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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.

Open Access

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.

Open Access

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.

Open Access

Understanding preferences and challenges of home gardeners is valuable to the consumer-horticulture industry. Citizen scientists in Florida were recruited to grow compact tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plants started from seed, as transplants, or as flowering plants in a 16-week experiment. Participants, who had various gardening experience levels, were provided with a kit containing all materials needed to grow plants to maturity. Project engagement was encouraged with monthly online meetings and a social media page. A survey was delivered at the end of the project and completed by 117 participants. The survey aimed to evaluate participants’ preferences, challenges, and experiences with each plant product. Plants started as seed or as flowering plants were equally preferred among participants and were rated higher than transplants. However, participants were least satisfied with the yield, rate of plant growth, fruit taste, and care required to grow plants started from seed. Ninety-one percent of participants said they would be willing to pay more for flowering plants than for transplants. Across plant products, pests and flower/fruit drop were reported as challenges by up to 85% and 18% of participants, respectively. Results from this study highlight the potential of using citizen science to assess gardening experiences and preferences, which can support stakeholders who cater to the consumer-horticulture industry.

Open Access

Numerous compact pepper (Capsicum annuum) cultivars are available for home gardening. However, evaluations under different environmental conditions are limited. This study aimed to characterize growth and productivity of 14 compact pepper cultivars grown indoors under environmental conditions that simulated a residential space (11 mol·m−2·d−1 provided by white of light-emitting diode fixtures, constant 22 °C, and moderate relative humidity of 40% to 60%) and in a greenhouse with sunlight only. Plants in the greenhouse were generally larger in size and produced more fruit [both in number and total fresh weight (FW)] than those grown indoors. For example, growth index, which is a measure of canopy volume that integrates shoot height and width, and fruit FW were up to 250% and 621% higher in the greenhouse than indoors, respectively. ‘Fresh Bites Red Improved’ and ‘Sweet Yellow’ had the highest fruit FW per plant when grown in the greenhouse (695 g) and indoors (483 g), respectively. All cultivars evaluated in this study are recommended for gardening under sunlight, and most for indoor gardening except for Cosmo, Pinata, and Yellow Tomato, which had the lowest fruit FW when grown indoors (61, 59, and 52 g) and thus, should not be recommended to consumers aiming to maximize fruit yield. In addition, ‘Cayennetta’, ‘Cheyenne’, ‘Hot Tomato Red’, ‘Pinata’, ‘Spicy Jane’, and ‘Sweet Yellow’ were affected by intumescence, which could negatively affect indoor gardening experiences until widespread recommendations to mitigate this disorder become available.

Open Access

Interest in hydroponic home gardening has increased in recent years. However, research is lacking on minimum inputs required to consistently produce fresh produce using small-scale hydroponic systems for noncommercial purposes. Our objectives were to 1) evaluate the effect of biweekly nutrient solution replacements (W) vs. biweekly fertilizer addition without a nutrient solution replacement (W/O) on final growth, yield, and nutrient uptake of hydroponic tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plants grown in a greenhouse, and 2) characterize growth over time in a greenhouse or an indoor environment using W. For each environment, ‘Bush Goliath’ tomato plants were grown for 12 weeks in 6.5-gal hydroponic systems. The experiment was replicated twice over time. In the greenhouse, plants were exposed to the following day/night temperature, relative humidity (RH), and daily light integral (DLI) in 2018 (mean ± SD): 31 ± 6/22 ± 2 °C, 67% ± 8%, and 32.4 ± 7 mol·m‒2·d‒1; and in 2019: 28 ± 6/22 ± 3 °C, 68% ± 5%, and 27.7 ± 6 mol·m‒2·d‒1. For both experimental runs indoors, the day/night temperature, RH, and DLI were 21 ± 2 °C, 60% ± 4%, and 20 ± 2 mol·m‒2·d‒1 provided by broadband white light-emitting diode lamps. The W/O treatment resulted in a higher-than-desired electrical conductivity (EC) and total nutrient concentration by the end of the experiment. In addition, compared with the W treatment, W/O resulted in less leaf area, more shoot growth, less water uptake, and similar fruit number—but increased blossom-end-rot incidence, delayed fruit ripening, and lower fruit fresh weight. Nonetheless, the final concentration of all nutrients was almost completely depleted at week 12 under W, suggesting that the applied fertilizer concentration could be increased as fruiting occurs. Surprisingly, shoot biomass, leaf area, and leaf number followed a linear trend over time in both environments. Nonetheless, given the higher DLI and temperature, greenhouse-grown plants produced 4 to 5 kg more of fruit than those grown indoors, but fruit from plants grown indoors were unaffected by blossom-end-rot. Our findings indicate that recommendations for nutrient solution management strategies should consider specific crop needs, growing environments, and production goals by home gardeners.

