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  • Author or Editor: Brent Pemberton x
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The East Texas Bedding Plant Pack and Garden Performance Trials began several years ago at the Texas A&M University Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Overton (Overton Center) with the goal of providing information on greenhouse and field performance of bedding plant varieties to the local bedding plant industry and consumers of these products. The program began with local trials that have now expanded in scope with the Smith County Master Gardeners Association playing an integral role in performing the trials. Entries are received from most of the major ornamental seed companies doing business in the United States giving the regional industry access to the only comprehensive greenhouse performance trials in this part of the country. Performance evaluation data is important to this industry since it has a wholesale value of over $500 million in the northeast Texas region, of which over $100 million is bedding plant production. The field performance trials are now replicated at the Overton Center, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden (Dallas Arboretum) and the Texas A&M University Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Dallas (Dallas Center), giving over 5 million consumers in the northeast Texas region the opportunity to see how promising new plants from all over the world perform in the local climate. Plants that grow well in this climate have the potential to reduce inputs needed for production and use in the home or commercial landscape. Many of the top performing varieties from the bedding plant trials are also chosen to be part of the Coordinated Education and Marketing Assistance Program (CEMAP), a statewide testing program headquartered at the Dallas Center in which entries vie for designation as Texas Superstar plants. The comprehensive benefit of the East Texas Bedding Plant Pack and Garden Performance Trials is the link between the rural bedding plant producers and the urban consumers which serves as a basis for improving the quality of life for the citizens of Texas.

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Marigolds (Tagetes sp.) are ornamental plants with fine-textured, dark green foliage, and yellow, orange, or bicolored flowers. The relative salt tolerance of eight marigolds [‘Discovery Orange’, ‘Discovery Yellow’, ‘Taishan Gold’, ‘Taishan Orange’, and ‘Taishan Yellow’ african marigold (Tagetes erecta); ‘Hot Pak Gold’, ‘Hot Pak Orange’, and ‘Hot Pak Yellow’ french marigold (Tagetes patula)] was evaluated in a greenhouse experiment. Plants were irrigated weekly with nutrient solution at an electrical conductivity (EC) of 1.2 dS·m−1 (control) or saline solutions at an EC of 3.0 or 6.0 dS·m−1 (EC 3 or EC 6). Marigold plants began to show foliar salt damage (leaf burn and necrosis) at 6 weeks after the initiation of treatment. At harvest (9 weeks after the initiation of treatment), ‘Discovery Orange’, ‘Discovery Yellow’, ‘Taishan Gold’, and ‘Taishan Yellow’ plants exhibited severe foliar salt damage with visual scores less than 2 (on a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 = dead and 5 = excellent with no foliar salt damage) in EC 6. In the same treatment, ‘Hot Pak Gold’ and ‘Taishan Orange’ plants all died and only one of nine ‘Hot Pak Orange’ and ‘Hot Pak Yellow’ plants survived. In EC 3, all cultivars had slight or minimal foliar salt damage with visual scores ≈4 with the exception of Taishan Gold and Taishan Orange plants that showed moderate foliar damage with a visual score of 2.3 and 2.1, respectively. Treatment EC 3 reduced the flower number of ‘Discovery Orange’, ‘Discovery Yellow’, ‘Hot Pak Gold’, and ‘Hot Pak Yellow’ by 52%, 28%, 50%, and 30%, respectively, whereas EC 6 decreased the flower number of ‘Discovery Orange’ and ‘Discovery Yellow’ by 48% and 52%, respectively. In addition, both EC 3 and EC 6 did not reduce total dry weight (DW) of any cultivars, except Hot Pak Yellow and Taishan Yellow. In conclusion, all marigold cultivars are moderately sensitive to salt. ‘Discovery Orange’, ‘Taishan Yellow’, ‘Discovery Yellow’, and ‘Taishan Gold’ were more tolerant than ‘Hot Pak Gold’, ‘Hot Pak Orange’, ‘Hot Pak Yellow’, and ‘Taishan Orange’.

