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The objective of these experiments was to evaluate the response of Little Lime™ hardy hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Jane’) across two seasons in response to single foliar applications of three plant growth regulators (PGRs) at two rates: dikegulac sodium at 800 or 1600 ppm, benzyladenine at 300 or 600 ppm, or ethephon at 500 or 1000 ppm. There were two additional treatments: a hand-pruned control leaving three nodes and an unpruned water control (untreated) applied the same day as the PGR applications. To evaluate PGR efficacy, vegetative growth, floral attributes, branch symmetry, and phytotoxicity were assessed. Dikegulac sodium significantly increased branch number (BN) compared with all other treatments. Branch symmetry was greater in dikegulac sodium (800 or 1600 ppm) and hand-pruned treatments compared with the untreated and other PGR treatments (2011 and 2012). Flower number was greater in all PGR treatments compared with hand-pruned plants (2011 and 2012). The only treatment that promoted more symmetrical branching without reducing flower count was dikegulac sodium (800 or 1600 ppm). Phytotoxicity was observed in both seasons; however, no injury symptoms were evident 16 weeks after treatment (WAT), the termination of the experiment.

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Pruning is commonly performed during production of nursery crops to produce symmetrical, compact plants that are pleasing to the consumer’s eye. To achieve the desired results, nursery growers hand prune or apply plant growth regulators (PGRs). However, hand pruning is expensive and is not always effective, and efficacy of PGRs can depend on cultural practices, environmental conditions, irrigation, cultivar, and rate. Therefore, the objective of these experiments was to evaluate the effect of dikegulac sodium applied to pruned or unpruned ‘Limelight’ hardy hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata). Plants were grown at two locations, Tennessee (TN) and Mississippi (MS). The pruned treatment consisted of hand pruning, leaving three nodes followed by applications of dikegulac sodium (400, 800, or 1600 ppm). Applications of dikegulac sodium to pruned or unpruned plants were made the same day using a carbon dioxide backpack sprayer. There were two additional control treatments: hand-pruned untreated (hand-pruned) and unpruned untreated (untreated). Plants were grown outdoors under full sun in TN and under 40% shade in MS. Data were collected at the close of the experiment on the number of branches over 1 inch, final growth index (FGI), floral attributes, branch symmetry, and phytotoxicity. At both locations, pruned and unpruned plants treated with 800 or 1600 ppm dikegulac sodium had more branches than the hand-pruned and unpruned plants. Flower number and size tended to be greater for unpruned plants than pruned plants. Phytotoxicity was observed at 2 and 6 weeks after treatment (WAT). For plants grown in TN, symptoms were more pronounced on plants following treatment with 800 (pruned plants) and 1600 ppm (pruned and unpruned) dikegulac sodium compared with the untreated plants. There were no visible phytotoxicity symptoms at 6 WAT for plants grown in MS, regardless of treatment.

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Asynchronous online extension classes, in which content is made available on demand, can reach a larger audience, offer more scheduling flexibility, and reduce the strain on limited time and financial resources for extension faculty and staff. In comparison with traditional extension programming (in-person presentations) or online synchronous programming (live webinars), asynchronous programs can require significant time and resources during the initial development stages, including advanced planning and dedicated contributors as well as ongoing information technology (IT) infrastructure and maintenance. The objective of this article is to summarize the development process and inputs needed to successfully develop an online asynchronous extension program based on the authors’ experience developing the Tennessee Master Nursery Producer Program (TMNP). The TMNP is a certificate program for nursery growers in Tennessee designed to improve growers’ long-term environmental, economic, and community sustainability. Developing the online TMNP required three key positions: project coordinator, e-learning specialist, and content developer which spent 473, 401, and 847 hours, respectively, during the development process. Detailed information on development time, requirements, and suggestions for other institutions wishing to develop similar programs is offered.

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Budget reductions for the Cooperative Extension Service have made traditional extension programming (face-to-face, live programming) difficult for extension professionals. Attending traditional extension programming can also prove to be challenging for industry practitioners due to the need to delay or reschedule work activities and the need to travel to participate. The Tennessee Master Nursery Producer program (TMNP) is a professional development extension program designed to enhance the sustainability of the Tennessee nursery crops industry. The TMNP was first offered as a traditional extension program in 2012. Although the program was successful, it demanded substantial time from faculty and staff to coordinate the program, prepare presentations, and travel. Recurring travel expenses required a significant financial commitment from both extension personnel and participants. An asynchronous online program was developed to address these challenges and to increase accessibility, exploit the economies of scale, and standardize curriculum. The objective of this article is to describe the advantages and disadvantages that were identified offering nursery production subject matter as a traditional live classroom and subsequently as an asynchronous online program in terms of development cost, administrative and technological requirements, and economic impacts.

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Market researchers have found that nursery and greenhouse production practices that reduce plastic use can increase consumer interest. However, there are broader crop performance, production efficiency, and environmental factors that must be considered before adopting containers made with alternative materials. This review highlights current commercially available alternative containers and parent materials. In addition, findings from recent and ongoing nursery, greenhouse, and landscape trials are synthesized, identifying common themes, inconsistencies, research gaps, and future research needs.

