The decline in the availability of pine (Pinus taeda L.) bark (PB) supplies and increasing prices have caused concerns in the nursery industry. Research was conducted to evaluate the effect of parboiled rice (Oryza sativa L.) hulls (PBH) as a substrate amendment to PB-based container substrates on the growth of Spiraea ×bumalda L. ‘Anthony Waterer’ and to examine the changes in physical properties of the substrates during long-term production cycles under outdoor nursery conditions. Six substrates were formulated by blending PB with 0%, 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, or 100% PBH (by volume). Substrate composition affected plant growth components evaluated, generally decreasing growth as the amount of PBH increased. However, amending PB with up to 40% PBH did not result in a significant decrease in plant growth or increase the volume or frequency of irrigation for container-grown spirea. Physical properties of substrates amended with PBH improved over time. Based on these results, PB-based substrates amended with up to 40% PBH retained physical properties that were generally within current guidelines for nursery container substrates after one (25 weeks) and two (70 weeks) growing seasons.
Celina Gómez and Juan Jiménez
Numerous studies have evaluated the effect of high-energy radiation as means to increase nutritional quality of lettuce (Lactuca sativa). However, most research has focused on providing constant radiation quality or quantity throughout the production cycle, which typically results in yield reductions or increases in production costs. End-of-production (EOP) radiation is a cost-effective, preharvest practice that can allow growers to manipulate product quality and thus increase market value of lettuce without negatively affecting plant growth. The objective of this study was to quantify and compare growth and accumulation of secondary metabolites from ‘Rouxaï RZ’ and ‘Codex RZ’ red-leaf lettuce grown indoors and exposed to different strategies of EOP high-energy radiation. Plants were grown for 24 days under an average daily light integral (DLI) of 15.8 mol·m‒2·d‒1 (220 µmol·m‒2·s‒1 for 20 h·d−1) using red:blue light-emitting diode (LED) lamps. Four days before harvest (36 days after sowing), plants were exposed to one of three EOP treatments added to red:blue LEDs: 1) ultraviolet-A (EOP-ultraviolet); 2) high blue (EOP-B); or 3) high-intensity (EOP-H) radiation. A fourth treatment was included as a control, with no EOP. Except for EOP-H, all treatments provided a DLI of 15.8 mol·m‒2·d‒1; EOP-H provided a DLI of 31.7 mol·m‒2·d‒1. No treatment differences were measured for shoot fresh weight (FW) of ‘Rouxaï RZ’ but shoot FW of ‘Codex RZ’ was negatively affected by EOP radiation, indicating potential changes in lettuce yield from applying EOP high-energy radiation during active plant growth. In general, EOP treatments did not affect total phenolic content and total carotenoid concentration of plants, but anthocyanin content and antioxidant capacity were positively influenced by EOP-B and EOP-H, whereas EOP-ultraviolet resulted in similar nutritional quality to control. Findings from this study indicate that EOP high-energy radiation, especially EOP-B, has significant potential to improve the nutritional quality of red-leaf lettuce grown in controlled environments.
Sofía Gómez and Celina Gómez
Biostimulant products have various reported benefits for plant production in the field or using hydroponic systems in protected structures. However, limited information is available describing their potential use for indoor farming applications. Considering that lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is one of the most popular crops produced in commercial indoor farms, the objective of this study was to compare growth and quality of lettuce grown indoors using nine biostimulant products derived from humic substances, amino acids, hydrolyzed proteins, or seaweed extracts. ‘Monte Carlo’, ‘Fairly’, and ‘Lalique’ lettuce were grown hydroponically for 30 to 33 days under a daily light integral, day/night temperature, relative humidity, and carbon dioxide concentration of ≈13 mol·m‒2·day‒1, 22/21 °C, 70%, and 800 µmol·mol‒1, respectively. There were no positive effects from using any of the biostimulant products evaluated in our study as growth (leaf area, leaf number, shoot diameter, and shoot and root dry weight), yield (shoot fresh weight), and quality (bolting, tipburn index, leaf color, and SPAD index) of treated plants were generally similar to those from the untreated control. Applications from one seaweed extract caused slight negative growth effects, possibly due to phytotoxicity. Cultivar differences showed that Fairly plants had the highest susceptibility to tipburn and bolting, and none of the biostimulant products countered these symptoms. Overall, the products evaluated provided marginal advantages for indoor hydroponic lettuce production.
