiment determined that J. torreyi, S. tabernaemontani, T. angustifolia, and T. latifolia were the best candidates for phytodesalinization because they had the highest Na+ and Cl tissue contents after exposure to Na+ and Cl-rich nutrient solutions. A second (outdoor) experiment quantified the Na+ and Cl ion uptake (grams of each ion accumulated per m2 of microcosm). J. torreyi, S. tabernaemontani, T. angustifolia, and T. latifolia accumulated 5.8, 3.9, 8.3, and 9.2 g·m−2 of Na+ and 25.7, 18.2, 31.6, and 27.2 g·m−2 of Cl, respectively. Of the eight species, T. latifolia and S. tabernaemontani showed the greatest potential to accumulate Na+ and Cl in a CW environment, whereas S. alterniflora, D. spicata, and P. australis showed the least potential.

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Youbin Zheng, Thomas Graham, Stefan Richard and Mike Dixon

To determine whether currently used commercial nutrient solution concentrations can be reduced during the final stage (last 4 to 5 weeks) of production of potted gerbera (Gerbera jamesonii `Shogun') under recirculating subirrigation conditions, plants were grown under one of four nutrient levels (10%, 25%, 50%, and 100% of full strength). Nutrient concentration levels did not affect leaf area, flower number and appearance, and plant total dry weight. There were no significant differences in the greenness (as measured by SPAD meter) of leaves from plants that received the 50% and 100% strength nutrient solutions. However, leaves from plants that received the 10% and 25% strength solution showed significantly less greenness than that of the plants that received 50% and 100% strength nutrient solutions. There were interveinal chlorosis symptoms on the younger leaves of some plants in the 10% and 25% strength nutrient treatments. It is suspected that this interveinal chlorosis was due to iron (Fe) deficiency caused by the increased substrate pH. It is concluded that the nutrient solution concentrations typically used for potted gerbera production in commercial greenhouses at the final stage (4 to 5 weeks) under recirculating subirrigation conditions, can be safely reduced by at least 50% without adversely affecting crop production. Nutrient salts accumulated in the top section of the growth substrate under all treatments levels; however, no phytotoxic effects were observed. No differences in water use (141 mL per plant per day) were observed amid the various nutrient levels. Fertilizer inputs were reduced in the 50%, 25%, and 10% treatments by 54%, 75%, and 90% respectively, relative to the 100% treatment. After 4 weeks under recirculating conditions, the qualities of the nutrient solutions were still within acceptable limits.

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Youbin Zheng*, Linping Wang, Weizhong Liu, John Sutton and Mike Dixon

Copper is one of the essential micro-nutrient elements for plants, but when in excess, is toxic to plants and other living organisms. Electrolytically generated copper and cupric sulphate are increasingly used by the greenhouse industry to control diseases and algae in hydroponic systems. However, there is little information regarding appropriate strategies for employing copper in greenhouse crop production. We investigated the physiological responses, growth and production of several ornamental crops (miniature rose, chrysanthemum and geranium) and greenhouse vegetable crops (pepper, cucumber, and tomato) with respect to Cu2+ concentration in the root zone. Tests were conducted using plants grown in nutrient solution, Promix and rockwool. Results showed that phytotoxic levels of Cu2+ were dependent on the crop species and growing substrate. Plants grown in nutrient solution exhibited symptoms of phytotoxicity at lower Cu2+ concentrations than those on the solid substrates. The ability of copper to control Pythium aphanidermatum and green algae was evaluated under both laboratory and greenhouse conditions. Copper was effective in suppressing green algae in nutrient solution, but did not control Pythium effectively. This presentation is a comprehensive summary of the research conducted over the last three years by our group on copper application in greenhouse systems.

Open access

Mitchell Eicher-Sodo, Robert Gordon and Youbin Zheng

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is an oxidizing agent used to disinfect recirculated irrigation water during the production of organic crops under controlled environmental systems (e.g., greenhouses). To characterize the phytotoxic effects and define a concentration threshold for H2O2, three microgreen species [arugula (Brassica eruca ssp. sativa), radish (Raphanus sativus), and sunflower (Helianthus annuus ‘Black Oil’)], and three lettuce (Lactuca sativa) cultivars, Othilie, Xandra, and Rouxai, were foliar sprayed once daily with water containing 0, 25, 50, 75, 100, 125, 150, or 200 mg·L−1 of H2O2 from seed to harvest under greenhouse conditions. Leaf damage was assessed at harvest using two distinct methods: 1) the percentage of damaged leaves per tray and 2) a damage index (DI). Applied H2O2 concentrations, starting from 25 mg·L−1, increased the percentage of damaged leaves in every species except ‘Black Oil’ sunflower, which remained unaffected by any applied concentration. Symptoms of leaf damage manifested in similar patterns on the surface of microgreen cotyledons and lettuce leaves, while mean DI values and extent of damage were unique to each crop. Fresh weight, dry weight, and leaf area of all crops were not significantly affected by daily H2O2 spray. Identifying how foliar H2O2 damage manifests throughout the crop, as well at individual cotyledon or leaf surfaces, is necessary to establish an upper concentration threshold for H2O2 use. On the basis of the aforementioned metrics, maximum recommended concentrations were 150 mg·L−1 (radish), 100 mg·L−1 (arugula) for microgreens and 125 mg·L−1 (‘Othilie’), 75 mg·L−1 (‘Rouxai’), and 125 mg·L−1 (‘Xandra’) lettuce.

Free access

Thomas Graham, Ping Zhang, Youbin Zheng and Michael A. Dixon

The phytotoxic threshold of five woody perennial nursery crops to applications of aqueous ozone was investigated to determine if aqueous ozone could be used for remediation of recycled nursery irrigation water and for pathogen control. The perennial nursery crops [Salix integra Thunb. ‘Hakura Nishiki’; Weigela florida Thunb. ‘Alexandra’; Spiraea japonica L.f. ‘Goldmound’; Hydrangea paniculata Seib. ‘Grandiflora’; Physocarpus opulifolius L. Maxim. ‘Summer Wine’] were evaluated for aqueous ozone phytotoxicity after 6 weeks of overhead spray irrigation in which five aqueous ozone treatments (0, 10.4, 31.2, 62.5, 125.0 μmol·L−1) were applied on a daily basis. The concentrations applied represent levels useful for irrigation system maintenance (pathogen and biofilm control) with the highest levels selected to clearly demonstrate phytotoxicity. Aqueous ozone solutions were prepared and injected in-line during irrigation for 7.5 min every day for 6 weeks, after which growth parameters (leaf area, shoot dry weight, root dry weight, height, flower number) were measured and leaf injury was evaluated. High residual aqueous ozone (62.5 μmol·L−1 or greater at emitter discharge; 0.3 m from canopy) in the irrigation water was shown to negatively affect the growth parameters measured; however, low residual ozone concentrations (31.2 μmol·L−1 or less at emitter discharge; 0.3 m from canopy) did not present any measurable risk to plant growth. Furthermore, even at higher dose levels, leaves produced during the treatment period showed reduced damage levels. It is concluded that ozone residuals of 31.2 μmol·L−1 (at emitter discharge) can remain in overhead irrigation water without negatively affecting the crop species examined under the application protocols used. At the ozone concentrations demonstrated to be tolerable by the crop species examined, it is reasonable to surmise that control of pathogens at all points within the irrigation system will be achievable using aqueous ozone as part of an irrigation management strategy. The use of aqueous ozone in this fashion could also aid in dramatically reducing chemical residuals on crops by reducing the input requirements of traditional chemical controls.