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  • Author or Editor: Youbin Zheng x
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In vitro testing was conducted to evaluate the inhibition potential of three compost teas (pine bark, manure, and vermicasting), Root Rescue Landscape Powder® (a mix of mycorrhizae and other beneficial microbes), waste diatomaceous earth (DE; from beer brewing), and a greenhouse nutrient solution, which had been reused for 20 years on six plant pathogens: Fusarium foetens, Rhizoctonia solani, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, Phytophthora cryptogea, Pythium intermedium, and P. ultimum. The test materials showed in vitro inhibition on most of the test pathogens. Pine bark tea suppressed growth of all six pathogens, and inhibition exceeded 50% after 10 days of coincubation. Vermicasting tea showed over 40% inhibition against S. sclerotiorum and F. foetens; manure tea showed 42% inhibition against F. foetens; DE showed 40% inhibition against F. foetens, S. sclerotiorum, and R. solani; whereas reused greenhouse nutrient solution showed 56.7% inhibition against R. solani and 43.4% inhibition against F. foetens; Root Rescue showed 66% inhibition against P. intermedium. The results suggest that the six test materials have potential in the control of these soil- and water-borne pathogens in plant production system.

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To evaluate the potential of producing purslane (Portulaca oleracea L.) as a sodium (Na)-removing vegetable hydroponically at moderate NaCl salinity, two cultivars (Green and Golden) were grown in solutions with added 0, 6, 8, and 10 mm NaCl (the actual Na+ concentrations ≈2, 8, 10, and 12 mm, respectively). At harvest, 26 days after transplanting, apparent growth and biomass accumulation were not negatively affected by 6 to 10 mm added NaCl compared with 0 mm added NaCl. However, with the increase of added NaCl concentration from 0 to 6 to 10 mm, the sodium removal showed a 1- to 3-fold increase up to 0.26 to 0.41 mmol/plant, and 225.7 to 300.2 mmol·kg−1 dry weight (DW) or 0.90 to 1.32 mmol·L−1 H2O, respectively. ‘Green’ produced greater biomass and removed more sodium per plant than ‘Golden’. ‘Golden’ had more of a dwarfed and compact canopy than ‘Green’. Sodium removal rate (mmol/plant/day) was the highest during the first 7 days after transplanting, but the fresh weight increase rate (g/plant/day) increased gradually as growth progressed. Results suggest that it is possible to hydroponically produce purslane in nutrient solutions with 8 to 12 mm Na+. Despite the high sodium-removal capability, purslane cannot be used to reduce Na+ concentrations in NaCl-rich hydroponic solutions. The biomass yield and the sodium removal of individual plants were affected by different cultivars and time after transplanting.

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Salicornia bigelovii is a halophyte that is capable of growing under high salinity. To evaluate the potential of producing S. bigelovii hydroponically as a vegetable at moderate NaCl concentrations, plants were grown in nutrient solutions with 6, 8, and 10 mm NaCl, and with 200 mm NaCl as a control. Results showed that plants had a reduced main stem length, canopy width, stem diameter, and root system length in 6 to 10 mm NaCl compared with those in 200 mm. Also, fresh weight increase, fresh and dry weights of individual plants, marketable yield, and water use efficiency of the plants grown in solutions with 6 to 10 mm NaCl were significantly lower than those grown in 200 mm. Associated with the reduced growth attributes, remarkable decreases in sodium uptake by the plants were also obtained in 6 to 10 vs. 200 mm NaCl. The results suggest that S. bigelovii is not a good candidate for hydroponic production as a vegetable at moderate NaCl salinity resulting from reduced growth attributes, which are possibly associated with decreased sodium uptake.