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In this study, we surveyed the initial whitefly (Aleyrodidae) populations on rooted poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) cuttings at two commercial greenhouse facilities in both 2017 and 2018 to determine the initial whitefly population at the beginning of poinsettia production and surveyed finished poinsettias at multiple retailers in Tyler, TX, over 2 years to determine whitefly densities considered acceptable by retailers. The initial whitefly population (mean ± se) for all poinsettias was 0.02 ± 0.02 (2017) and 0.33 ± 0.13 (2018) nymphs per plant for grower facility A and 0.05 ± 0.05 (2017) and 0.02 ± 0.01 (2018) nymphs per plant for grower facility B. Of the total 2417 rooted poinsettia cuttings inspected at both locations over 2 years, 29 cuttings had whitefly nymphs (1.2%), 18 had pupae (0.7%), and 23 had exuviae (1.0%). On finished poinsettias sampled at retailers, 4.38 to 40.38 immatures (nymphs + pupae) per plant were found within 60 seconds for any given retailer over the 2 years. We found poinsettias with as many as 220 immatures and 32 adults on a single plant at retailers. This study is the first to quantify densities of whiteflies at retail stores over multiple years.

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Twenty-one cultivars of vegetative annuals were treated with 0%, 50%, or 100% of the production fertilization rate of 300 mg·L−1 N starting 2 weeks before and continuing until harvest. At harvest, plant width, flower number, and quality rating were measured. The plants were then placed in a simulated interior environment where flower number was counted and quality rating was assigned to each plant weekly for 3 weeks. Overall, 14% of the cultivars maintained a marketable quality (i.e., quality rating of ≥3.0 of 5) for 3 weeks, 43% for 2 weeks, 38% for 1 week, and one cultivar did not maintain quality during the postharvest evaluation. Reduced end-of-production fertilization rate (EPFR) resulted in higher quality ratings for at least one additional week of simulated shelf life for three cultivars, including ‘Dreamtime Copper’ bracteantha (Bracteantha bracteata), ‘Vanilla Sachet’ nemesia (Nemesia ×hybrida), and ‘Bridal Showers’ sutera (Sutera hybrida). ‘Comet White’ and ‘Sunlight’ argyranthemum (Argyranthemum frutescens) retained flowers an additional 2 weeks and ‘Caritas Lavender’ angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia), ‘Dreamtime Copper’ bracteantha, ‘Liricashowers Deep Blue Imp.’ and ‘Starlette Trailing Purple’ calibrachoa (Calibrachoa hybrid), ‘Vanilla Sachet’ nemesia, ‘Cascadias Pink’ petunia (Petunia ×hybrida), and ‘Bridal Showers’ sutera retained flowers an additional 1 week when treated with 0% compared with 50% or 100% EPFR. Four cultivars had decreased plant width at harvest with 0% EPFR. These results indicate that reducing fertilization 2 weeks before harvest can prolong shelf life of some vegetative annuals. Differences in the length of shelf life and responses to reduced EPFR occurred among cultivars of all the affected species. Reduced EPFR did not increase the shelf life of two species, including diascia (Diascia ×hybrida) and lantana (Lantana camara).

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Landscape plant evaluations were conducted in eight states: Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Vermont for 17 switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and five little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) cultivars. Additional locations in Florida (Fort Lauderdale, Fort Pierce, Quincy, and Wimauma), Nebraska (Lincoln), and Lubbock and San Marcos completed 1 or 2 years of the trials. Plants were established in 2012 and data were collected for 3 years, 2013–15. Sites were asked to compile annual data on plant height, width, flowering time, fall color, pests, foliage color determined by the Royal Horticultural Society’s color chart, plant form, flowering date, floral impact, self-seeding, winter injury, landscape impact, and mortality. Texas A&M Agricultural Research and Extension Center (Overton), Florida (all four locations), and Vermont had the highest mortality rate. Southern Florida locations lost 50% of their plants by the end of 2014. Wide variation was reported for landscape impact, individual cultivar height, and width from different regions of the United States. Three of the 17 switchgrass cultivars, Cloud 9, Northwind, and Thundercloud, had a rating of 4.0 or higher averaged over six or more locations for plant form, floral, and landscape impact. ‘Shenandoah’ and ‘Warrior’ switchgrass had a rating of 4.0 or higher averaged over six or more locations for plant form and landscape impact, but not floral impact. Only one of the five little bluestem cultivars, Blue Heaven® rated 4.0 or higher, for plant form and landscape impact when averaged over six or more locations. This range of variability in landscape plant performance demonstrates the importance of local plant evaluations.

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