Open Access

Citizen science is a participatory research method that enlists community members as scientists to collect data at a scale that would not be possible for researchers on their own and in research contexts that are difficult for researchers to reach. Although the contribution of citizen science to scientific data collection is well-known, a new area of research investigates the impact that citizen science programs have on the citizen scientists. Gardening can support healthy dietary patterns, food access, and food system resilience in urban communities. Leveraging home gardening can be a good way for cooperative extension and community groups to support the health and wellbeing of their community members. However, to reap the health and community benefits of gardening, individuals need to adopt the behavior of gardening. In this study, researchers from University of Florida conducted a home gardening citizen science program between Mar 2022 and Jul 2022 for the purpose of assessing whether participating in a citizen science home gardening program increases the likelihood of participants’ future home gardening. Researchers used a matched pretest and posttest evaluation design to assess whether participation in this program affected the citizen scientists’ (n = 112) beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions of home gardening. Citizen science program participants improved their attitudes and beliefs about home gardening but had limited improvement in their self-efficacy about home gardening after participation in the program. A 1-year follow-up survey found that program participants had adopted new gardening behaviors and reported benefits of participating in the program beyond gardening. These results highlight the value of citizen science to facilitate intentions to home garden and show the importance of information and program support to ensure the success of program participants.

Open Access

Electric supplemental lighting can account for a significant proportion of total greenhouse energy costs. Thus, the objectives of this study were to compare high-wire tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) production with and without supplemental lighting and to evaluate two different lighting positions + light sources [traditional high-pressure sodium (HPS) overhead lighting (OHL) lamps vs. light-emitting diode (LED) intracanopy lighting (ICL) towers] on several production and energy-consumption parameters for two commercial tomato cultivars. Results indicated that regardless of the lighting position + source, supplemental lighting induced early fruit production and increased node number, fruit number (FN), and total fruit fresh weight (FW) for both cultivars compared with unsupplemented controls for a winter-to-summer production period. Furthermore, no productivity differences were measured between the two supplemental lighting treatments. The energy-consumption metrics indicated that the electrical conversion efficiency for light-emitting intracanopy lighting (LED-ICL) into fruit biomass was 75% higher than that for HPS-OHL. Thus, the lighting cost per average fruit grown under the HPS-OHL lamps was 403% more than that of using LED-ICL towers. Although no increase in yield was measured using LED-ICL, significant energy savings for lighting occurred without compromising fruit yield.

Full 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

There are economic and knowledge-based challenges that must be addressed for indoor farms to be viable in the United States despite their potential benefits. A mixed-methods approach was used to identify the needs of specialty crop growers and stakeholders interested in or currently using indoor propagation environments to grow seedlings, cuttings, and tissue-cultured plants. An online survey evaluated specialty crop growers’ current use of indoor plant propagation environments and their needs related to indoor plant propagation. A focus group was then conducted to further understand the needs for indoor plant propagation by stakeholders. Industry participants were largely motivated to adopt indoor propagation environments to reduce crop losses (“shrinkage”), increase productivity per unit of land area, ensure faster germination or rooting, improve plant quality, and profit from anticipated economic benefits. Research and education priority areas identified by stakeholders included economic costs and benefits (including capital investment and energy costs), improved crop quality, production time, uniformity, reduced shrinkage, and strategies to improve light management indoors. Based on the results, research efforts must determine and prioritize the most important economic considerations and production advantages to fill important gaps in knowledge about indoor plant propagation.

Open Access