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Christopher J. Currey and Nicholas J. Flax

Our objective was to quantify foliar ethephon application effects on flowering and growth of several streptocarpus (Streptocarpus ×hybridus) cultivars. ‘Ladyslippers Blue Halo’, ‘Ladyslippers Deep Blue Vein’, and ‘Ladyslippers Red Rose’ streptocarpus were planted in 6-inch containers filled with a soilless substrate. Foliar spray applications of solutions containing 0, 125, 250, 500, or 1000 mg·L−1 ethephon were applied either 2 weeks after planting (one application) or 2 and 4 weeks after planting (two applications). After 13 weeks, the total number of inflorescences was recorded and the growth index (GI) and time to flower were calculated. The efficacy of ethephon sprays depended on the concentration, number of applications, and cultivar. A single application of 250 to 1000 mg·L−1 ethephon delayed flowering of ‘Ladyslipper Deep Blue Vein’ by 9 to 27 days, whereas one application of 1000 mg·L−1 applied to ‘Ladyslipper Red Rose’ delayed flowering by 9 days. Similarly, two applications of any ethephon concentration delayed flowering of ‘Ladyslipper Deep Blue Vein’ by up to 37 days, while flowering of ‘Ladyslipper Red Rose’ was delayed by 17 days when 1000 mg·L−1 was applied. The GI of ‘Ladyslipper Deep Blue’ and ‘Ladyslipper Red Rose’ was unaffected by ethephon and, while the GI of ‘Ladyslipper Blue Halo’ was smaller than untreated plants when one or two applications of 500 or 1000 mg·L−1 ethephon was applied; these smaller plants were still of marketable size and quality. We conclude that ethephon may be used to delay flowering and reduce the number of inflorescences formed before finishing with minimal impact on finished plant size.

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Kellie J. Walters and Christopher J. Currey

Basil (Ocimum sp.) is the most popular fresh culinary herb. However, there is a lack of data characterizing the effect of hydroponic production systems and cultivars on the yield of hydroponically produced basil. Our objectives were to quantify productivity and characterize growth of basil cultivars grown in two hydroponic production systems. Thirty-five basil cultivars, including selections of sweet basil (O. basilicum), holy basil (O. tenuiflorum), and lemon basil (O. ×citriodorum and O. basilicum) were chosen. Seedlings were transplanted into nutrient film technique (NFT) or deep flow technique (DFT) systems and grown for 3 weeks. There was no interaction between basil cultivars and hydroponic production system. Fresh weight of plants grown in DFT systems was 2.6 g greater compared with plants grown in NFT systems. Basil cultivars differed greatly in fresh weight. In general, holy, lemon, and sweet basil cultivars produce moderate to high fresh weight, but vary greatly. Dissimilarly, bush (O. basilicum var. minimum), cinnamon (O. basilicum), large-leaf (O. basilicum), and thai basils (O. basilicum var. thyrisiflorum) produce moderate fresh weight and purple basil (O. basilicum) cultivars produce the least fresh weight. The yield of basil seems to be affected more by cultivar selection than hydroponic production system. Therefore, hydroponic basil producers should select basil cultivars based on flavor and yield, while hydroponic systems should be selected based on operational preferences.

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Kellie J. Walters and Christopher J. Currey

Our objective was to quantify the effect of mineral nutrient concentration of a nutrient solution on the growth of basil species and cultivars grown under high and low photosynthetic daily light integrals (DLIs). Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Nufar’), lemon basil (O. ×citriodorum ‘Lime’), and holy basil (O. tenuiflorum ‘Holy’) seedlings were transplanted into nutrient-film technique (NFT) systems with different nutrient solution electrical conductivities (EC; 0.5, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, or 4.0 dS·m–1) in greenhouses with a low (≈7 mol·m–2·d–1) or high (≈15 mol·m–2·d–1) DLI. Although nutrient solution EC did not affect growth and morphology, increasing DLI did. For example, when sweet basil was grown under a high DLI, the fresh and dry weight, height, and node number increased by 144%, 178%, 20%, and 18%, respectively, compared with plants grown under the low DLI, and branching was also stimulated. In contrast, DLI had little effect on tissue nutrient concentration, although nutrient solution did. Most tissue nutrient concentrations increased with increasing EC, with the exception of Mg and Ca. For example, N in sweet basil increased by 0.6% to 0.7% whereas Mg decreased by 0.2% as EC increased from 0.5 to 4.0 dS·m–1. Across treatments and basil species, tissue nutrient concentrations were generally within recommended ranges with no visible deficiencies. Based on our results, nutrient solution concentrations for hydroponic basil production can be selected based on factors such as other species grown in the same solution or by reducing fertilizer inputs.

