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Nicholas Parris, David D. Douds Jr., Leland C. Dickey, Robert A. Moreau and John Phillips

Zein is an alcohol-soluble protein isolated from corn. The effect of ground cover films prepared from zein on the growth of tomato plants and corresponding evaporative water loss was investigated in greenhouse experiments. Results indicated that there was a decrease in water loss from the growth media for pots treated with zein films compared to the control (no film). There was an 11% increase height and 65% increase in dry weight of the treated plants relative to the control. In a second experiment, tomato plants mulched with zein isolates, low in free fatty acids (LFFA), exhibited an 18% increase in height and a 28% increase in dry weight compared to the control. Tomato plants treated with black polyethylene sheathing mulch were the tallest of the plants tested and had the greatest dry weight. Adding corn gluten meal directly to the soil surface resulted in tomato plants that were 26% taller and 29% heavier than those grown in untreated soil. Zein isolate films appear to be a viable ground cover replacement for polyethylene sheathing.

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Jared Barnes, Paul Nelson, Brian E. Whipker, David A. Dickey, Dean Hesterberg and Wei Shi

Although many factors that influence substrate pH have been quantified, the effect from fertilizers continues to be elusive. A multifactorial experiment was conducted to test macronutrient effects using a rarely used statistical method known as the central composite design. Five nutrient factors, including nitrogen (N) carrier ratio (NH4 + vs. NO3 ) and concentrations of phosphorus (P) (as H2PO4 ), potassium (K), combined calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S), were varied at five levels each encompassing the proportionate range of these nutrients in commercial greenhouse fertilizers. Although a typical factorial experiment would have resulted in 55 = 3125 treatments, the central composite design reduced the number to 30 fertilizer treatments. An experiment was conducted twice in which ‘Evolution White’ mealy-cup sage (Salvia farinacea Benth.) was grown in 14-cm-diameter pots (1.29 L) in a 3 peat:1 perlite (v/v) substrate amended with non-residual powdered calcium carbonate to raise the substrate pH to ≈5.6 to 5.8. Harvests occurred after 3 and 6 weeks of growth. A statistical model described substrate pH over time with significant effects including four main effects of N carrier ratio, P, K, and combined Ca and Mg; three squared terms of N carrier ratio, P, and K; and seven interaction effects. The resulting model was used to calculate substrate pH levels between 25 and 45 days after planting, and it showed that N carrier had the greatest impact on substrate pH.

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Ka Yeon Jeong, Paul V. Nelson, Carl E. Niedziela Jr. and David A. Dickey

The objective of this study was to determine how plant species, fertilizer potential acidity/basicity rating (PABR), and fertilizer concentration affect root substrate pH. Three experiments were conducted. In the first experiment, 13 herbaceous species were grown in a root substrate of three sphagnum peatmoss: one perlite (v/v) with deionized water and a neutral fertilizer (NF) with a PABR of 0 for 78 days to determine species relationships to substrate pH. The decrease in substrate pH ranged from 0.14 to 2.45 units, depending on species. In the second experiment, four of the 13 species from the previous trial representing the range of pH suppression were grown under similar growth conditions as the first experiment for 70 days. Substrate pH was lowered in the range of 0.47 to 2.72 units. In the third experiment, three fertilizers with PABRs of 150 kg·t−1 CaCO3 equivalent alkalinity, 0 neutral, and 193 kg·t−1 CaCO3 equivalent acidity were applied in a factorial design at 100 and 200 mg·L−1 N at each irrigation to kalanchoe (the species with the greatest pH suppression from the previous experiments) for 56 days. When applied at the lower fertilizer rate (100 mg·L−1 N), the PABRs resulted in the final substrate pH levels of 4.68, 5.60, and 6.11 for the acidic fertilizer (AF), NF, and basic fertilizer (BF), respectively. At the high fertilizer rate (200 mg·L−1 N), substrate pH declined continuously to 3.97, 4.03, and 4.92 for the AF, NF, and BF, respectively. Expression of PABR depended on the balance between the abiotic (chemical) effect of the fertilizers vs. the biotic (physiological) effects of the fertilizers on microbes and plants. The PABR was best expressed when the fertilizer supply was just adequate or lower indicating a closer connection to the biotic effect.

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Carl E. Niedziela Jr., Mary A. Depa, Paul V. Nelson, Daniel H. Willits, Mary M. Peet, David A. Dickey and Nancy C. Mingis

The effect of CO2 concentration (330 and 675 μL·L−1) and photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) (mean daily peaks of 550–1400 μmol·m−2·s−1) on total mineral contents in shoots was studied in chrysanthemum [Dendranthema ×grandiflorum (Ramat) Kitam ‘Fiesta’] during three times of the year. Growth (as measured by shoot dry weight) and shoot mineral contents (weight of nutrient per shoot) of hydroponically grown plants were analyzed after 5 weeks. There was a positive synergistic interaction of CO2 concentration and PPF on growth with the greatest growth at high PPF (1400 μmol·m−2·s−1) with high CO2 (675 μL·L−1). When growth was not used as a covariate in the statistical model, both CO2 concentration and PPF significantly affected the content of all eight nutrients. However, after growth was included as a covariate in the model, nutrients were classified into three categories based on whether CO2 concentration and PPF level were needed in addition to growth to predict shoot nutrient content. Neither CO2 concentration nor PPF level was needed for Mg, Fe, and Mn contents, whereas PPF level was needed for N, P, K, and Ca contents, and both CO2 concentration and PPF level were required for B content.