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Martin Makgose Maboko and Christian Phillipus Du Plooy

A 2-year study (2012–13 and 2013–14) was conducted to evaluate the effect of plant growth regulator’s (PGRs) on plant growth, yield, and quality of hydroponically grown sweet peppers. In 2012–13, sweet pepper plants were subjected to two levels of gibberellic acid (GA3) (10 and 15 mg·L−1), two levels of naphthalene acetic acid (NAA) (15 and 30 mg·L−1), and four combinations of NAA and GA3 (10 mg·L−1 GA3 + 15 mg·L−1 NAA, 10 mg·L−1 GA3 + 30 mg·L−1 NAA, 15 mg·L−1 GA3 + 15 mg·L−1 NAA, and 15 mg·L−1 GA3 + 30 mg·L−1 NAA) applied to plants at flower initiation in a non-temperature-controlled tunnel. This PGR application was repeated 60 days after transplanting (DAT). In 2013–14, in addition to previously mentioned treatments, two levels of 4-chlorophenoxyacetic acid (4-CPA), at 30 and 45 mg·L−1, were applied at flower initiation followed by three additional applications of the latter treatments at 20-day intervals in a temperature-controlled tunnel. Marketable and total yield were markedly reduced by application of 4-CPA at 30 and 45 mg·L−1. Plant height was increased by application of GA3, and GA3 in combination with NAA, compared with application of 4-CPA, 30 mg·L−1 NAA, and the control. Results also showed that application of GA3 at 10 and 15 mg·L−1 or in combination with NAA increased plant fresh and dry mass as well; however, this had no beneficial effect on the yield of sweet pepper fruit. The application methods and concentrations of various PGRs needs further investigation under different growing conditions on sweet pepper cultivars.

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Martin Makgose Maboko and Christian Phillipus Du Plooy

Direct seeding or transplanting younger seedlings should reduce costs in hydroponic systems. A 2-year study (2011–12 and 2012–13) was conducted to determine yield of two hydroponically grown tomato cultivars using transplanted seedlings at different growth stages vs. direct seeding. An open bag, using 10-L plastic bags filled with sawdust, was used for direct seeding and transplanting of seedlings at two-, four- or six-leaf stages. Data were collected on early marketable, early total, total, total marketable and cull yield as well as plant fresh and dry mass. In 2011–12, there was increased early marketable and total yields from direct-seeded plants or plants transplanted at the two- or four-leaf stage. Cultivar FA593 produced a higher early marketable yield and total yield compared with ‘Linares’. In 2012–13, the highest early marketable and total yields were for plants developed from those transplanted at the two-leaf stage or from those developed from direct seeding. There was no difference between cultivars on marketable and total yield. Cultivar Linares produced the highest plant fresh and dry mass. Early yield can be induced by direct seeding or transplanting seedlings at the two-true leaf stage with no significant effect on total yield and marketable yield. Direct-seeded plants, or transplanting seedlings at the two-leaf stage, will benefit growers by producing tomatoes earlier for the market while eliminating or reducing transplant shock.

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Martin Makgose Maboko, Isa Bertling, and Christian Phillipus Du Plooy

Mycorrhizal inoculation improves nutrient uptake in a range of host plants. Insufficient nutrient uptake by plants grown hydroponically is of major environmental and economic concern. Tomato seedlings, therefore, were treated with a mycorrhizal inoculant (Mycoroot™) at transplanting to potentially enhance nutrient uptake by the plant. Then seedlings were transferred to either a temperature-controlled (TC) or a non-temperature-controlled (NTC) tunnel and maintained using the recommended (100%) or a reduced (75% and 50%) nutrient concentration. Plants grown in the NTC tunnel had significantly poorer plant growth, lower fruit mineral concentration, and lower yield compared with fruit from plants in the TC tunnel. Leaves from plants in the NTC tunnel had higher microelement concentrations than those in the TC tunnel. Highest yields were obtained from plants fertigated with 75% of the recommended nutrient concentration, and not from the 100% nutrient concentration. Application of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) neither enhanced plant growth, nor yield, nor fruit mineral nutrient concentrations. However, temperature control positively affected the fruit Mn and Zn concentration in the TC tunnel following AMF application.

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Martin M. Maboko, Christian Phillipus Du Plooy, and Silence Chiloane

Nutrient application is one of the major inputs required for hydroponic production of cucumbers. Reduced nutrient solution concentration with supplementary foliar fertilizer application may maintain yield and quality of mini-cucumber, while decreasing the production costs. An experiment was conducted to determine the effect of foliar fertilizer in combination with reduced nutrient concentrations on the yield and quality of hydroponically grown mini-cucumber in a plastic tunnel. Mini-cucumber plants were grown in sawdust, fertigated with nutrient solutions containing 100% (control), 75%, 50%, or 25% of the recommended nutrient concentration (NC) and two foliar fertilizer applications (no foliar and foliar application). The highest fresh and dry weight of mini-cucumber plants were obtained with 75% and 100% NC and decreased with 50% to 25% NC application. The number of marketable fruit and marketable yield on mini-cucumbers increased with 75% to 100% NC, followed by 50% NC, as compared with 25% NC. Deformed fruit were significantly lower at 25% NC than at 50%, 75%, and 100% NC. Foliar fertilizer application did not have an effect on mini-cucumber yield, but reduced the yellowing of fruit. Fruit mineral content (P, Fe, and Mn) was significantly improved by 100% NC. Improvement in yield at 75% and 100% NC was as a result of improved plant height, leaf chlorophyll content, plant fresh and dry weight, and the increase in nutrient uptake of N, P, K, and Mn, which was evident in the analysis of cucumber leaves. The reduced NC of 75% can maintain yield and quality of mini-cucumbers, whereas the application of foliar fertilizer had a limited effect.