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Kellie J. Walters and Christopher J. Currey

Basil (Ocimum sp.) is the most popular fresh culinary herb, but the effects of air temperature on growth and development of basil have not been well characterized. Our objective was to quantify the effects of air temperature on growth and development of three basil species. Seedlings of sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Nufar’), holy basil (O. tenuiflorum), and lemon basil (O. ×citriodorum ‘Lime’ and O. basilicum ‘Sweet Dani’) were placed in five different growth chambers with target air temperatures of 11, 17, 23, 29, or 35 °C. After 3 weeks, chlorophyll fluorescence (F v/F m), plant height, node and branch number, fresh and dry weight, and flowering data were recorded. For all species, F v/F m increased as temperature increased to 17 or 23 °C, then plateaued, whereas height increased with temperature to 23 or 29 °C. Also, the percentage of plants with flowers or flower buds increased with temperature to 17 or 23 °C for all species, with the exception of sweet basil, of which all plants were vegetative and node appearance rate was calculated. Sweet basil node appearance increased from 0.03 to 0.30 node/day as the temperature increased from 11 to 29 °C. Fresh weight gain increased with increasing temperature to 29 °C, but then decreased at 35 °C. Data from plants grown within the linear air temperature range were used to develop models for calculating the base temperature (Tb) and predicting growth in response to air temperature. These models can be applied by commercial producers to schedule crops and predict yields.

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Christopher J. Currey and Roberto G. Lopez

Total crop management (TCM) is a holistic approach to crop production that integrates data collection and interpretation to facilitate decisions that produce a uniform, high-quality, and marketable crop. Our objective was to determine if integrating TCM into poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) production experiences at two separate land-grant universities would improve student confidence in greenhouse potted plant production decision-making skills. Students produced containerized poinsettias and collected data on the greenhouse environment [light, temperature, and relative humidity (RH)], plant growth, media properties, irrigation water quality, and pest populations weekly at Purdue University (PU) (2011 and 2013) and Iowa State University (ISU) (2013) or biweekly (2015). Students were provided with self-assessments at the beginning and end of each course with statements about TCM and the various components comprising TCM activities. For nearly every statement at both institutions, self-assessments in confidence and understanding increased on the pre- to postsemester surveys. The systematic data collection combined with discussion and reflection provides an opportunity for peer instruction and learning. We believe TCM increases student confidence in their greenhouse plant production skills.

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Christopher J. Currey and Roberto G. Lopez

Increasing photosynthetic daily light integral (DLI) by supplementing with high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps during propagation has been shown to enhance photosynthesis and biomass accumulation of cuttings. The development of high-intensity light-emitting diodes (LEDs) is a promising technology with potential as a greenhouse supplemental lighting source. Our objective was to quantify the impact of narrow spectra supplemental lighting from LEDs on growth, morphology, and gas exchange of cuttings compared with traditional HPS supplemental lighting. Cuttings of Impatiens hawkeri W. Bull ‘Celebrette Frost’, Pelargonium ×hortorum L.H. Bailey ‘Designer Bright Red’, and Petunia ×hybrida Vilm. ‘Suncatcher Midnight Blue’ were received from a commercial propagator and propagated in a glass-glazed greenhouse at 23 °C air and substrate temperature set points. After callusing (≈5 mol·m−2·d−1 for 7 days), cuttings were placed under 70 μmol·m−2·s−1 delivered from HPS lamps or LED arrays with varying proportions (%) of red:blue light (100:0, 85:15, or 70:30). After 14 days under supplemental lighting treatments, growth, morphology, and gas exchange of rooted cuttings were measured. There were no significant differences among Impatiens and Pelargonium cuttings grown under different supplemental light sources. However, compared with cuttings propagated under HPS lamps, stem length of Petunia cuttings grown under 100:0 red:blue LEDs was 11% shorter, whereas leaf dry mass, root dry mass, root mass ratios, and root:shoot ratio of cuttings grown under 70:30 red:blue LEDs were 15%, 36%, 17%, and 24% higher, respectively. Supplemental light source had minimal impact on plants after transplant. Our data suggest that LEDs are suitable replacements for HPS lamps as supplemental light sources during cutting propagation.

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Christopher J. Currey and Roberto G. Lopez

Plant growth retardants (PGRs) are commonly applied to control poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) stem elongation to meet a target final height. Two weeks after pinching, 4-fl·oz substrate drenches containing 0.0, 0.05, 0.10, 0.15, 0.20, or 0.25 mg·L−1 flurprimidol were applied to high-vigor ‘Orion’ and low-vigor ‘Polly Pink’ poinsettia (Expt. I); while drenches containing 0.0, 0.05, 0.10, or 0.15 mg·L−1 flurprimidol or a foliar spray containing 1250 mg·L−1 daminozide and 750 mg·L−1 chlormequat chloride were applied to high-vigor ‘Classic Red’ and low-vigor ‘Freedom Salmon’ poinsettia (Expt. II). Final height of ‘Orion’ and ‘Polly's Pink’ poinsettia was suppressed by 12% to 25% and 13% to 30%, respectively, as flurprimidol concentration increased from 0.05 to 0.25 mg·L−1. Final height of ‘Classic Red’ and ‘Freedom Salmon’ was suppressed by 11% to 30% and 10% to 19%, respectively, as flurprimidol concentration increased from 0.05 to 0.15 mg·L−1. Although the daminozide and chlormequat chloride spray had no significant effect on bract area index compared with untreated plants, bract area index was smaller for all plants treated with flurprimidol. However, the bract area to height ratio of all cultivars was not impacted by any PGR application, indicating aesthetic appearance was not negatively affected with smaller bract area. Time to anthesis was delayed by up to 4 days when 0.10 mg·L−1 was applied to ‘Classic Red’, although no significant delays were observed for the remaining cultivars. Based on these results, flurprimidol may be applied as an early drench to suppress height of poinsettia without adversely impacting finished plant quality or crop timing.

