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  • Author or Editor: Samuel Doty x
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Ornamental bedding plant operations transitioning to leafy greens and herb production must decide whether to invest in new hydroponic equipment or modify existing culture systems for edible crops. In addition, common practices used to increase space-use and production efficiencies during bedding plant production may be modified for hydroponic leafy greens and herbs, such as purchasing large seedlings for transplant. The objective of the first experiment was to evaluate plant growth in a modified and novel shallow aggregate ebb-and-flood (SAEF) system intended for bedding plant growers with an emphasis on comparing yield across four basil (Ocimum basilicum) cultivars grown in the SAEF system to those grown using the traditional nutrient film technique (NFT) and deep water culture (DWC) hydroponic systems. The second experiment objective was to evaluate basil seedling size and the time of transplant to NFT hydroponic systems to determine effects on the final yield. ‘Genovese’ basil seedlings were grown in trays with cell counts of 32, 50, 72, 105, and 162 cells with corresponding root volumes per plant of 98.1, 50.2, 38.5, 19.6, and 16.3 cm3, respectively. Seedlings were transplanted to NFT systems at 14, 21, and 28 days after sowing and were harvested at 35 days. In the first experiment, overall basil shoot fresh and dry weights per plant were intermediate in the SAEF system (90.4 and 8.3 g) compared with the DWC (102.6 and 9.1 g) and NFT (75.8 and 6.6 g) hydroponic systems. In the second experiment, final shoot fresh and dry weight per plant increased as seedling root volume increased from 16.3 cm3 [72.8 and 5.5 g (162-cell tray)] to 98.1 cm3 [148.5 and 12.2 g (32-cell tray)]. Transplanting seedlings at later dates decreased yield across tray size and root volume treatments. Differences in yield between culture systems may have resulted from differences in nutrient supply and availability for plant uptake. Transplant of large seedling plugs to hydroponic culture was not shown to increase space-use efficiency after transplant without compromising yield, likely because root zone factors limited growth during seedling production. Further investigation into maximizing plant growth during seedling production and evaluating the effects of seedling size and transplant practices are needed to determine the potential for increasing space-use and production efficiencies.

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