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Region-specific trials examining optimum controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) rates for the Canadian climate are limited. This study was conducted to determine an optimum range of CRF application rates and the effect of the application rate on growth, nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) losses of six economically important container-grown woody ornamental shrubs using typical production practices at a southwestern Ontario nursery. Salix purpurea ‘Nana’, Weigela florida ‘Alexandra’, Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’, Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bombshell’, Hibiscus syriacus ‘Ardens’, and Spiraea japonica ‘Magic Carpet’ were potted in 1-gal pots and fertilized with Polyon® 16N-2.6P-10K (5–6 month longevity) incorporated at rates of 0.8, 1.2, 1.7, 2.1, and 2.5 kg·m−3 N in 2012. The experiment was repeated for the 2013 growing season with rates of CRF incorporated at 0.05, 0.35, 0.65, 0.95, and 1.25 kg·m−3 N. Plant performance (i.e., growth index) and leachate electrical conductivity (EC) and pH were evaluated once every 3 to 4 weeks during the respective growing seasons. The amount of N and P lost to the environment was determined for the 2012 growing season. The interaction between nutrient supply rate and target species affected most response variables. Although higher levels of fertilization produced larger plants and had the potential to decrease production time, increased losses of N and P and higher EC leachate values occurred. Results of this study indicate that an acceptable range of CRF application rates can be used for each species depending on the production goals, i.e., decreased production time, maximum growth, or decreased nutrient leachate. Overall, the highest acceptable CRF rates within the optimal range were: 1.25 kg·m−3 N for Spiraea; 1.7 kg·m−3 N for Hydrangea; 2.1 kg·m−3 N for Cornus; and 2.5 kg·m−3 N for Weigela, Salix, and Hibiscus. The lowest acceptable rates within the optimal range were: 0.35 kg·m−3 N for Hibiscus; 0.65 kg·m−3 N for Cornus, Weigela, Salix, and Spiraea; and 0.80 kg·m−3 N for Hydrangea.

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Suaeda glauca is an annual halophyte growing in saline–alkali environment in North China. To evaluate the potential of producing S. glauca as a vegetable at moderate NaCl concentrations, plants were grown in nutrient solutions with 6, 8, and 10 mm NaCl, and with 200 mm NaCl as a control. Results showed that main stem length, true leaf number, side branch number, and canopy width of plants in 6–10 mm NaCl were not significantly different from those in 200 mm. Also, no significant differences in fresh and dry weights of individual plants, marketable yield, and water use efficiency of the plants were observed between 6–10 and 200 mm NaCl treatments. Despite remarkable decreases in sodium uptake, similar water consumptions by the plants were obtained in 6–10 vs. 200 mm NaCl. The results suggest that S. glauca is a potential candidate for hydroponic production as a vegetable at moderate NaCl salinity, since growth attributes and biomass accumulation were not reduced when grown at lower salinity levels, despite with decreased sodium uptake.

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Copper (electrolytically generated or from cupric sulfate) is increasingly used to control diseases and algae in the greenhouse industry. However, there is a shortage of information regarding appropriate management strategies for Cu2+ (Cu) in greenhouse hydroponic production. Three greenhouse studies were conducted to examine the growth and yield responses of sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum L., Triple 4, red) to the application of Cu in hydroponic production systems. In the first two experiments, plants were grown on rockwool and irrigated with nutrient solutions containing Cu at concentrations of 0.05, 0.55, 1.05, 1.55, and 2.05 mg·L–1. Copper treatments were started either when plants were 32 days old and continued for 4 weeks, or when plants were 11 weeks old and continued for 18 weeks, respectively. In the third experiment, roots of solution cultured pepper seedlings were exposed to Cu (1.0, 1.5, and 2.0 mg·L–1) containing nutrient solutions for 2 hours per day for 3 weeks. Higher Cu treatment initialized when plants were 32 days old significantly reduced plant leaf number, leaf area, leaf biomass, specific leaf area, stem length and shoot biomass. The calculated Cu toxicity threshold was 0.19 mg·L–1. However, when treatment initialized at plants were 11 weeks old, Cu did not have significant effects on leaf chlorophyll content, leaf area or specific leaf area. Copper started to show significant negative effects on leaf biomass and shoot biomass at 1.05 mg·L–1 or higher levels. Copper treatments did not have any significant effect on fruit number, fresh weight or dry weight. Under all the Cu levels, fresh fruit copper contents were lower than 0.95 mg·kg–1 which is below the drinking water standard of 1.3 mg·kg–1. Seedling growth was significantly reduced by exposing roots to Cu (≥1.0 mg·L–1) containing solutions even for only 2 h·d–1.