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Christopher J. Currey and Roberto G. Lopez

During the propagation of herbaceous stem-tip cuttings, the photosynthetic daily light integral (DLI) inside greenhouses can be low (≈1–4 mol·m−2·d−1) during the winter and early spring when propagation typically occurs. The mechanisms by which cuttings adapt biomass allocation patterns, gas exchange, and starch accumulation in response to the photosynthetic DLI are not clearly understood. Our objectives were to quantify the impact of DLI on growth, photosynthesis, and carbohydrate concentration during the root development phase of cutting propagation. Petunia (Petunia ×hybrida ‘Suncatcher Midnight Blue’), geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum ‘Fantasia Dark Red’), and new guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri ‘Celebration Pink’) cuttings were propagated in a glass-glazed greenhouse with 23 °C air and substrate temperature set points. After callusing (≈5 mol·m−2·d−1 for 7 days), cuttings of each species were placed under either no shade or one of the two different fixed-woven shade cloths providing ≈38% or 86% shade with 16 hours of supplemental light for 14 days, resulting in DLIs of 13.0‒14.2, 5.5‒6.0, and 2.0‒2.4 mol·m−2·d−1, respectively. Leaf, stem, and root biomass accumulation increased linearly with DLI by up to 122% (geranium), 118% (petunia), and 211% (new guinea impatiens), as DLI increased by ≈11‒12 mol·m−2·d−1, while relative biomass allocation into roots increased under increasing DLI. Compared with cuttings rooted under low DLIs (2.0‒2.4 mol·m−2·d−1), cuttings of all three species generally had greater maximum gross photosynthesis under high DLIs (13.0‒14.2 mol·m−2·d−1) starting 5 or 8 days after transfer. Starch concentration increased with DLI by up to 946% (impatiens) during propagation. Taken together, the increased growth of cuttings appears to be a result of increased carbohydrate availability from elevated photosynthesis and/or photosynthetic capacity.

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Christopher J. Currey and Roberto G. Lopez

The influence of pre-plant bulb dips in paclobutrazol solutions on final plant height, days to flower, and flower bud number were evaluated for easter lily (Lilium longiflorum). ‘Nellie White’ easter lily bulbs were placed in solutions of paclobutrazol containing 0, 30, 60, or 120 mg·L−1 for 15 min preceding planting. Days to flower and flower bud number were unaffected by paclobutrazol. Plant height at flowering for bulbs dipped in paclobutrazol solutions was 15% to 26% shorter compared with untreated bulbs. Additionally, dipping bulbs in 120 mg·L−1 paclobutrazol resulted in plants that met target height specifications for commercially grown easter lily. Based on these results, dipping easter lily bulbs in paclobutrazol solutions can be an effective strategy for reducing stem elongation without negatively impacting days to flower or flower bud number for commercially grown easter lily.

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Christopher J. Currey and John E. Erwin

Our objectives were to assess the efficacy of various plant growth regulators (PGRs) on stem elongation and branching of 11 kalanchoe (Kalanchoe) species with ornamental characteristics: beauvard’s widow’s-thrill (K. beauvardii), K. glaucescens, lavender scallops or red-leaved kalanchoe (K. fedtschenkoi), K. longiflora, chandelier plant (K. manginii), marnier’s kalanchoe (K. marnieriana), K. millotii, flower dust plant (K. pumila), K. rosei, common kalanchoe or nentabos (K. rotundifolia), and K. streptantha. Foliar spray applications of deionized water, ancymidol (15−60 ppm), benzyladenine (75−300 ppm), chlormequat chloride (750−3000 ppm), daminozide (1250−5000 ppm), ethephon (250−1000 ppm), paclobutrazol (10−40 ppm), or uniconazole (5−20 ppm) were applied 2 weeks after plants were pinched. Stem length at the time of application and 4 weeks after applications and branch number were recorded. While effective chemicals and concentrations varied widely among species, paclobutrazol and uniconazole were identified as providing broad efficacy with respect to inhibition of stem elongation across all 11 species in this study. Additionally, benzyladenine and ethephon increased the number of branches for several species.