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S. Christopher Marble, Andrew K. Koeser and Gitta Hasing

Weed control continues to be one of the most expensive and time consuming aspects of landscape maintenance. Many homeowners are becoming more interested in nonchemical pest-management strategies due to increasing concern over the environmental impact of pesticide use. Nonchemical landscape weed control can be achieved using mechanical disruption (e.g., mowing, hand-pulling, hoeing, and tilling), physical barriers, or cultural control methods (e.g., mulching and plant selection). However, the best results are almost always achieved when employing a variety of methods (often involving chemical control methods). In adopting a weed control strategy, client expectations and weed tolerances must be addressed. While a virtually weed-free landscape is possible without the use of herbicides, this goal often requires a significant amount of time and money, and requires more planning to be successful. The goal of this manuscript is survey the literature pertaining to nonchemical weed control in landscape planting beds and determine: 1) the most effective strategies; 2) the advantages and disadvantages of common practices; and 3) highlight areas where research is needed or improvements could be made.

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S. Christopher Marble, Andrew K. Koeser and Gitta Hasing

Use of preemergence and postemergence herbicides is the most effective and economical method of weed control in landscape planting beds. When used correctly, herbicides can provide satisfactory weed control, reduce labor costs, and cause little or no negative environmental impacts. Major factors in herbicide efficacy include choosing the correct herbicide for the weed species present, following proper calibration procedures, and applying herbicides at the correct timing. The objective of this review is to provide a comprehensive analysis of the research pertaining to herbicide use in landscape planting beds and present 1) the advantages and disadvantages of common chemical weed control strategies, 2) the most effective preemergence and postemergence herbicides in various landscape scenarios, 3) potential environmental concerns pertaining to improper application of herbicides, and 4) highlight knowledge gaps where additional research is needed or improvements could be made.

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Steven J. Bergsten, Andrew K. Koeser and J. Ryan Stewart

Long used as a source of food, beverages, and fiber, Agave exhibits potential to be cultivated as a crop to produce alternative sweeteners, bioenergy, and a variety of other end uses. However, little is known regarding the productivity levels of Agave when grown in saline soils in semiarid regions. Hydroponic experiments were carried out to evaluate the effects of salinity on biomass accumulation and nutrient levels of young plants of Agave parryi, Agave utahensis ssp. kaibabensis, Agave utahensis ssp. utahensis, and Agave weberi. Salinity treatments (0.6, 3.0, 6.0, and 9.0 dS·m−1) were imposed in each experiment. Both subspecies of A. utahensis were sensitive to salt treatments. In the higher salinity treatments, A. utahensis ssp. utahensis exhibited high mortality; both subspecies had lower plant dry weights. Agave parryi was more tolerant, but experienced a decrease in plant dry weight in the 9.0 dS·m−1 treatment. The biomass of A. weberi was unaffected by any level of salinity. Calcium, Mg, S, and Mn levels decreased in both A. parryi and A. weberi at higher salinity levels. Potassium and P levels in A. parryi decreased in the higher salt treatments. Decreases in nutrients were not severe enough to cause any apparent nutrient deficiencies in A. parryi and A. weberi. Agave parryi and A. weberi tolerated salinity at higher levels than expected, and may show promise for cultivation in saline soils.

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Amy L. Shober, Andrew K. Koeser, Drew C. McLean, Gitta Hasing and Kimberly K. Moore

Several Florida cities and counties ban fertilization during the summer rainy season (fertilizer blackout). Little research is available to support or contradict the underlying justifications for these policies. We used large-volume lysimeters to address the impacts of several fertilization regimes on plant growth and aesthetics of sweet viburnum (Viburnum odoratissimum Ker Gawl.) and nitrogen (N) leaching from landscape beds during shrub establishment and maintenance. Three levels of N fertilization (98, 195, and 293 kg·ha−1), two levels of application method (per plant and broadcast), two levels of fertilization timing (regular and blackout), and an unfertilized control (0 kg·ha−1 N) were applied to lysimeters in a completely randomized design with three replicates (3 × 2 × 2 factorial plus untreated control). Increasing fertilization rate increased plant growth and improved plant quality, but also increased N leaching from lysimeters. Including a summer fertilization blackout period reduced nitrate + nitrite (NO3 + NO2-N) loading from lysimeters during sweet viburnum establishment [0 to 28 weeks after planting (WAP)] compared with year-round fertilization at the same total N rate without adversely impacting plant growth or aesthetics. However, NO3 + NO2-N loads from lysimeters were higher when fertilizers were applied on the summer blackout application schedule during the shrub maintenance period. Targeted (per plant) fertilization beneath the dripline of sweet viburnum at an annual N rate of 195 kg·ha−1 can maintain plant health while limiting N leaching losses on a year-round or blackout fertilization schedule.

