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  • Author or Editor: Michael R. Evans x
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Seed of Pelargonium ×hortorum L.H. Bailey `Freckles' (geranium) and Tagetes patula L. `Bonanza' (marigold) were soaked for 12, 24, or 48 h in solutions containing 0 (deionized water), 5000, 10,000, or 15,000 mg·L-1 humic acid (HA) or nutrient controls (NC) containing similar levels of nutrients prior to planting. Soaking in deionized water (DI) and NC treatments had no significant effect on root fresh weight. However, several of the HA treatments increased root fresh weight of marigold seedlings, and all increased geranium root fresh weight. Percentage of germination and shoot fresh weight were not significantly affected by treatment. Seed of Cucumis sativus L. `Salad Bush' (cucumber), Cucurbita pepo L. `Golden Summer Crookneck' (squash), `Freckles' geranium and `Bonanza' marigold were sown into 15-cell plug trays (5 mL volume), and the substrate was drenched with DI, 2500 or 5000 mg·L-1 HA, or 2500 or 5000 mg·L-1 NC. DI and NC treatments did not affect root fresh weight. However, cucumber, squash, and marigold seedlings germinated in substrate drenched with 2500 and 5000 mg·L-1 HA and geranium seedlings germinated in substrate drenched with 2500 mg·L-1 HA had significantly higher root fresh weight than did seedlings from all other treatments. Percentage of germination and shoot fresh weight were not significantly affected by treatment. `Salad Bush' cucumber and `Golden Summer Crookneck' squash seedlings germinated on germination towels soaked with 2500 or 5000 mg·L-1 HA, had significantly higher root fresh weight than did seedlings germinated on towels soaked with DI or NC solutions. Treatment with HA did not affect shoot fresh weight or the number of lateral roots. However, HA treatment increased the total length of lateral roots. The increase in lateral root growth occurred primarily in lateral roots developing from the lower hypocotyl.

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When the substrate surface and drainage holes of feather fiber, peat, and plastic containers were sealed with wax, hyperbolic growth curves were good fits to cumulative water loss on a per container and per cm2 basis, with R 2 values ranging from 0.88 to 0.96. The effect of container type was significant as the differences in asymptotic maximum water loss (max) values for all container pairs were significant at P < 0.05 for both water loss per container and water loss per cm2. The predicted total water loss for peat containers was ≈2.5 times greater than feather containers, and the predicted water loss per cm2 for the peat container was ≈3 times greater than feather containers. Vinca [Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don.] `Cooler Blush' and impatiens (Impatiens walleriana Hook f.) `Dazzler Rose Star' plants grown in feather and peat containers required more water and more frequent irrigations than those grown in plastic containers. However, plants grown in feather containers required less water and fewer irrigations than plants grown in peat containers. The surface area of containers covered by algal or fungal growth was significantly higher on peat containers than on feather containers. No fungal or algal growth was observed on plastic containers. Additionally, primarily algae were observed on peat containers whereas most discoloration observed on feather containers was due to fungal growth. Dry feather containers had a higher longitudinal strength than dry plastic containers but a lower longitudinal strength than dry peat containers. Wet feather containers had higher longitudinal strength than wet peat containers but a similar longitudinal strength as wet plastic containers. Dry feather and plastic containers had similar lateral strengths and both had significantly higher lateral strength than dry peat containers. Wet feather containers had significantly lower lateral strength than wet plastic containers but had higher lateral strength than wet peat containers. Dry and wet plastic containers had higher punch strength than wet or dry peat and feather containers. Dry peat containers had significantly higher punch strength than dry feather containers. However, wet feather containers had significantly higher punch strength than wet peat containers. Decomposition of peat and feather containers was significantly affected by container type and the species grown in the container. When planted with tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum L.) `Better Boy', decomposition was not significantly different between the peat and feather containers. However, when vinca and marigold (Tagetes patula L.) `Janie Bright Yellow' were grown in the containers, decomposition was significantly higher for feather containers than for peat containers. Therefore, containers made from processed feather fiber provided a new type of biodegradable container with significantly improved characteristics as compared to peat containers.