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Vegetation success on green roofs in northern climates is challenged by extreme weather conditions, especially in winter, and is influenced by season of installation and substrate fertility. Appropriate fertilization with phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) can reduce winter injury for some plant species. The objectives of this study were to identify both the effect of P and K fertilizer rates on Sedum spp. survival over the first winter and the response of Sedum spp. growth to fertilizer rates when applied at installation. In a fall-installed extensive green roof system, survival, growth, and visual appearance of Sedum mats in non-fertilized plots (control) were compared with plots fertilized with 16–6–13 POLYON® Homogenous NPK plus Minors 3-4 month controlled-release fertilizer at 20.0 g nitrogen (N)/m2 either alone or with additional P to total 28.8, 54.4, or 80.0 g P/m2 or K to total 32.5, 51.6, or 70.6 g K/m2. Sedum mats were installed on 8 Oct. 2010 and plants in all plots survived the winter and the next year. During the 2011 growing season, vegetative coverage was not significantly different among any individual fertilized treatments; however, vegetative coverage data combined for all fertilized treatments was larger than the control. Fertilized treatments also showed larger plant height and biomass after one year, taller S. acre and S. sexangulare inflorescences, increased leaf greenness, and higher visual appearance rankings compared with the control. For individual Sedum species, S. album showed the greatest coverage in P-fertilized treatments, and effects on S. acre and S. sexangulare were treatment-dependent. Application of a controlled-release N–P–K fertilizer, without additional P or K, can be used to encourage vegetative coverage, plant growth, leaf greenness, inflorescence height, and visual appearance in fall-installed extensive Sedum green roof systems.

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To determine the optimal growing substrate pH values for Sedum plants, Sedum album, Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’, Sedum spurium ‘Dragon’s Blood’, Sedum hybridum ‘Immergrunchen’, and Sedum sexangulare were grown in containers using peatmoss and perlite-based substrates at five target pH levels (i.e., 4.5, 5.5, 6.5, 7.5, and 8.5). Optimal pH levels, calculated from dry weight regression models, were 6.32, 6.43, 5.71, 6.25, and 5.91 for S. album, S. reflexum, S. spurium, S. hybridum, and S. sexangulare, respectively, and 5.95 overall. Sedum spurium dry weight varied the most among pH treatments (i.e., 9.5 times greater at pH 6.3 vs. 8.3), whereas S. reflexum varied the least (i.e., 1.3 times greater at pH 6.3 vs. 4.4), indicating species-specific growth responses to growing substrate pH. These findings identified a narrow range of optimal growing substrate pH levels within a wider pH range tolerated by five Sedum spp. Therefore, by adjusting substrate pH to optimal levels, Sedum growth can be maximized.

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With the increasing popularity of green roofs, efficient green roof plant production is required to adequately supply the industry. Applying fertilizer at an appropriate rate can provide sufficient plant nutrition for efficient plant growth without excess nutrient leaching into the environment. This study compared rates of controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) applied to green roof modules at the plant production stage to determine an optimum CRF rate for encouraging plant growth and vegetative coverage while minimizing the amount and concentration of leached nutrients. After sedum cuttings were rooted in green roof modules on 29 Aug. 2011, CRF was applied at 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and 35 g·m−2 nitrogen (N) and modules were compared with an unfertilized control. Plant growth, vegetative coverage, and overall appearance requirements were met after fertilization at 20 g·m−2 N. Modules fertilized at less than 20 g·m−2 N did not reach the target proportion coverage during the study. When fertilized at 20 g·m−2 N, green roof modules reached the target proportion coverage after 240 days of growth. Differences in leachate volumes were observed among treatments 35 days after fertilization and fertilization at 20 g·m−2 N minimized leaching of most nutrients. Therefore, with the green roof module system used in this study, an application of 20 g·m−2 N for green roof module or sedum cutting production is an optimum CRF rate for plant growth and vegetative coverage while minimizing negative environmental impacts.

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To evaluate the performance of four newly developed high-intensity-discharge lamp types on plant growth and production, tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum cv. Tradiro F1) plants were grown indoors under 100% artificial lighting for 17 weeks. The four lamp types were: high-pressure sodium high output [HPS(HO)], high-pressure sodium standard [HPS(STD)], metal halide warm deluxe [MH(WDX)] and metal halide cool deluxe [MH(CDX)]. All the lamps tested were 1000 W. HPS(HO) had the highest electrical energy use efficiency (EUE) (0.98 μmol·m–2·s–1·W–1 at 40 cm directly under the lamp); HPS(STD), MH(WDX) and MH(CDX) had 93%, 72% and 61% of the EUE of the HPS(HO), respectively. The photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) outputs of different lamp types had the following order: HPS(HO) > HPS(STD) > MH(WDX) > MH(CDX). The percentage red of PAR of the four tested lamp types had the same order as above, but the percentage blue of PAR of these lamp types had exactly the opposite order. As a result, plants growing under the two HPS lamp types were taller and flowered and fruited earlier than plants under the two MH lamp types. Chlorophyll content index was generally greater in leaves under MH lamps than in leaves under HPS lamps. We recommend that the HPS lamp be used for flowering and fruiting crops and the MH lamp would be better used for foliar and compact crops.

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