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Andrew K. Koeser, J. Ryan Stewart, Germán A. Bollero, Donald G. Bullock and Daniel K. Struve

Transplanted trees are exposed to numerous stresses from the time of harvest until establishment in the landscape. Although an individual stress factor may be the sole cause of plant death or decline, it is more likely a combination of stress factors cause reduced growth or death after planting. In an effort to isolate the stresses associated with three critical stages in the transplanting process (i.e., initial harvest, handling, and transport), 5-cm-caliper, balled-and-burlapped Acer rubrum L. ‘Red Sunset’ (red maple) and Acer platanoides L. ‘Pond’ (Norway maple) trees at three sites (Urbana, IL; Union, IL; and Manitowoc, WI) were subjected to three treatments: root-pruned, handled, and transported. Effects of water stress, root severance, and root-ball disruption on twig elongation and tree survival were measured for each treatment and compared with unaltered control trees. Twig elongation was greater in unaltered control trees when compared with root-pruned trees. In addition, root-pruned trees exhibited greater twig elongation when compared with either handled or transported trees suggesting that although initial root severance did affect growth, it was not as detrimental as lifting and handling. In addition, twig elongation was not different between handled and transported trees. Water potential measurements ranged from –0.2 to –2.0 MPa, suggesting water stress was not a critical factor during the time of transplanting. Similarly, root-ball soil moisture varied little between treatments over the course of transplanting. Results suggest rough handling before and after transport should be minimized in an effort to maximize growth and transplant success.

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J. Ryan Stewart, Reid D. Landes, Andrew K. Koeser and Andrea L. Pettay

Frequent episodes of water stress in managed landscapes have led the nursery industry to look for attractive woody species that perform well under extreme conditions of drought and flooding. We chose to evaluate three taxa with highly localized natural distributions in the United States, Calycanthus occidentalis (north–central California), Fraxinus anomala (northeastern Utah), and Pinckneya pubens (northeastern Florida), each of which may merit further use under cultivated conditions beyond their respective ranges. Although widespread cultivation of each taxon may not be possible as a result of limitations related to cold hardiness, we hypothesized that each species can tolerate extremes in soil moisture availability more so than their native habitats imply. Our objective was to characterize, under greenhouse conditions, how the quantity of soil water affects gas exchange of potted plants of each species. Plants were divided into five groups, each exposed to treatment conditions ranging from complete submersion to severe drought. Complete submersion killed plants of C. occidentalis and F. anomala, although in drought or severe drought conditions, C. occidentalis plants had lower net photosynthesis and less leaf area and plant dry weight than control plants. Net photosynthesis, leaf area, and plant dry weight of partially flooded plants, however, were not found to be significantly less than that of the control plants. Mean net photosynthetic levels and plant dry weights of severe drought, drought, and control F. anomala did not differ. While severe drought plants of P. pubens exhibited much lower levels of net photosynthesis, but not plant dry weights or leaf area, than the control plants, those exposed to drought, partial flood, and complete submersion were not found to differ in net photosynthesis levels from the control plants. Due to the sustained tolerance of F. anomala and P. pubens to a range of extreme soil moisture conditions, as exhibited by net photosynthetic responses, carbon accumulation, and survival, we conclude that use of these species in landscapes is warranted if invasiveness and other potential problems are not identified. Calycanthus occidentalis, however, appears unsuitable for cultivation in areas with organic soils greater than ≈66% and lower than ≈30% soil moisture content as a result of its high mortality in flooded conditions and poor physiological responses under dry conditions.