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A biodegradable container made from processed waste poultry feathers was developed, and plant growth was evaluated in plastic, peat, and feather containers. Under uniform irrigation and fertilization, dry shoot weights of `Janie Bright Yellow' marigold (Tagetes patula L.), `Cooler Blush' vinca [Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don.] and `Orbit Cardinal' geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum L.H. Bailey) plants grown in feather containers were higher than for those grown in peat containers, but lower than those grown in plastic containers. Container type did not significantly affect dry shoot weights of `Dazzler Rose Star' impatiens (Impatiens walleriana Hook.f.). `Better Boy' tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum L.) dry shoot weights were similar when grown in peat and feather containers. Feather containers were initially hydrophobic, and several irrigation cycles were required before the feather container walls absorbed water. If allowed to dry, feather containers again became hydrophobic and required several irrigations to reabsorb water from the substrate. Peat containers readily absorbed water from the substrate. Substrate in peat containers dried more rapidly than the substrate in feather containers. Plants grown in peat containers often reached the point of incipient wilting between irrigations, whereas plants grown in feather containers did not. This may have been a factor that resulted in higher dry shoot weights of plants grown in feather containers than in peat containers. Tomato plants grown in feather containers had higher tissue N content than those grown in plastic or peat containers. The availability of additional N from the feather container may also have been a factor that resulted in higher dry shoot weights of plants grown in feather containers than in peat ones. Under non-uniform irrigation and fertilization, dry shoot weights of impatiens and vinca grown in feather containers were significantly higher than those of plants grown in plastic or peat containers. When grown under simulated field conditions, geranium dry shoot weights were significantly higher for plants initially grown in feather containers than for those initially grown in peat containers. Container type did not significantly affect dry shoot weights of vinca when grown under simulated field conditions. As roots readily penetrated the walls of both feather and peat containers, dry root weights of vinca and geranium were not significantly affected by container type when grown under simulated field conditions.

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Seedlings of Cucumis sativus (cucumber), Tagetes patula (marigold), Viola tricolor (pansy), Pelargonium × hortorum (geranium), and Impatiens wallerana (impatiens) were germinated on towels soaked with either deionized water, nutrient control solutions, or humic acid solutions. Root fresh weight and root dry weights were higher for all seedlings germinated on towels soaked with humic acid as compared to seedlings germinated on towels soaked with deionized water or nutrient control solutions. Lateral root number and total lateral root length were higher for cucumber, marigold, pansy, and geranium seedlings germinated on towels soaked with humic acid than those germinated on towels soaked with deionized water or nutrient control solutions. Root fresh and dry weights were higher for impatiens, Begonia semperflorens (begonia), marigold, and geranium seedlings germinated in a sphagnum peat: vermiculite (80:20, %v/v) substrate drenched with humic acid as compared to seedlings germinated in substrate drenched with deionized water or nutrient control solutions. Foliar sprays of humic acid also resulted in increased root fresh and dry weights while foliar application of nutrient control solutions either had no effect or reduced root fresh and dry weights.

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A comparison was made of Canadian sphagnum peat (SP) and Philippine coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) coir dust (CD) as growing media components for Dieffenbachia maculata [(Lodd.) G. Don] `Camille' greenhouse production. Three soilless foliage plant growing mixes [Cornell, Hybrid, Univ. of Florida #2 (UF-2)] were prepared using either SP or CD and pine bark (PB), vermiculite (V), and/or perlite (P) in the following ratios (percent by volume): Cornell = 50 CD or SP:25 V:25 P, Hybrid = 40 CD or SP:30 V:30 PB, UF-2 = 50 CD or SP:50 PB. Initial CI concentrations and electrical conductivities were higher for CD-containing media (CDM) than SP-containing media (SPM). At termination, Ca, Mg, and NO3-N concentrations were higher for SPM than CDM. Bulk densities were lower for CDM than SPM for one medium, but not for the others. Water-filled pore space (W-FPS) and water-holding capacity (W-HC) were larger and air-filled pore space (A-FPS) generally was smaller for CDM than SPM. Cornell had the highest W-FPS and W-HC, lowest A-FPS and percentage of large particles, and produced the highest grade and heaviest plants. Plant top grades, fresh mass and overall mass, but not root grades and mass, were higher for CDM than SPM. Plant mass was positively correlated with initial medium W-HC but not with A-FPS. Lower K in mix UF-2 compared to the mixes containing vermiculite may have been partly responsible for the lesser growth in that mix.

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Geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum L.H. Bailey) `Freckles' and poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzch) `Freedom' were grown in six peat and shredded-rubber substrates formulated to contain 75:25:0, 50:50:0, 25:75:0, 75:0:25, 50:0:50, 25:0:75 sphagnum peat: fine-grade rubber: coarse-grade rubber (by volume). Additionally, plants were grown in a 50 peat: 30 perlite: 20 loam (by volume) control substrate. Shredded rubber-containing substrates had higher bulk densities, lower total pore space, and higher total solids than the control substrate. Fine rubber-containing substrates had lower air-filled pore space (AFP) and lower water-holding capacities (WHC) than the control substrate. Substrates containing 25% coarse rubber had lower AFP and WHC than the control, but substrates containing 50% and 75% coarse shredded rubber had higher AFP and lower WHC than the control. Shredded rubber-containing substrates had significantly higher levels of Zn than the control substrate. Plants grown in rubber-containing substrates had tissue Zn levels significantly higher than the control and at levels reported to be phytotoxic in other species. Geraniums grown in rubber-containing substrates had lower root and shoot fresh mass, were shorter, and had fewer axillary branches than those grown in the control substrate. Poinsettia plants grown in rubber-containing substrates were shorter, had lower shoot fresh mass, fewer bracts, and lower bract area as compared to plants grown in the control substrate.

