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Claudia Calonje, Chad Husby, and Michael Calonje

Improved propagation methods greatly benefit conservation of rare cycads. Appropriate substrate conditions, especially excellent root aeration, are crucial to successful cultivation of most cycads. Typical cycad substrates include substantial portions of organic materials that will decompose over time, reducing drainage and increasing water retention. In this study, two inorganic substrates, arcillite (Turface® MVP®) and coarse silica sand, and one mixed cycad substrate (with organic and inorganic components) were evaluated for germination and growth of three rare Zamia species: Z. fairchildiana L.D. Gómez, Z. cunaria Dressler & D.W. Stev., and Z. aff. portoricensis Urb. over a period of 14 months from seed sowing. Substrate type affected leaves per seedling and leaf length. These factors also varied by species as did taproot length and germination rate. There were also significant interactions between substrate and species for caudex diameter and leaf variables, likely reflecting ecological differences among the species, two of which are from rainforest habitats and one from dry forest. All three substrates performed adequately for germination, survival, and growth of Zamia. Turface® and possibly the silica sand likely require additional watering to improve their performance as cycad substrates.

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Vickie Murphy, Kimberly Moore, M. Patrick Griffith, and Chad Husby

Cycads comprise the most threatened major group of plants on earth and many species require horticultural assistance to ensure their survival. Appropriate container substrate properties, especially relatively high air space content, are crucial to successful cultivation of most cycads from seed. Cycad substrates in common use include substantial portions of organic materials that will decompose over time, reducing aeration. At Montgomery Botanical Center, novel inorganic substrates have improved survival and growth of several very rare and challenging Zamia species, suggesting the need for a rigorous evaluation of different inorganic container substrates. Effects of 1) coarse silica sand (6/20 grade); 2) Fafard (a peat/perlite mix); 3) perlite (expanded volcanic glass); 4) pumice (volcanic rock); 5) Turface (calcined clay); 6) Profile (calcined clay); 7) a 50% sand (6/20): 50% Profile mix; 8) Permatil (calcined slate); or 9) Axis (calcined diatomaceous earth) on growth of Zamia pumila L. seedlings (grown from seed of Dominican Republic provenance) were evaluated. Growth parameters were measured after 18 months. Sand produced significantly higher total dry weight and leaf area than all other substrates. A combination of at least 18% air space combined with little coarse material (sand) or with some coarse material combined with enough smaller particles to fill part of the large pores created by coarse material (Fafard) likely contributed to better growth in these compared with the other seven substrates. The other substrates may have been either too coarse, leading to excessively large pores, which are known to inhibit growth in some plants if the pores are much larger than fine root diameters, or too fine (i.e., too low of an air space percentage). The fine roots of Zamia can be less than 1 mm in diameter, whereas higher proportions of coarse substrate particles over 4 mm in diameter inhibited growth, possibly by creating excessively large pores. In contrast, higher proportions of fine substrate particles of 0.25 to 0.5 mm were beneficial to growth.

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Tracy Monique Magellan, Chad Husby, Stella Cuestas, and M. Patrick Griffith

Cycad aulacaspis scale [CAS (Aulacaspis yasumatsui)] is a highly destructive pest insect worldwide. CAS feeds on cycad (Cycas sp.) plantings and is also posing a problem for the foliage industry. The use of spent coffee grounds to prevent or control CAS has received increased popularity in the last few years. This study assesses whether the application of spent coffee grounds is a realistic control method against CAS, and whether spent coffee grounds can be successfully used as a natural alternative to chemical pesticides. Two tests were performed during Summer 2010 and 2011. The first experiment assessed seven treatments: five coffee treatments, neem oil, and orange oil to control CAS on the debao cycad (Cycas debaoensis). In the second experiment, only coffee mulch was tested against the control on the debao cycad and fadang (Cycas micronesica). There was no statistical evidence of a difference between the control and the coffee mulch treatment with regard to infestation (insects per square centimeter). Soil pH differences were confirmed between control and coffee treatments, with the application of coffee mulch lowering pH by an average of 0.48. Spent coffee grounds did not have an effect on cycad mortality, but neem oil and orange oil increased cycad mortality.