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Andrew K. Koeser, Sarah T. Lovell, Aaron C. Petri, Robin G. Brumfield and J. Ryan Stewart

This study assessed the material and energy inputs required to produce a Petunia ×hybrida plant from initial propagation to delivery at a regional distribution center. Impacts were expressed in terms of their contribution to the carbon footprint or global warming potential (GWP) of a single finished plant in a ≈10-cm diameter container. Beyond this baseline assessment, the study investigated the secondary impacts (e.g., irrigation demand) associated with container type used. Life cycle assessment data were sourced from interviews, published literature, propriety data sources, direct metering at the greenhouse facility, and original findings from a series of university greenhouse experiments. Results show that a traditional plastic container accounts for ≈16% of overall CO2e emissions (0.544 kg) during petunia production. Although the container was a significant contributor to GWP, electrical consumption for supplemental lighting and irrigation during plug production proved to be the leading source of CO2e emissions (over 47%) in our model system. Differences in GWP when considering secondary impacts associated with the various biocontainers were minor, especially when compared with the other elements of production. Our results demonstrate that biocontainers could potentially be as or more sustainable than plastic pots once pot manufacturing and end-of-life data are considered. However, use of more efficient supplemental lighting sources may ultimately have the greatest impact on overall GWP for the production system assessed.

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S. Christopher Marble, Andrew K. Koeser, Gitta Hasing, Drew McClean and Annette Chandler

Organic mulch is commonly used in landscape planting beds to improve plant growth and reduce competition from weed species. Although many different mulch materials have been evaluated in landscape, forestry, or agricultural settings, there have been no previous reports concerning the maintenance costs associated with different mulch materials from a weed control perspective. Trials were conducted at two locations in Florida to estimate the annual maintenance costs associated with pine bark nuggets (bark derived from pine species not specified) and pine straw mulch [mix of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) and slash pine (Pinus taeda) needles] with and without the use of a granular preemergence herbicide when maintained at similar depths in schilling’s holly (Ilex vomitoria ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’) shrub beds and asiatic jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum ‘Minima’) groundcover beds. Weed coverage and residual mulch depth were tracked over time, with maximum and minimum thresholds (20% and 2 inches, respectively) set as triggers for maintenance activities. Results showed that the addition of herbicide (trifluralin + isoxaben) had little to no impact on weeding frequency or time when plots were mulched, but did reduce hand weeding frequency and time compared with nontreated, nonmulched plots. Both mulch materials used alone reduced hand weeding frequency and time compared with herbicide-only treatments. Although results varied by bed type and location, pine bark generally provided greater weed control compared with pine straw and required fewer mulch additions and less mulch by volume. Results from this study suggests that using pine bark nuggets as mulch may result in lower maintenance costs and weed pressure compared with pine straw when both are applied and maintained at 2-inch depths.

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Renee Conneway, Sven Verlinden, Andrew K. Koeser, Michael Evans, Rebecca Schnelle, Victoria Anderson and J. Ryan Stewart

While research on the use of alternative containers for greenhouse production is growing, most studies have focused on a limited number of types of alternative containers and primarily on short-term greenhouse crops. With the recent release of several new bioplastic alternatives, comparisons to established alternative containers and production of longer rotation ornamental crops should be investigated. Our work, therefore, investigates the performance of ten commercially available alternative containers and their effects on both a short-term ‘Sunpatiens Compacta’ impatiens (Impatiens ×hybrida) and a long-term greenhouse crop ‘Elegans Ice’ lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) at four different locations. Results indicated that plant growth in terms of dry weight differed by container at most locations. Combined analysis of all locations showed that only straw and a bioplastic sleeve outperformed plastic pots in terms of shoot dry weight and then only after 12 weeks of production. Leachate pH, but not electrical conductivity (EC), varied by container in both the short- and long-term crop with alternative containers made from composted cow manure and peat showing consistently higher and lower pH readings, respectively. Postharvest container strength varied significantly by container, with the plastic control maintaining the highest puncture resistance after both 6 and 12 weeks, in some instances matched by the puncture strength of coconut fiber pots. Some alternative containers, in particular, wood, manure, and peat showed algal growth after 6 and 12 weeks of greenhouse production. We conclude that while some alternative containers were linked to increased growth, most showed growth equal to the plastic control, and could therefore make appropriate alternatives to plastic pots. However, changes in pH, low puncture strengths after production, higher denesting times, and algal growth on manure, wood, and peat may make these pots less desirable alternatives than other pots under investigation. However, other factors not studied here, such as compostability, biodegradability in the landscape, water use, consumer preference, aesthetics, compatibility with mechanized operations, and cost may also need to be taken into account when deciding on an appropriate container for greenhouse production.