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Nursery and greenhouse producers, research and extension faculty, and representatives from allied fields collaborated to formulate a renewed vision to address water issues affecting growers over the next 10 years. The authors maintained the original container irrigation perspective published in “Strategic vision of container nursery irrigation in the next ten years,” yet broadened the perspective to include additional challenges that face nursery crop producers today and in the future. Water availability, quality, and related issues continue to garner widespread attention. Irrigation practices remain largely unchanged due to existing irrigation system infrastructure and minimal changes in state and federal regulations. Recent concerns over urbanization and population growth, increased climate variability, and advancements in state and federal regulations, including new groundwater withdrawal limitations, have provided an inducement for growers to adopt efficient and innovative practices. Information in support of the overarching issues and projected outcomes are discussed within.

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The green industry has identified the use of biodegradable containers as an alternative to plastic containers as a way to improve the sustainability of current production systems. Field trials were conducted to evaluate the performance of four types of 1-gal nursery biocontainers [keratin (KR), wood pulp (WP), fabric (FB), and coir fiber (Coir)] in comparison with standard black plastic (Plastic) containers on substrate temperature, water use, and biomass production in aboveground nurseries. Locations in Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, and Texas were selected to conduct experiments during May to Oct. 2012 using ‘Green Velvet’ boxwood (Buxus sempervirens × B. microphylla) and ‘Dark Knight’ bluebeard (Caryopteris ×clandonensis) in 2013. In this article, we were focusing on the impact of alternative container materials on hourly substrate temperature variations and plant growth. Substrate temperature was on an average higher (about 6 °C) in Plastic containers (about 36 °C) compared with that in WP, FB, and Coir containers. However, substrate temperature in KR containers was similar to Plastic. Substrate temperature was also influenced by local weather conditions with the highest substrate temperatures recorded in Texas followed by Kentucky, Mississippi, and Michigan. Laboratory and controlled environment trials using test containers were conducted in Kentucky to evaluate sidewall porosity and evaporation loss to confirm field observations. Substrate temperature was similar under laboratory simulation compared with field studies with the highest substrate temperature observed in Plastic and KR, intermediate in WP and lowest in FB and Coir. Side wall temperature was higher in Plastic, KR, and FB compared with WP and Coir, while side wall water loss was greatest in FB, intermediate in WP and Coir, and lowest in plastic and KR. These observations suggest that the contribution of sidewall water loss to overall container evapotranspiration has a major influence on reducing substrate temperature. The porous nature of some of the alternative containers increased water use, but reduced heat stress and enhanced plant survival under hot summer conditions. The greater drying rate of alterative containers especially in hot and dry locations could demand increased irrigation volume, more frequent irrigation, or both, which could adversely affect the economic and environmental sustainability of alternative containers.

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In 2014, the Southern Nursery Integrated Pest Management (SNIPM) Working Group published both print and electronic versions of IPM for Shrubs in Southeastern U.S. Nursery Production: Volume I. Five hundred print books (of 3000 copies) were distributed to commercial ornamental growers and extension educators in return for their participation in a follow-up survey. The survey was administered to determine the value of book contents, savings that growers realized from using the book, perceived value of the book had users been asked to pay for it, and demographic information. The survey response rate was 46.2%, with respondents from 18 states. Of 243 respondents, 194 (79.8%) had used the book. Entomology information was most used and most useful, followed by plant pathology, weed science, and cultural information. Collective savings attributed to book use totaled $408,832/year for the 194 nurseries that used the book. Applying the use rate (79.8%) identified in this survey, this represents $5.62 million in savings per year for the 3000 printed books, of which 2394 are estimated to have been used. Savings varied by the type and size of operation. Larger operations had greater savings per year. Container growers saved $44.15/acre and field growers $28.37/acre. The price that growers were willing to pay for the book also varied by operation type and size. Extension educators and growers were willing to pay an average of $41.20, with an additional $0.063/acre for container growers and $0.126/acre for field growers. Return on investment for the U.S. Department of Agriculture grant funding for the project was $187.60 per dollar of funding. This survey demonstrates that collaborative efforts can produce high-value deliverables with significant regional and/or national impact.

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To optimize pesticide applications to the canopies of deciduous perennial crops, spray volume should be adjusted throughout the year to match the changes in canopy volume and density. Machine-vision, computer-controlled, variable-rate sprayers are now commercially available and claim to provide adequate coverage with decreased spray volumes compared with constant-rate sprayers. However, there is little research comparing variable- and constant-rate spray applications as crop characteristics change throughout a growing season. This study evaluated spray volume, spray quality (e.g., coverage and deposit density), and off-target spray losses of variable- and constant-rate sprayers across multiple phenophases in an apple (Malus domestica) orchard and a grape (Vitis vinifera) vineyard. The variable-rate sprayer mode applied 67% to 74% less volume in the orchard and 61% to 80% less volume in the vineyard. Spray coverage (percent), measured by water-sensitive cards (WSC), was consistently greater in the constant-rate mode compared with the variable-rate mode, but in many cases, excessive coverage (i.e., over-spray) was recorded. The variable-rate sprayer reduced off-target losses, measured by WSC coverage, up to 40% in the orchard and up to 33% in the vineyard. Spray application deposit densities (droplets per square centimeter) on target canopies were typically greater in variable-rate mode. However, the deposit densities were confounded in over-spray conditions because droplets coalesced on the WSC resulting in artificially low values (i.e., few, very large droplets). Spray efficiencies were most improved early in the growing season, when canopy density was lowest, demonstrating the importance of tailoring spray volume to plant canopy characteristics.

Open Access