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  • Author or Editor: Johann S. Buck x
  • HortTechnology x
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Cherry tomato (Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme) plants were grown hydroponically with three different regimes of electrical conductivity (EC) of the nutrient solution to develop an effective EC management method to enhance the fruit quality. The EC treatments examined were 1) continuous high EC [4.7 dS·m−1 (HE)], 2) continuous low EC [2.8 dS·m−1 (LE)], and 3) high EC combined with midday (1030–1530 hr) low EC [midday reduction of high EC (MDR)]. The research was conducted to obtain preliminary information on the effect of EC treatments on the yield and fruit quality for 15 weeks of harvest under semiarid greenhouse conditions. Harvested fruit were sorted to several quality grades, including the “premium” grade based on fruit size, color, and total soluble solids. The number of fruit per truss was significantly higher in cultivar L308 than in cultivar L907 and in the LE treatment than in the HE or MDR treatment. The fruit size decreased over time regardless of EC treatment and cultivar. Cumulative yield of 15 weeks was greater in the LE treatment (26.3 kg·m−2) than in the HE treatment (22.1 kg·m−2) for ‘L907’, and there were no significant differences between the three EC treatments for ‘L308’ (24.1–28.1 kg·m−2). The cumulative yield in the MDR treatment was similar to that in the LE treatment regardless of cultivar. When quality attributes such as total soluble solids concentration measured for randomly sampled fruit were considered, cumulative premium-grade yield was the greatest for the HE treatment (12.9 or 17.6 kg·m−2) and was the smallest for the LE treatment (1.4 or 12.1 kg·m−2), regardless of cultivar. The cumulative yield of premium-grade cherry tomatoes in the MDR treatment was not significantly different from that in the HE treatment for ‘L308’ but was 11% less than that in the HE treatment for ‘L907’. Therefore, together with cultivar selection, the MDR treatment may be a potential alternative to a more commonly practiced continuously high EC treatment in semiarid greenhouses with limited environmental control capacity in which increasing the nutrient EC to increase quality is desired without significantly decreasing yield.

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The primary objective of this research was to compare the pH, electrical conductivity (EC), and primary macronutrient status of three ground parboiled fresh rice hull (PBH) products to sphagnum peat when used as a root substrate over 56 days in a greenhouse environment. The three grades of ground rice hull products were produced by grinding PBH and passing the ground product through different screens. One grade (P3) was passed through a 2.00-mm screen and captured on a 1.00-mm screen. The second grade (P4) was passed through a 1.00-mm screen and captured on 0.50-mm screen. A third ground rice hull product (RH3) was a commercially available, ground PBH material that was ground in a hammer mill until it passed through a screen with 1.18-mm-diameter openings and was collected on a screen with 0.18-mm openings. The pH of sphagnum peat ranged from 3.4 to 3.7 across time. The pH of RH3 and P3 increased from 4.7 to 7.1 on day 5 and 14, respectively, before decreasing to 6.3 and 6.7, respectively, on day 56. The pH of P4 increased from 4.8 to 6.9 on day 6 before decreasing to 6.6 on day 56. The P4 had an EC of 1.2 dS·m−1, which was higher than that of peat, RH3, and P3, which had similar EC of 0.7 to 0.8 dS·m−1 regardless of time. The ammonium (NH4 +) concentration was unaffected by time. Peat had an NH4 + concentration of 6.4 mg·L−1, which was lower than that of the ground rice hull products. The P3 had an NH4 + concentration of 14.6 mg·L−1, which was higher than that of RH3 and P4. The RH3 and P4 had similar NH4 + concentrations of 11.8 and 10.8 mg·L−1, respectively. The nitrate (NO3 ) concentration was unaffected by time. The RH3 had a NO3 concentration of 8.2 mg·L−1, which was significantly higher than that of peat, P3, and P4, which had similar NO3 concentrations of 0.5 mg·L−1. The phosphorus (P) concentration in peat ranged from 1.3 to 2.5 mg·L−1 across the sampling times, and peat had a lower P concentration than all rice hull products, which ranged from 57.4 to 104.4 mg·L−1. The potassium (K) concentration in peat ranged from 2 to 5 mg·L−1 across the sampling times and was always lower than that of the rice hull products, which had a K concentration ranging from 195 to 394 mg·L−1. Because pH, P, and K concentrations were above recommended concentrations, ground rice hull products would not be suitable as a stand-alone substrate but might be amended with materials such as elemental sulfur or iron sulfate to adjust the pH or blended with other components to reduce the P and K concentrations to within recommended concentrations.

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