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Chad E. Husby, Alex X. Niemiera, Robert D. Wright, and J. Roger Harris

Use of polymer-coated fertilizers (PCFs) is widespread in the nursery and greenhouse industries. Temperature is the main factor affecting nutrient release from PCFs, yet there are few reports that quantify temperature-induced nutrient release. Since container substrate temperatures can be at least 40 °C during the summer, this research quantified the release of fertilizer salts in the diurnal container substrate temperature range of 20 to 40 °C. Three PCFs (Osmocote Plus 15-9-11, Polyon 18-6-12, and Nutricote18-6-8) were placed in water-filled beakers at 40 °C until one-third (Expt.1) or two-thirds (Expt. 2) of Osmocote's N was released. For Expts. 1 and 2, each fertilizer was put into sand-filled columns and leached with distilled water concurrent with column temperature incrementally increasing from 20 to 40 °C and then to 20 °C over a 20-h period. Leachate fractions were collected at every 2 °C increase and analyzed for fertilizer salts. In Expt.1 and in the range of 22 to 30 °C, salt release was highest, lowest, and intermediate for Nutricote, Osmocote, and Polyon, respectively. In the range of 38 to 40 °C, release was highest, lowest, and intermediate for Osmocote, Nutricote, and Polyon, respectively. In Expt. 2, salt release in the range of 22 to 30 °C was the same as in Expt. 1. However, at 38 to 40 °C, release was highest, lowest, and intermediate for Polyon, Nutricote, and Osmocote, respectively. Results show that salt release for PCFs are dependent on the temperature × fertilizer age interaction.

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Chad E. Husby, Alexander X. Niemiera, J. Roger Harris, and Robert D. Wright

This study was conducted to determine the effects of temperature on nutrient release patterns of three polymer-coated fertilizers (PCFs), each using a different coating technology: Osmocote Plus 15N-3.93P-9.96K, Polyon 18N-2.62P-9.96K, and Nutricote 18N-2.62P-6.64K. Each fertilizer was placed in a sand-filled column and leached with distilled water at ≈100 mL·h-1, while being subjected to a simulated diurnal container temperature change from 20 to 40 °C and back to 20 °C over a period of 20 hours. Column leachate was collected hourly and measured for soluble salts and NO3-N and NH4-N content. For all fertilizers, nutrient release increased and decreased with the respective increase and decrease in temperature. Nutrient release patterns of the three fertilizers differed, with Osmocote Plus showing the greatest overall change in nutrient release between 20 and 40 °C, and Nutricote the least.

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Vickie Murphy, Teodoro Clase, Rosa A. Rodríguez-Peña, Francisco Jiménez-Rodríguez, Brett Jestrow, Chad E. Husby, and M. Patrick Griffith

Palms (Arecaceae) are perhaps the most important tropical plant family for human use, both for utility and ornamental horticulture. The wide diversity of palm species with different seed germination characteristics necessitates tailoring horticultural practices to the needs of each. This is crucial for production and conservation horticulture. In this study, wild-collected seeds of yarey palm (Copernicia berteroana) and buccaneer palm (Pseudophoenix sargentii) were germinated in a variety of organic (standard nursery container mixes) and inorganic substrates. The yarey palm seeds were sown at two different depths, 0.5 inch and at the surface (seed half exposed). Mean maximum germination across all treatments for yarey palm was 79% and for buccaneer palm 60%. The standard nursery mixes generally fostered the best germination and long-term survival. This is likely due to a combination of the lower water availability at the surfaces of the more porous inorganic substrates (sand and perlite) and greater difficulty for coarse palm roots to penetrate the denser inorganic substrates, including fired ceramic, which otherwise had similar water-holding capacity (WHC) and even lower air space than the organic substrates. Difficulty of penetration caused roots of some seedlings to either dry up early in germination as in the surface sown yarey palm, or to “push up” the seed (buccaneer palm) rather than penetrating the substrate and this was often fatal. Thus, inorganic substrates are not recommended for germination and early seedling growth of these palm species and planting the seeds slightly below the surface may be preferable to surface sowing. For conservation horticulture of wild-collected palm seeds, this information can help prevent further genetic bottlenecks while under protective cultivation.