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Glycine max (soybean) seed were sown in root substrates composed of 80:0:20 or 0:80:20 coconut coir dust (coir):Sphagnum peat (peat):perlite (v/v) amended with dolomitic limestone to a pH of 5.5. Substrates were inoculated with Phytophthora megasperma races 5 and 25 isolated from soybean and grown in dilute liquid V-8 cultures. Uninoculated controls were included. Containers were watered daily to maintain moisture levels at or near container capacity. The experiment was repeated twice. Plants grown in peat-based root substrates inoculated with P. megasperma suffered 50% to 100% mortality. No plants in coir-based root substrates displayed visually apparent infection symptoms. Soybean seed were also sown in root substrates that contained 0:80:20, 20:60:20, 40:40:20, 60:20:20 or 80:0:20 coir:peat:perlite (v/v). Inoculum of P. megasperma races 1, 5, and 25 was grown on water agar and diluted in deionized water. Solution containing 20,000 colony-forming units (oospores) was mixed into the root substrate of each container. Uninoculated controls were included. As the proportion of coir in the substrate increased, the mortality, the number of plants displaying disease symptoms and the severity of disease symptoms decreased. Plants grown in substrates containing at least 60% coir displayed no visually evident disease symptoms.

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Cucumis sativus (cucumber), Pelargonium × hortorum (geranium), Tagetes patula (marigold), and Cucurbita pepo (squash) seed were sown into plug cells (5 ml volume) filled with a germination substrate containing peat, vermiculite, and perlite. After the seed were sown, the substrate was saturated with solution containing 0 (deionized water) 2500, or 5000 mg/L humic acid (HA). Additional treatments included seed which were sown into the substrate and saturated with nutrient solutions corresponding to the nutrient concentration of each humic acid solution. Seed were placed in a growth chamber and maintained at 22°C and under a 12-h photoperiod with a PPF of 275 μmol·m–2·s–1. After 10 d for cucumber and squash and 14 d for marigold and geranium, plants were harvested and root and shoot fresh mass recorded. Shoot fresh mass was not significantly affected by treatment for any of the species tested. Except for squash, root fresh mass was significantly increased by humic acid treatments. For cucumber, root fresh mass ranged from 0.24 g in deionized water to 0.34 g in 2500 and 5000 mg/L HA. Geranium root fresh mass ranged from 0.03 g in deionized water and 5000 mg/L HA to 0.05 g in 2500 mg/L HA. Marigold root fresh mass ranged from 0.02 g in deionized water to 0.03 g in 2500 and 5000 mg/L HA. Root fresh mass for nutrient controls were similar to those for deionized water.

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Vegetative 6-cm Euphorbia pulcherrima `Freedom' cuttings were placed in black 200-ml bottles containing humic acid solutions, nutrient solutions, or deionized water. Humic acid solutions were prepared using Enersol SC (American Colloid, Arlington Heights, Ill.). Concentrations of 500, 750, and 1000 mg/L humic acid were compared to solutions containing mineral element concentrations equivalent to those contained in humic acid solutions. After 4 weeks, 88%, 75%, and 88% of cuttings had rooted in the 500, 750, and 1000 mg/L humic acid solutions, respectively. Cuttings placed in nutrient controls or deionized water failed to form roots after 4 weeks. Average root fresh mass was 175, 80, and 72 mg for cuttings placed in 500, 750, and 1000 mg/L humic acid solution, respectively. Average number of roots formed per cutting ranged from 21 in the 500-mg/L solution to 6 in the 1000-mg/L solution. Average lengths ranged from 26 mm in the 500-mg/L to 12 in the 1000-mg/L solution. As humic acid concentration increased, average root fresh mass, average number of roots, and the length of the longest root significantly decreased.

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Pepper (Capsicum annuum) and impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) plants were grown in substrates composed of 20% perlite and 20%, 40%, 60% or 80% of a coarse, medium or fine grind of fresh rice hulls with the remainder being Sphagnum peat. Impatiens grown in substrates containing 40% of a coarse, medium or fine and 80% of a fine grind of rice hulls had similar shoot dry weights as those grown in a substrate containing 80% peat. Only impatiens grown in a root substrate containing 40% of the coarse grind of fresh rice hulls had lower root dry weight than those grown in substrates containing 80% peat. Peppers grown in a substrate containing 60% and 80% of a coarse, 60% of a medium or 60% and 80% of a fine grind of fresh rice hulls had similar shoot dry weights as those grown in a substrate containing 80% peat. There were no significant differences in pepper root dry weights among the substrates. Impatiens and pepper plants grown in a substrate containing 80% of the fine grind of fresh rice hulls were similar to those grown in 80% peat, and therefore, the fine grind of fresh rice hulls served as a suitable substitute for Sphagnum peat.

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