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Jasmine J. Mah, David Llewellyn and Youbin Zheng

In greenhouse ornamental crop production, bedding plants grown below high densities of hanging baskets (HBs) tend to be of lower quality. Hanging basket crops can decrease the red to far red ratio (R:FR) of the growing environment below; however, the extent to which decreased R:FR affects plant morphology and flowering of the lower-level crops is unknown. The present study examined effects of R:FR on morphology and flowering of marigold ‘Antigua Orange’ (Tagetes erecta), petunia ‘Duvet Red’ (Petunia ×hybrida), calibrachoa ‘Kabloom Deep Blue’ (Calibrachoa ×hybrida), and geranium ‘Pinto Premium Salmon’ (Pelargonium ×hortorum). Five R:FR light treatments were provided ranging from R:FR 1.1 (representing unfiltered sunlight) to R:FR 0.7 (representing shaded conditions under HBs) using light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in growth chambers, each with identical photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) (400–700 nm) and FR added to achieve the target R:FR ratio. Two experiments using the same R:FR treatments were conducted with day/night temperature regimes of 20 °C/18 °C and 25 °C/21 °C, respectively. In the second experiment, a fluorescent light treatment was included. The results of the second experiment were more dramatic than the first, where reducing R:FR from 1.1 to 0.7 increased height by 11%, 22%, and 32% in marigold, petunia, and calibrachoa, respectively, and increased petiole length in geranium by 10%. Compared with R:FR 1.1, the R:FR 0.7 shortened the time to the appearance of first flower bud by 2 days in marigold, whereas flowering was minimally affected in other species. Compared with pooled data from the LED treatments, fluorescent light increased relative chlorophyll content for all species, reduced height in marigold, petunia, calibrachoa, and geranium by 26%, 67%, 60%, and 48%, and reduced stem dry weight by 28%, 39%, 21%, and 31%, respectively. The differences in morphology observed under fluorescent light compared with LED R:FR treatments indicate that light quality manipulation is a potential alternative to chemical growth regulators in controlled environments such as greenhouses and growth chambers.

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David Llewellyn, Youbin Zheng and Mike Dixon

Hanging basket (HB) production alters the light environment in the lower canopy of ornamental greenhouses by intercepting and altering the spectral quality of incoming light. If shading is sufficiently high, the quality of the lower crops can be reduced. This work investigated changes in light quantity and quality at the lower crop level caused by HB production in Ontario, Canada. Light sampling occurred at three commercial greenhouse facilities throughout the Spring 2012 HB season. The greenhouses represented a range of HB densities (1.8, 2.4, and 3.0 baskets/m2) and different HB canopy architectures (one, two, and three tiers of HBs). Light samples were taken at three fixed locations within each greenhouse facility: outside, HB level, and lower crop level. Photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) was logged continuously at each location within each greenhouse environment. Spectral scans were made at each sampling location, within each greenhouse facility, at various times throughout the season to assess how HB production altered the red to far red ratio (R:FR) at lower crop level. As the season progressed, outdoor daily light integrals (DLIs) more than doubled from <20 to >40 mol·m−2·d−1. Light reduction caused by polyethylene films and structural components varied among locations, but remained steady throughout the season, averaging 48.3% for the three locations. As the HB crops matured, the rate of decrease in PAR at lower crop level varied according to facility and HB density with mean reductions of 42.5%, 32.6%, and 37.7% for the one-, two-, and three-tiered facilities, respectively. Mean lower crop level DLIs were all very similar, between 9.4 and 9.9 mol·m−2·d−1. Accordingly, there may be insufficient light below HB canopies to produce high-quality crops of many varieties of bedding plants that are commonly grown in Ontario. The one- and two-tiered systems reduced the R:FR at lower crop level by 14% and 10%, respectively, whereas the three-tiered system caused no reduction. More work is required to determine if the observed far red shift is sufficient to alter crop quality. These case studies provide a backdrop against which to help determine and interpret horticultural management strategies for a variety of greenhouse crops.

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Chase Jones-Baumgardt, David Llewellyn, Qinglu Ying and Youbin Zheng

Indoor farming is an increasingly popular approach for growing leafy vegetables, and under this production system, artificial light provides the sole source (SS) of radiation for photosynthesis and light signaling. With newer horticultural light-emitting diodes (LEDs), growers have the ability to manipulate the lighting environment to achieve specific production goals. However, there is limited research on LED lighting specific to microgreen production, and available research shows that there is variability in how microgreens respond to their lighting environment. The present study examined the effects of SS light intensity (LI) on growth, yield, and quality of kale (Brassica napus L. ‘Red Russian’), cabbage (Brassica oleracea L.), arugula (Eruca sativa L.), and mustard (Brassica juncea L. ‘Ruby Streaks’) microgreens grown in a walk-in growth chamber. SS LEDs were used to provide six target photosynthetic photon flux density density (PPFD) treatments: 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, and 600 μmol·m−2·s−1 with a photon flux ratio of 15 blue: 85 red and a 16-hour photoperiod. As LI increased from 100 to 600 μmol·m−2· s−1, fresh weight (FW) increased by 0.59 kg·m−2 (36%), 0.70 kg·m−2 (56%), 0.71 kg·m−2 (76%), and 0.67 kg·m−2 (82%) for kale, cabbage, arugula, and mustard, respectively. Similarly, dry weight (DW) increased by 47 g·m−2 (65%), 45 g·m−2 (69%), 64 g·m−2 (122%), and 65 g·m−2 (145%) for kale, cabbage, arugula, and mustard, respectively, as LI increased from 100 to 600 μmol·m−2· s−1. Increasing LI decreased hypocotyl length and hue angle linearly in all genotypes. Saturation of cabbage and mustard decreased linearly by 18% and 36%, respectively, as LI increased from 100 to 600 μmol·m−2·s−1. Growers can use the results of this study to optimize SS LI for their production systems, genotypes, and production goals.

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Yun Kong, David Llewellyn, Katherine Schiestel, Martha Gay Scroggins, David Lubitz, Mary Ruth McDonald, Rene Van Acker, Ralph C. Martin, Youbin Zheng and Evan Elford

There is a potentially large market for locally produced organic bitter melons (Momordica charantia L.) in Canada, but it is a great challenge to grow this warm-season crop in open fields (OFs) due to the cool and short growing season. To test the feasibility of using high tunnels (HTs) for organic production of bitter melons in southern Ontario, plant growth, fruit yield and quality, and pest and disease incidence were compared among three production systems: OF, HT, and high tunnel with anti-insect netting (HTN) at Guelph in 2015. The highest marketable fruit yield was achieved in HTN (≈36 t·ha−1), followed by HT (≈29 t·ha−1), with the lowest yield obtained in OF (≈3 t·ha−1). Compared with OF, there were several other benefits for bitter melon production in HT and HTN: increased plant growth, advanced harvest timing, reduced pest numbers and disease incidence, and improved fruit quality traits such as increased individual fruit weight and size, and reduced postharvest water loss. In addition to higher yield, HTN had fewer insect pests and disease incidence compared with HT. The results suggest that HTs can be used for organic production of bitter melon in southern Ontario and regions with similar climates. Also, the addition of anti-insect netting to HTs is beneficial to production if combined with an effective pollination strategy.