Celina Gómez and Cary A. Mitchell
The relative coolness-to-touch of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) has enabled commercial implementation of intracanopy lighting (ICL) in the greenhouse. Intracanopy lighting, which refers to the strategy of lighting along the side or from within the foliar canopy, can increase canopy photosynthetic activity, but physiological and productivity responses of high-wire greenhouse tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) to intracanopy supplemental lighting (SL) still are not yet fully understood. Two consecutive production experiments were conducted across seasons in a glass-glazed greenhouse located in a midnorthern, continental climate [lat. 40°N (West Lafayette, IN)]. Plants were grown from winter-to-summer [increasing solar daily light integral (DLI)] and from summer-to-winter (decreasing solar DLI) to compare three SL strategies for high-wire tomato production across changing solar DLIs: top lighting with high-pressure sodium lamps (HPS) vs. intracanopy LED vertical towers vs. hybrid SL (HPS + horizontal ICL-LEDs). A control treatment also was included for which no SL was provided. Supplemental DLI for each experimental period was adjusted monthly, to complement seasonal changes in sunlight, aiming to approach a target total DLI of 25 mol·m‒2·d‒1 during fruit set. Harvest parameters (total fruit fresh weight, number of fruit harvested, and average cluster fresh weight), tissue temperature, chlorophyll fluorescence, and stomatal conductance (g S) were unaffected by SL treatment in both experiments. Among the physiological parameters evaluated, CO2 assimilation measured under light-saturating conditions, light-limited quantum-use efficiency, and maximum gross CO2 assimilation (A max) proved to be good indicators of how ICL reduces the top-to-bottom decline in leaf photosynthetic activity otherwise measured with top lighting only (HPS-SL or solar). Although SL generally increased fruit yield relative to control, lack of SL treatment differences among harvest parameters indicates that higher crop photosynthetic activity did not increase fruit yield. Compared with control, intracanopy SL increased yield to the same extent as top SL, but the remaining photoassimilate from ICL most likely was partitioned to maintain nonharvested, vegetative plant parts as well.
Celina Gómez and Cary A. Mitchell
Seedlings of six tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) cultivars (‘Maxifort’, ‘Komeett’, ‘Success’, ‘Felicity’, ‘Sheva Sheva’, and ‘Liberty’) were grown monthly for 2-week treatment periods to determine photomorphogenic and developmental responses to different light-quality treatments from supplemental lighting (SL) across changing solar daily light integrals (DLIs). Seedlings were grown in a glass-glazed greenhouse at a midnorth latitude (lat. 40° N, long. 86° W) under one of five lighting treatments: natural solar light only (control), natural + SL from a 100-W high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamp, or natural + SL from arrays of red and blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) using 80% red + 20% blue, 95% red + 5% blue, or 100% red. Varying solar DLI occurred naturally for all treatments, whereas constant DLI of 5.1 mol·m−2·d−1 was provided for all SL treatments. Supplemental lighting increased hypocotyl diameter, epicotyl length, shoot dry weight, leaf number, and leaf expansion relative to the control, whereas hypocotyl elongation decreased when SL was applied. For all cultivars tested, the combination of red and blue in SL typically increased growth of tomato seedlings. These results indicate that blue light in SL has potential to increase overall seedling growth compared with blue-deficient LED SL treatments in overcast, variable-DLI climates.
Elisa Solis-Toapanta, Paul Fisher, and Celina Gómez
To identify practices that may simplify the use of small-scale hydroponic systems for indoor gardening, we compared two nutrient solution management treatments for basil (Ocimum basilicum) production. Experiments were conducted for 8 weeks to evaluate the effect of biweekly replacement of the nutrient solution (W) vs. biweekly fertilizer addition without nutrient solution replacement (W/O) on growth and nutrient uptake of basil ‘Genovese Compact’ grown in either a greenhouse or an indoor environment. Greenhouse day/night temperature was 29/24 ± 4 °C, relative humidity (RH) was 65 ± 4%, and daily light integral (DLI) was 26.1 mol·m‒2·d‒1. The indoor environment had a constant ambient temperature of 21 °C, RH of 65%, and DLI of 9 mol·m‒2·d‒1 provided by broadband white lamps. Four plants were grown in 7.6-L replicate hydroponic systems, with 178 mg·L‒1 N from a complete nutrient solution in two experimental runs. Shoot fresh and dry mass, leaf number, and leaf area showed an increasing quadratic trend over time when plants were grown in the greenhouse. In contrast, growth over time was linear for plants grown indoors. Within each environment, solution management treatment did not affect growth, indicating that the simpler W/O strategy was adequate under these conditions. Plants grown in the greenhouse required more frequent refill water applications compared with indoors, which resulted in three to four times more refill water applied. Because indoor-grown plants had a decreased growth rate, nutrient uptake rate, and volume of water applied compared with plants grown in the greenhouse, electrical conductivity (EC) for the W/O treatment increased over time. Final nutrient solution concentration was highest for indoor-grown plants under the W/O treatment, and final tissue nutrient concentration was higher for plants grown indoors compared with the greenhouse. Final nutrient uptake (dry mass × nutrient concentration) was higher for plants grown in the greenhouse rather than indoors. Considering that EC increased in the solution of indoor-grown plants under W/O, an appropriate strategy using this treatment would require reducing fertilizer input indoors. To refine simple and robust fertilizer management strategies for indoor gardeners, further research is needed to test variables such as different plant species, cultivars, and water qualities.
Elisa Solis-Toapanta and Celina Gómez
In the quest to identify minimum daily light integrals (DLIs) that can sustain indoor gardening, we evaluated DLIs less than the recommended ranges for commercial production of basil (Ocimum basilicum). Experiments were conducted for 8 weeks to evaluate the effect of providing a constant vs. an increasing DLI over time (DLIInc) on growth and photosynthetic capacity of green (‘Genovese Compact’) and purple (‘Red Rubin’) basil grown hydroponically under a constant ambient temperature of 21 °C. Plants were grown under a 14 h·d–1 photoperiod and were subjected to the following DLI treatments: 4 (DLI4), 6 (DLI6), 8 (DLI8), or 10 (DLI10) mol·m–2·d‒1 (80, 119, 159, and 197 µmol·m‒2·s‒1, respectively); DLIInc was used as a fifth treatment and was achieved by transitioning hydroponic systems systematically to treatments with greater DLIs every 2 weeks. In general, regardless of cultivar, leaf area, leaf number, and overall growth [shoot fresh weight (SFW) and shoot dry weight (SDW)] were similar for plants grown under DLIInc to DLI4 and DLI6 during weeks 2, 4, and 6. However, plants grown under DLIInc produced the same leaf area as those grown under DLI10 at week 8. Nonetheless, across weeks, growth was significantly less under DLIInc compared with DLI10, but similar to that produced by DLI8 at week 8. Photosynthetic responses were significant only at week 8, for which leaves of plants grown under DLI8, DLI10, and DLIInc had 15% to 25% greater maximum gross carbon dioxide (CO2) assimilation (A max) than plants grown under DLI4. The light saturation point of photosynthesis was unaffected by DLI, but showed a general increasing trend with greater DLIs. Overall, our results suggest that providing a constantly high DLI results in greater growth and yield than increasing the DLI over time. In addition, we found that changes in A max and the light saturation point are not good indicators of the capacity of whole plants to make use of the available light for photosynthesis and growth. Instead, morphological and developmental traits regulated by DLI during the initial stages of production are most likely responsible for the growth responses measured in our study.
Celina Gómez, Megha Poudel, Matias Yegros, and Paul R. Fisher
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.
Michael P. Dzakovich, Celina Gómez, and Cary A. Mitchell
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are an attractive alternative to high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps for plant growth because of their energy-saving potential. However, the effects of supplementing broad-waveband solar light with narrow-waveband LED light on the sensory attributes of greenhouse-grown tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) are largely unknown. Three separate studies investigating the effect of supplemental light quantity and quality on physicochemical and organoleptic properties of greenhouse-grown tomato fruit were conducted over 4- or 5-month intervals during 2012 and 2013. Tomato cultivars Success, Komeett, and Rebelski were grown hydroponically within a high-wire trellising system in a glass-glazed greenhouse. Chromacity, Brix, titratable acidity, electrical conductivity (EC), and pH measurements of fruit extracts indicated plant response differences between lighting treatments. In sensory panels, tasters ranked tomatoes for color, acidity, and sweetness using an objective scale, whereas color, aroma, texture, sweetness, acidity, aftertaste, and overall approval were ranked using hedonic scales. By collecting both physicochemical as well as sensory data, this study was able to determine whether statistically significant physicochemical parameters of tomato fruit also reflected consumer perception of fruit quality. Sensory panels indicated that statistically significant physicochemical differences were not noticeable to tasters and that tasters engaged in blind testing could not discern between tomatoes from different supplemental lighting treatments or unsupplemented controls. Growers interested in reducing supplemental lighting energy consumption by using intracanopy LED (IC-LED) supplemental lighting need not be concerned that the quality of their tomato fruits will be negatively affected by narrow-band supplemental radiation at the intensities and wavelengths used in this study.
Elisa Solis-Toapanta, Andrei Kirilenko, and Celina Gómez
Social media platforms such as Reddit, centered on user-generated, anonymous discussions, can facilitate the exchange of information and resources across niche online communities known as “subreddits.” Using data mining tools and content analysis methods, our objectives were to identify recurring questions and characterize comment (“response”) accuracy from four subreddits focused on hydroponic indoor gardening (r/hydro, r/Hydroponics, r/UrbanFarming, and r/Aerogarden). A total of 1617 original posts (OPs) were classified into one of ten topics and 4891 primary responses were analyzed for accuracy. The three topics with the most OPs (production systems, plant lighting, and root-zone environment), which accounted for 50% of the total OPs, were subcategorized and inductively analyzed. Most posts in the analyzed subreddits related to confusion regarding the design and implementation of appropriate hydroponic production systems. In addition, misinformation about plant lighting is a major part of discussions about growing plants indoors. There are also knowledge gaps regarding nutrient solution management, particularly about fertilizer formulation, pH balance, and on the impact that solution temperature has on plant growth and development. In general, there were no differences among response accuracy for all topics included in our analysis. However, regardless of topic, responses for most OPs had less than 50% accuracy, which demonstrates that misinformation can be disseminated in social media platforms such as Reddit. As suggested by the results of this study, targeted, open access research and outreach efforts offer an opportunity to address knowledge gaps among consumers interested in indoor gardening.